How to Recruit, Onboard, Train, and Manage Your Volunteers
Editor’s note: This blog was written for Checkr by Cassandra Smallman, head of marketing at InitLive.
Practicing proper volunteer management is no easy feat. You must attract and recruit volunteers who can assist with your organization’s programs and projects, and on top of that, you have to find ways to keep them engaged and focused. There are plenty of moving parts that come into play when managing volunteers, from recruitment to onboarding, training, and ongoing management.
As a volunteer coordinator, you know the powerful impact volunteers have on assisting your organization and its mission. It’s your job to not only find the right people for each volunteer role but also determine how you’ll maintain their continued support.
With the right volunteer management strategies in place from start to finish, you can boost volunteer satisfaction and increase your retention rates.
In this guide, we’ll review the four essential elements of managing volunteers:
According to InitLive’s volunteer engagement guide, “Every interaction your volunteer has with your organization matters.” From the moment your volunteers first become aware of your volunteer opportunities to when they leave their volunteer shift, you want to optimize their experience. This encourages volunteers to do their best, which leads to greater support for your organization’s activities and projects.
Let’s take a closer look at each step of the volunteer coordination process.
Volunteer recruitment is the process of attracting suitable volunteers and conducting screening procedures to match volunteers with opportunities that align with their skills and interests. When conducting volunteer recruitment, you want to find the right people who have a passion for your cause and the necessary skills to assist with your various tasks.
Here are several ways to optimize your volunteer recruitment process:
- Reach out to the right people – You want to make sure you recruit volunteers who are just as passionate as you are, which is why reaching out to those who are already familiar with your cause is a great idea! They can be your organization’s donors, longtime advocates, and any corporate connections you have. You can also use social media analytics to determine who is most engaged with your posts when it comes to likes, comments, or sharing. Send them a personalized message to talk about joining your volunteer team.
- Run background checks – Conducting interviews and background checks allows you to cover all your bases and ensures you have chosen the perfect volunteers for the selected roles. Search for a background check software provider that allows you to assess prospective volunteers and speed up the process.
- Create accurate and clear role descriptions – This not only ensures you find the right volunteers who have the right skills but also increases the chances of your volunteers being satisfied with their roles. Be clear when communicating volunteer expectations as it allows applicants to align with your organization’s goals. Try to create exciting descriptions rather than being generic by explaining the intriguing projects you offer so volunteers can get an idea of what the experience will look like.
- Share your volunteer opportunities on multiple platforms – Assess the demographics and other characteristics of your volunteer pool to figure out what social media platforms they spend the most time on. This will allow you to meet potential volunteers where they are. Share compelling content and educate your audience on what your nonprofit aims to achieve. Be sure to use multimedia such as infographics and videos or even polls to engage with your audience. Provide a link to the signup page with your social media posts to direct supporters exactly where to register for your opportunities.
With a clear-cut, professional volunteer recruitment process, you can impress prospective volunteers and enhance your organization’s reputation. When you stay organized, you can streamline the process of searching for, interviewing, and training volunteers.
Once you’ve successfully recruited volunteers, it’s time to onboard them. The onboarding process is when you welcome volunteers to your organization and introduce them to what your volunteer program is all about. When you make your volunteers feel included from day one, it sets the tone for the rest of their experience.
To create a positive onboarding experience, send a welcome email and thank volunteers for signing up. You can also host a welcome event where your volunteers and staff can get together and introduce themselves. This breaks the ice for newcomers and allows them to feel comfortable and excited to start their wonderful experience with you. This is when you can introduce yourself as the volunteer coordinator or manager, so volunteers know who to go to when they have any questions.
Inspire your volunteers from the very beginning by communicating information about your organization’s mission and the history of your volunteer program. Share the story behind your organization and mention your accomplishments from the past and what you’re working towards for the future. Let your volunteers know what role they play and the importance of their contributions. Your volunteers want to see the difference they’re making, so help them set goals for themselves so they can measure their progress and impact!
Finally, to set your volunteers up for success, schedule them for training shifts or share training materials with them virtually. Help your volunteers feel confident and ready to begin; this is the moment they’ve been waiting for!
Your volunteers will conduct the most impactful work when they are passionate and confident about carrying out the tasks that have been assigned. Once you’ve attracted suitable volunteers with the right qualifications, the next step is to offer an in-depth training process to bring them up to speed.
Your training process establishes the foundation for volunteers’ success and empowers them to perform at the highest level. When volunteers receive proper training, they feel more confident in their roles and can be of greater assistance to your organization. Organizations that take the time to implement thorough training are more likely to experience greater volunteer retention and engagement.
Let’s explore some effective training tips to help empower your volunteers:
- Monitor the training process – This ensures each volunteer knows what to do and when. Identify which skill areas to focus on and outline the roles and tasks your volunteers need to complete to be successful. From there, put together a series of training modules for different tasks and projects. Remember to let your volunteers know to reach out to you with any questions or concerns along the way.
- Tailor the learning experience – You want your training process to run smoothly to avoid any confusion for your volunteers. Every volunteer will have their own preferred way of learning; some may prefer hands-on training while others prefer online training. Consider offering a varied learning experience with different platforms to create an engaging and intuitive training process.
- Use volunteer scheduling software to assign training shifts – Your volunteer database has all the necessary information you need about your volunteers, such as their availability and contact information. You can assign shifts according to your volunteers’ schedules, ensuring they are volunteering on a day that is convenient for them.
Remember to ask your volunteers for their feedback on the training process to check up on them and make sure they’re having an enjoyable experience.
The final step of the volunteer coordination process is ongoing management. Volunteer management is the process of keeping volunteers engaged and retaining their support. It’s important to maintain relationships with volunteers so that they want to stay involved in your organization for the long term.
To facilitate ongoing management, invest in quality volunteer management software. These software systems offer features like:
- A volunteer database – A comprehensive volunteer database will allow you to keep track of and stay in touch with former volunteers to invite them to future opportunities. It also helps you match your volunteers with roles that suit their preferences based on their interests and skills.
- Recruitment tools – Your volunteers can view all your opportunities listed on your website, or you can create branded sign-up pages. Volunteer management software simplifies the online application process for your volunteers and allows you to store all necessary information for volunteer screening and placement.
- Communication tools – There are multiple ways you can keep your volunteers updated with different communication methods such as texting, app notifications, and emails before any upcoming events. Your volunteers can also conduct self check-in and have access to personal schedules and documents such as training materials.
- Volunteer hour tracking tools – Volunteer hour tracking provides an effective baseline for measuring productivity. It also allows volunteers to keep track of their hours in case they need to report them for any reason.
- Tracking and reporting features – Attendance tracking tools that help you see which volunteers are most engaged and focus on increasing engagement in those who are not as active. You can also report volunteer hours which makes it easier to apply for grants.
These features offer convenience to volunteers and help keep your team organized and on track.
In addition, if your organization’s volunteer activities involve ongoing interaction with the community, you may choose to occasionally rerun background checks. If that’s the case, your background check tool will come in handy. Quality background check software offers continuous monitoring to notify you of any changes.
Using these tools in tandem allows you to maintain proper ongoing volunteer management to ensure the satisfaction of volunteers and the safety of all involved in your program.
Following an effective volunteer management process leads to greater volunteer satisfaction and retention. Now that you’ve learned about the four essential elements of managing volunteers, it’s time to start planning how you can empower volunteers to put their best foot forward.
Remember to monitor which practices are working and which aren’t, as there is always room for improvement. Asking your volunteers for their feedback from time to time is also a great way to gauge your success.
Interested in learning more about background checks for volunteers? Talk to sales today.