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Volunteer Management, CRMs, and Nonprofits

4 Ways CRMs Can Help Manage Volunteers

Your nonprofit CRM manages your donors, fundraising outreach, and volunteers. While CRMs are often seen as a tool for your nonprofit’s donors, proper use can also lead to improved volunteer relations. Like with donors, the tools that collect information and allow effective communication lead to better relationships with your volunteers. 

Volunteer relations can be overlooked, especially when compared to donor relations. However, effective volunteer management improves volunteer retention and dedication, impacting how much and what kind of help your nonprofit will receive when you need volunteers to pitch in. 

Effective volunteer management also determines how successful your volunteers can be, as even your most reliable volunteers can only do so much with little oversight. Using your CRM or volunteer management software enables you to create a better volunteer experience not just for your volunteers but for your nonprofit as well. A CRM should:

  1. Provide valuable data insights
  2. Automate communication and outreach
  3. Ensure targeted marketing efforts
  4. Aid in showing appreciation

Your nonprofit management software has more uses than you might think. Creative and flexible application of your nonprofit’s reporting and automated outreach systems allows your nonprofit to respond to volunteers just as you would donors. 

1. Provide valuable data insights

Your volunteer management tools have several functionalities, such as creating schedules, managing communication, and allowing volunteers to track hours. However, like with your donors, your volunteer management software should also track, store, and analyze key data metrics that can help you measure the ROI of your volunteer programs.

Like with fundraising campaigns, recruiting and managing volunteers requires an investment of resources. Given the time and money costs, your nonprofit needs to measure how successful your volunteer program is and make adjustments as needed. 

Calculate your volunteer program’s ROI with this formula: 

ROI = (Volunteer Value – Program Cost)/Program Cost

While you can find program costs by looking at your revenue, you can find volunteer value by calculating:

Volunteer Value = (Total # of Volunteer Hours) x (Estimated Volunteer Wage per Hour)

Find the estimated volunteer wage by determining your state or the national average’s determined volunteer wage. Your volunteer management software should track the total number of volunteer hours. 

If your ROI is low (or negative), your nonprofit likely needs to rethink its volunteer management practices. After helping you find your ROI rate, your volunteer management software can help determine what needs to change. For example, if your volunteers are reporting more hours than their work should take, look into time-saving practices to see if there’s new technology available that can streamline processes. 

Collecting volunteer information can also benefit your nonprofit by discovering if your volunteers are eligible for volunteer grants. Volunteer grants are donations made by employers when their employees volunteer a certain number of hours at a nonprofit. Use your management software to keep track of your volunteers’ employers and alert them if they qualify for a volunteer grant. 

2. Automate communication and outreach

Positive volunteer relations are created by building relationships with each volunteer. While you likely don’t have the time to write individual messages to each volunteer, your CRM can automatically send messages to volunteers, creating efficient, personalized outreach. 

Your supporter base can generally be divided into two groups: your donors and your volunteers. Of course, your volunteers can also donate, and your donors can also volunteer, meaning that while your nonprofit can create general volunteer content, you can also segment your volunteers even further to create more engaging messages. A few effective ways to segment your volunteers are:

  • Campaigns/events volunteered for. If your volunteers worked on a specific project, mention it! You can thank volunteers and convey the impact their work had on your nonprofit’s mission, which helps build a relationship by acknowledging and appreciating their efforts. Additionally, consider highlighting specific volunteers in your nonprofit’s newsletter as a way to further congratulate individual volunteers while sharing your nonprofit’s impact.  
  • Length of time with your nonprofit. Use your CRM to track new volunteers and create a series of onboarding welcome messages to help introduce them to your nonprofit. You can also tailor communication for long-term volunteers, such as sending a celebration email after they volunteer a certain number of hours or reach an anniversary with your nonprofit. 
  • Specific skill set. You will probably gain some of your volunteers through general calls for supporters, but others will have specific skill sets. For example, your nonprofit may make a call for volunteers with experience handling animals or lawyers willing to work pro-bono hours. Send these volunteers specific messages that reflect their unique responsibilities. 

Your CRM should collect and store this information. Most nonprofit databases also come with features that aid communication, such as templates that can be populated with targeted information. Some CRMs even offer additional volunteer outreach features, such as GivingMail’s CRM’s integrated direct mail service, which would be pertinent for nonprofits attempting a multi-channel engagement approach with their volunteers. 

3. Ensure targeted marketing efforts

In addition to improving relations with current volunteers, your nonprofit should also pursue opportunities to attract new volunteers. Targeted volunteer marketing efforts are especially important if your nonprofit needs to attract volunteers with specialized skill sets. 

While your CRM can be used to monitor your existing supporters, reaching new contacts can require experimentation and a broader approach. However, your CRM should support your marketing campaign by identifying communication methods that have generated the most activity in the past and tracking interaction rates for different messaging strategies during your outreach campaign.

Use your nonprofit database to determine where your target audience likely is before launching your campaign. Then, consider a multi-channel approach that helps your nonprofit expand its contacts by instilling brand recognition in supporters across multiple platforms. A few key communication channels are:

  • Social media. Social media lets your nonprofit broadcast your message to a large range of supporters. However, each platform has its own set of rules for success, so be sure to tailor your posts to meet user expectations. For example, you might decide that Facebook’s long post format is the best place to post your call for volunteers. To help attract attention, incorporate an eye-catching feature image at the top of your post and leverage your accounts on other social media platforms to direct supporters to the post. 
  • Email. While social media followers will need to decide whether or not to engage with your post as they scroll past, email marketing requires convincing potential supporters to open your email at all. Your emails to volunteers should be friendly and express gratitude for their efforts, but also contain an engaging subject line to convince them to click on it in the first place. 
  • Direct mail. Traditional mail is still an old standby for nonprofits due to its high response rate when compared to other outreach forms. As this guide explains, direct mail response rates are ten times higher than those conducted through email or social media. A physical object is more memorable than a tweet or a Facebook post, and that can be enough to get on-the-fence supporters to volunteer. 

Managing volunteers often requires being ready for individuals to drop out or change schedules at the last minute. By cultivating a reliable, growing base of volunteers, your nonprofit can adapt to these obstacles when they come up without faltering in fulfilling your mission. 

4. Aid in showing appreciation

Volunteers want to know their efforts matter, and you can show them how much their work means to your nonprofit by saying thank you. Along with a thank you email for signing up, send your volunteers personal thank you notes, letters, or postcards after shifts and events to give them a physical reminder of all they’ve done for your cause.

Your volunteers should be regularly thanked after shifts and events to help maintain your relationship with them. Your CRM can automatically send out thank you emails, but showing your thanks in more than one way helps your nonprofit’s memorability while also doing more for your hardworking volunteers. 

If your nonprofit needs a little inspiration, check out Lumaverse’s guide to volunteer appreciation to help you get started. Here are some of our favorite ideas:

  • Feedback requests. Asking your supporters for feedback shows that your nonprofit cares about their opinions and wants to improve your volunteer program. Invite your volunteers to have a say in your nonprofit. When conducted in a more personalized capacity like a phone call or end-of-shift interview, your organization can start real conversations with volunteers about your nonprofit and how to make it better. 
  • Branded merchandise. Create branded T-shirts for your volunteers to wear when they join your nonprofit. Branded merchandise gives them something to show for their efforts with the bonus of helping spread word about your nonprofit when they wear it in public. 
  • Training events. In addition to physical objects, volunteers like to come away from volunteer opportunities with new skills. Teach your volunteers about your field and give them opportunities to develop skills that they can continue to use even after their time with your nonprofit ends. 
  • Thank you cards. Handwritten cards are a traditional standby and for a good reason. A handwritten thank you card lets volunteers know that someone at your nonprofit (ideally a supervisor they worked with) took the time to sit down and thank them for their efforts. 

Communicating your appreciation is the easiest way to help retain volunteers, and your CRM can help you keep track of which of your volunteers have received their thank you cards, so no one gets overlooked. Plus, the best tools can even help streamline and automate the process of thanking individuals.

Your volunteers help keep your nonprofit running, and your CRM should help you keep track of your volunteers. Optimize your CRM to create volunteer profiles and send messages based on each volunteer’s experience with your nonprofit. 

If your nonprofit doesn’t already have a CRM or volunteer management system, begin your research by making a list of must-have features before shopping around. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and try demos to be sure you’re choosing the volunteer management software that meets your nonprofit’s unique needs. Good luck!

Grant Cobb is a fundraising specialist with over 6 years of experience in the nonprofit space. Currently the head of marketing and analytics at GivingMail, he is a huge proponent of data-driven decision making and the push to bring high-level analytics and fundraising to all.

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