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Setting Your Volunteer Program Goals: Create, Organize, and Prioritize

In the nonprofit sector, where dollars are dear, you rely on volunteers to play the role of paid staff so that you can direct your funds to your mission and needs. 

If you want to start a volunteer program for your organization but are getting pushback from your board, here's a number to share—the average volunteer contributes nearly $30 per hour in value to an organization. 

The trick to establishing a strong volunteer program, or reinvigorating one that's gotten stale and ineffective, is to understand three things about your potential volunteer pool: 

  • Motivation
  • Expectations
  • Value

These rules apply to employee volunteer programs as well as community programs.

You'll also want to think about volunteer experience—how will you give your volunteers an engaging and enriching experience through your program?

When your program creates feelings of goodwill among your volunteer corps and embraces corporate social responsibility, they are more likely to stay with your program and assume leadership positions. 

Volunteer program goals and objectives

Seasoned volunteer leaders recognize that the quality of their volunteers is more important than quantity.

Your goal is to recruit a group that is effective, efficient, and promotes your mission to the community. Some nonprofit leaders are reluctant to ask anything of their volunteers; their attitude is that if someone is willing to donate their time, that should be enough. We get it!

However, in most successful organizations, volunteers apply to come on board and are screened to ensure they are a good fit—again, quality over quantity.

The last thing you want is people who aren't engaged in your mission and stop showing up. 

So in reality, setting standards and goals for your volunteers is the first line of defense in recruiting people who will truly benefit your organization. 

Setting measurable goals for your volunteers gives everyone a clear vision of what you're trying to accomplish, and how to measure results. Consider your goals the compass that guides you through developing your volunteer program. 

Volunteer Program Goals Examples

What is your goal for positive community impact? For example, how many books do you want to collect for free from neighborhood libraries? How many backpacks do you want to fill for at-risk kids?

Set realistic goals—if you live in a community of 50,000 people, is it more realistic to fill several hundred backpacks, or several thousand? You can absolutely stretch to exceed goals but don't set them so high that volunteers get discouraged if they don't hit the magic number. 


How many hours per week do you need to have your team out in the community? Set time goals for each task—fifty hours delivering Meals on Wheels, or 40 hours tutoring in an elementary school.


This is the lifeblood of any non-profit. You can set weekly, monthly, or quarterly fundraising goals, but be sure to recognize milestones along the way—if a volunteer scores a large donation, please be sure to acknowledge their work to their peers and your staff. And keep your eye on that person for leadership in the future. 

Smart Goals for a Volunteer Program

After you've determined your basic goals, it's time to dig deep and set more advanced targets using SMART goal strategies. 

S: specific

Clearly states the task, and who's responsible for getting it done/

M: measurable

Plan how you'll measure your program's outcomes. 

A: achievable

Be aware of the realities of the community and set realistic goals. Incremental goals set you up for success better than grand sweeping ideals. 

R: relevant

Do the goals make sense for the project? Do they mesh with its culture and overall vision? 

T: time-bound

Set a specific timeline to finish the project.

SMART goals keep volunteers focused and ensure that they are on board with your organization's mission. Setting clear goals also helps each volunteer know their role, and emphasizes the opportunity to develop new skills—both of which lead to higher levels of satisfaction among the volunteer corps, which in turn leads to a more positive community profile and a successful organization. 

Sample goals for volunteer programs

People who want to volunteer with your organization already buy into your mission, and they want to be involved. In many cases they are also looking for some sort of purpose—maybe they are recently retired, are new in town, and looking to connect with like-minded people, empty nesters—any number of things bring volunteers to your door. 

When you can identify your goals for new volunteers, you're showing them that they can have a positive impact on the community when they join your team. 

Volunteers are gladly donating their time and talent to your organization, so it's important that you build recognition into your goals. Whether a volunteer delivers 100 meals a month, designs your new volunteer logo, or writes a winning grant proposal, acknowledge their efforts and success with their peers.

Set Training Goals

Your volunteers shouldn't feel like they have to fend for themselves at their first shift. It is essential that you develop and implement a volunteer training program that reviews the volunteer policies and procedures and goes over the individual roles. 

A thorough training program sets the tone for a positive volunteer experience. Training helps them understand more about the organization and how it operates and gives them the tools they need to be successful in their role. You might set up an orientation session, then additional meetings for volunteer skill building as the needs arise. 

You'll also need to develop a policies and procedures manual so your volunteers have a handy reference guide. 

Set Organizational Goals

Most of the goals we have discussed so far are public-facing–setting goals for the volunteer programs and the organization. As the volunteer leader, task yourself with being organized and focused—basically, set a calm and collected example for your team. They're looking to you to provide leadership, and if you exist in controlled chaos, it's hard for anybody else to understand their role.

Here are some ways that Get Connected can help you implement organizational best practices and boost your volunteer engagement. 

  • Log in whenever you come in or do work online
  • Track hours in management software
  • Wear nametags when you are onsite or out representing the organization
  • Create a jobs board for onsite volunteers to know what's important that day

Ultimately, setting goals goes a long way toward keeping you and your volunteers aligned with your mission.






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