6 Steps to Creating a Successful Volunteer Program

Most nonprofit organizations rely heavily on volunteers to run their organization effectively. Having a solid program that attracts and retains volunteers that believe in the mission of the organization is key.  Follow these 6 steps to implement, or improve, your program.

1. Create a Job Description

Even though the position is a volunteer one, it is important to clearly identify the needs of your organization so that you not only bring on volunteers that want to complete these tasks, but also accomplish your goals as an organization. Include the skills a volunteer needs, the training you will offer as well as the hours and location the volunteer is needed.

 Clearly explaining all of this upfront will help you attract volunteers that want to be there to support your organization and its mission.

2. Interview

That’s right, interview. While in all likelihood, you won’t be turning a volunteer away, it is important to meet and speak with all potential volunteers. Prior to meeting, review their resume and past volunteer history to get a sense of their skill set.

When you meet with them face to face, take note not only of their experience and skills, but also of their temperament.

3. Orientation

The more knowledge a volunteer has about the organization and its mission, the better able they will be to support it. Sharing the history and accomplishments of the organization in addition to its mission is a good idea.

If possible, invite a board member to present during the orientation. This will give the volunteer a sense of belonging. They can share policies, their personal story and answer any questions the new volunteers have during this time.

4. Supervision

Appoint someone to manage the volunteer’s schedule and develop a relationship with them. This person can be a paid staff member or a more seasoned volunteer.

The volunteer should be able to reach out to their supervisor with any questions, concerns or scheduling issues they have. Supervisors should plan to meet, preferably in person, with each volunteer monthly — more or less often depending on the schedule of the volunteer.  This is a great opportunity to thank the volunteer for their efforts and dedication.

5. Recognition

Everyone likes to be recognized for their efforts — especially when they aren’t being paid.  Showing the volunteers at your organization they are appreciated doesn’t have to be an elaborate or expensive project. A handwritten thank you card from a board member or a shout out in a newsletter goes a long way.

If your organization hosts holiday parties or other gatherings for their staff, extend invitations to your volunteers as well. After all, they are an important part of your team.

6. Evaluation

Provide feedback to your volunteers on the work they are doing. Keep notes throughout the year on the hours they work, the tasks they complete and their willingness to help. Let your volunteers know you will provide letters of reference should they need it.

This is also the perfect opportunity to ask your volunteers for their feedback. Perhaps they have a suggestion that could benefit the organization. Listen to what they have to say and consider implementing it.


How does your organization attract and retain volunteers?


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