Summer is here. Are you ready for what the season holds for your volunteer program? School is out, the weather is favorable, and organizations are planning a return to more consistent in-person volunteerism and fundraising. Not to mention, the end of the fiscal year approaches for some nonprofits.
To help you tackle the season ahead, we’ve compiled this checklist chock-full of tips and resources for a busy summer of volunteerism.
1. Get Back on Track (Safely)
Many volunteer programs switched gears, even paused operations, when the pandemic struck. While we’re still approaching volunteerism with caution, your organization can prepare for a summer of safe volunteering with these COVID recovery activities:
- Assess your budget. As the fiscal year approaches for many nonprofits, you’ll want to evaluate your resources and funding opportunities. What budget changes were made during the pandemic? How will you continue to leverage volunteerism to improve your program’s return on investment?
- Address existing safety procedures. Many communities are still enforcing COVID safety regulations. Decide which existing safety protocols you will phase out and those you will keep. For example, many organizations are choosing to keep contactless volunteer check-in. Communicate safety changes with staff, volunteers, and stakeholders.
- Refocus your mission. Some community organizations had to transition programming quickly to provide emergency relief and address the immediate needs of communities devastated by the pandemic. As your community recovers, reassess current needs in light of your volunteer program’s core mission.
2. Shore Up Your Volunteer Recruitment Strategy
It’s time to get people excited about volunteering again. Make the most of the busier summer months by ramping up your recruitment efforts.
This volunteer recruitment guide has the need-to-know information to help boost your recruitment efforts and get the volunteers you need. Here’s some key insight from the guide for shoring up your recruitment strategy:
- Update your website. Does your website reflect and promote upcoming opportunities and events? Keep your site interesting by refreshing images and calls to volunteer. Ensure you have an integrated, web-based volunteer site dedicated to recruiting, scheduling, and engaging your organization’s volunteers.
- Make it easy to get involved. Volunteers are more likely to get involved when they can sign-up with ease. Volunteers should be able to locate opportunities on your website and get involved with just a few clicks.
- Match skills and interests. Can volunteers search for listings based on their interests? Does your organization recommend opportunities based on volunteers’ preferences? Screening for skills-based work ensures volunteers are qualified for the job, avoiding frustration on both ends.
- Don’t gloss over volunteer training. Training ensures your volunteers are prepared for the work ahead. Plus, organizations that take the time to implement engaging volunteer training are more likely to enjoy greater volunteer retention.
3. Keep Your Volunteers in the Loop
Have you checked in with your volunteers lately? Consistent and clear communication is a key component of any volunteer management strategy. So if you haven’t reached out to your volunteers in a while, or you’re looking to reinvigorate your volunteer program, you’ll want to consider your outreach efforts.
How can you reengage volunteers through strategic outreach? Reintroduce your cause, communicate changes to your programming and safety measures, and get volunteers excited about the summer’s upcoming opportunities and events. Be sure to engage volunteers using a variety of communication tools, such as:
- Email – Email is your communication MVP. Compose an email marketing campaign or newsletter and reintroduce your summer volunteerism program. Or, send an email thanking your volunteers for their continued support.
- Text messaging – Invite volunteers to opt-in to receive text reminders and updates. Texting is a great way to share important announcements and call for last-minute volunteers.
- Social media – Employ social media to share news, drive brand recognition, and recruit new volunteers. Take advantage of multiple platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, and follow these social media tips.
4. Re-engage Community Partners
Many volunteer programs rely on community partners, from campuses to local businesses, to fill critical volunteer roles and support fundraising efforts. If you haven’t already, you’ll want to rekindle these partnerships to bolster your summer programming. Here’s how:
- Reestablish communication. If you want to nurture your network, you need to remind them that you still exist. Send personalized emails and show that you’re invested in their outcomes by inviting two-way conversation and idea-sharing.
- Discuss strategy and values. Following this unprecedented year, it’s a good idea to check in, realign your mission and goals, and refresh your partnership strategy for moving forward. These conversations help to reestablish trust between organizations, necessary for securing long-term relationships.
- Boost your social media presence. Your social media platforms are a great place to pique interest once again. Tap into each other’s networks by establishing content partnerships in which each party promotes their program and shares content on your respective channels.
- Make group registration easier. From college students to employee teams, your volunteer management system should allow for easy group sign-up. Designate a team leader to streamline communication and make sure leaders can hold slots for each shift.
- Share impact. Corporate social responsibility programs and service-learning initiatives need to know their volunteers’ impact. Do you have a system for creating impact reports for each partner quickly? A volunteer management system can track data specific to each partner and produce compelling reports that keep them engaged.
5. Streamline Your Scheduling
Before you open your doors for summer, you’ll need to make sure your volunteer scheduling tools are on point. Without the right tools, managing volunteer schedules can be incredibly time-consuming. Fortunately, you can boost scheduling efficiency using technology. Volunteer scheduling tools include lots of exciting capabilities that allows for:
- Efficient volunteer self-scheduling – No need to manually schedule on behalf of volunteers! Instead, volunteers can view open shifts and choose the schedule that works best for them.
- Automated e-invites – Send messages to segmented groups, such as recent volunteers, active volunteers, or lapsed volunteers. Call for volunteers when you need them, and send targeted opportunities to boost engagement.
- Intuitive public and private event coordination – Create public and private listings for individuals and groups. Self-scheduling becomes more dynamic and you can rest assured that your supporters are finding the right opportunities and shifts.
- Custom schedules – Accommodate recurring volunteer schedules (for volunteers who want to participate regularly) and customize shifts for each opportunity listing.
6. Go Hybrid
Some volunteers may not be ready to fully commit to in-person volunteering and events, while others are eager to return. Flexibility is critical when the months ahead still feel uncertain. Why not accommodate remote and onsite volunteers?
Integrate Virtual Volunteering
Virtual volunteerism is here to stay. And it is possible to offer virtual and onsite volunteer opportunities. In fact, by providing both options, you’re creating a more inclusive environment for volunteers. Here’s how to accommodate your remote volunteers this summer:
- Phase in traditional opportunities. If restarting all in-person volunteering at once seems daunting, consider phasing in a few “traditional” volunteer opportunities at first. You can keep your virtual volunteer program running while gradually returning to the programs your volunteers are accustomed to.
- Be strategic about your offerings. Not every task is suitable for at-home volunteering. On the other hand, if the job can be accomplished remotely, make it virtual! Activities like data entry, social media management, fundraising, knitting, or kit-making are ideal virtual opportunities.
- Denote virtual and in-person opportunity listings. As your volunteers scroll through your website’s opportunity lists, they should be able to quickly identify virtual jobs. Create and highlight separate, searchable lists for virtual and onsite opportunities.
- Foster real connections. Many love volunteering for the socialization and meaningful human interaction it offers. While virtual volunteerism provides flexibility, volunteers can lose out on the benefits of face-to-face interaction. Make your virtual volunteers feel just as welcome by offering virtual volunteer mentorships, hosting a meet and greet over video, and regularly thanking your virtual volunteers.
Plan Hybrid Events
Not ready to gather in groups? No problem! An emerging trend in event management, hybrid events are held both onsite and virtually. Therefore, they offer valuable flexibility for attendees and event hosts.
However, coordinating onsite and virtual elements can be tricky. So, after you’ve identified your event volunteer needs, you’ll need to consider virtual event management tools for smooth sailing. You can also read more about hybrid event best practices (and pitfalls to avoid!) in this handy article.
7. Ramp Up Your Volunteer Management Tools
We’re eagerly awaiting the full return of safe onsite volunteerism, and we bet you are too. So, as your volunteer program ramps up again, make sure you have the tools and technology in place to support your program.
But with all the technology out there, how do you know which is worth your investment?
We think the best, most cost-effective tools should be multi-functional and user-friendly. Volunteer management software is your volunteer program’s all-rounder. It’ll help you manage, recruit, and engage volunteers more efficiently. The best options also have robust reporting and communication tools built-in.
Volunteer management software empowers Volunteer Managers to spend more time on high-impact activities like community outreach and planning (while spending less time on administrative tasks). In the long run, you’ll improve your volunteer program’s return on investment and even grow your program.