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10 Ways to Advocate for Your Volunteer Program

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According to The Minnesota Association for Volunteer Administration (MAVA), volunteer leaders are increasingly reporting challenges in filing volunteer positions at their organizations.

To better understand emerging volunteerism trends and the factors fueling this volunteer shortage, MAVA researched and published the Post-Pandemic Volunteerism Report: Trends and Strategies for Volunteer Engagement in 2023 and Beyond

In their full report, MAVA found that 46% of organizations that reported the right amount (or more) of volunteers did internal advocacy work for their volunteer program.

Let’s dive into 10 ways to advocate for your volunteer program, so that you're setting your organization up for success. 

The Link Between Recruitment, Volunteer Programs, and Mission Fulfillment

Volunteer programs are often underestimated and sometimes seen as a nuisance, yet they play a crucial role in advancing the missions of many organizations.

Volunteer programs provide essential manpower, enabling non-profits and community groups to expand their reach and amplify their impact without significant financial strain.

Volunteers bring diverse skills, unique perspectives, and a passion for the cause, enriching organizational efforts and fostering innovation. Moreover, engaging volunteers helps build a stronger community connection, as they become ambassadors for the mission, spreading awareness and garnering further support.

Given this, a volunteer shortage can significantly hinder mission fulfillment.

To safeguard their mission, organizations should consider recruiting more volunteers and strengthening their volunteer programs through internal advocacy.
Volunteer Shortage

What Does it Mean to Advocate for Your Volunteer Program

Advocating for your volunteer program goes beyond mere recruitment; it involves actively promoting and supporting the value and impact of your volunteers both within your organization and in the broader community.

Internal advocacy can include efforts like educating staff and leadership about the importance of volunteer contributions, integrating volunteerism into the organization's strategic goals, and ensuring volunteers feel valued and acknowledged for their efforts.

It’s about creating a culture that recognizes volunteers as essential partners in mission fulfillment.

By championing your volunteer program, you not only improve program outcomes, but also gain the respect and resources necessary to succeed.

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10 Ways to Advocate for Volunteerism in Your Organization

MAVA reports that organizations with an adequate number of volunteers were engaging in internal advocacy for their programing.

This is a clear signal for volunteer managers: promoting volunteer programs within your organization can result in stronger outcomes.

Here are 10 ways that volunteer leaders can advocate for their volunteer program:

1. Highlight Volunteer Impact

Share stories and data that clearly illustrate the positive outcomes of volunteer contributions. This can include metrics on the number of people served, the quality of service delivered, and testimonials from beneficiaries.

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2. Include Organizational Leadership

Regularly update senior management and board members on the achievements and challenges of the volunteer program. Consider inviting influential leaders to volunteer events to witness the impact firsthand.

3. Incorporate Volunteerism in Strategic Planning

Ensure that volunteers and their roles are considered in the organization's strategic plans. This integration can help allocate resources effectively and make volunteerism a core part of the organization's mission.

4. Leverage Volunteer Stories in Communications

Highlight the work volunteers do in communication materials. This not only boosts morale but also enhances the visibility of the volunteer program to the outside world.

Share volunteer success stories in newsletters, social media, and annual reports. These stories not only motivate current volunteers but are also powerful tools for demonstrating the value of volunteerism.

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5. Collaborate with External Partners

Partner with businesses, other organizations, and community groups to enhance volunteer initiatives.

Collaborations can bring in new resources and reinforce the importance of volunteers to the broader community.

6. Advocate for Funding

As a volunteer engagement leader, one way to advocate is by requesting more resources to engage and recognize volunteers.

This could include budgeting for training programs, volunteer management software, or appreciation gifts.

Demonstrating the tangible benefits of investing in volunteer resources can help secure the necessary support from organizational leadership.

Advocate for volunteer management software

7. Offer Staff Training

To improve volunteer engagement, offer training programs to your staff. This equips them with the necessary skills to interact effectively with volunteers.

Training can cover areas such as effective communication with volunteers, conflict resolution, and volunteer engagement techniques.

8. Educate Top Leadership

Make sure that the top leadership understands the importance of the volunteer program. Their buy-in can significantly impact the way resources are allocated to the program.

Present data and testimonials that showcase the value volunteers bring. When leadership sees the direct benefits, they are more likely to support and invest in the volunteer program.

9. Celebrate Milestones and Achievements

Recognize and celebrate the milestones and achievements of your volunteers and volunteer program.

Hosting award ceremonies, appreciation events, or even simple acknowledgments in meetings can boost the morale of your volunteers and highlight the program’s success. Celebrations create a positive atmosphere and underscore the value of volunteer contributions to the entire organization.


Post-Pandemic Volunteerism Report: Trends and Strategies for Volunteer Engagement in 2023 and Beyond


10. Foster a Culture of Volunteerism

Create an environment where volunteering is valued and encouraged among all employees and stakeholders. This can be done by integrating volunteer-related goals into employee evaluations, encouraging departments to participate in volunteer projects, or even offering paid time off for employees to volunteer.

When volunteerism is part of the organizational culture, it promotes a unified approach and increased support for volunteer programs at all levels.

Advocating for volunteerism within an organization is not merely about filling vacant positions; it's about making a positive social impact and achieving one’s mission.

Internal advocacy ensures that volunteer initiatives and program leaders receive the necessary resources and recognition, empowering organizations to successfully meet their strategic goals and drive meaningful community change.

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