By now, you’re probably aware of the many online calendars and scheduling systems for keeping volunteer shifts organized. But did you know that there are options that can do so much more than take attendance?
Keep your volunteers engaged and move your volunteer program forward with these cost-effective volunteer engagement tools:
- What Are Volunteer Engagement Tools?
- Why Should I Invest in Volunteer Engagement Tools?
- What Are the Different Types of Volunteer Engagement Tools?
What Are Volunteer Engagement Tools?
Volunteer engagement tools are software or platforms, usually web-based, that help community organizations keep volunteers active and invested in the organization throughout the year.
These tools can help with a variety of volunteer engagement activities, from communicating with volunteers more readily to matching volunteers with the right opportunities.
Why Should I Invest in Volunteer Engagement Tools?
Engaged volunteers are more productive in their roles and more likely to participate again.
Plus, investing in the time and tools to keep your current volunteers active and happy is much more cost-effective than continuously recruiting new ones.
However, when volunteer leaders get busy (which, let’s be honest, feels like always), volunteer engagement activities often get pushed aside for more immediate needs like simply keeping your volunteer program running.
That’s where volunteer engagement tools come in.
Volunteer engagement tools can make activities associated with keeping volunteers engaged much more manageable — leading to better outcomes for your program and your community!
To help you wade through the many platforms out there, we’ve compiled a list of the best tools to support your volunteer engagement strategy.
You don’t need all the tools listed below to keep volunteers engaged. But it’s important to know which options are out there so you can incorporate the best systems for your organization’s needs.
In fact, there are even all-in-one volunteer management systems for recruiting, scheduling, engaging volunteers, and so much more!
What Are the Different Types of Volunteer Engagement Tools?
Volunteer engagement is all about ensuring your supporters feel continuously connected to your organization or cause. You can foster these connections by:
- Creating a positive volunteer experience every time
- Thanking and recognizing your volunteers
- Getting to know your volunteers
- Inviting feedback and input
These engagement strategies require reliable communication methods and a streamlined process for coordinating volunteers.
So, if you want to level up your volunteer engagement, you’ll want to consider leveraging these tools:
- Volunteer Website
- Volunteer Mobile Apps
- Volunteer Communication and Collaboration Tools
- Volunteer Training and Learning Tools
- Volunteer Recognition Tools
- Volunteer Management Software
Your website is a volunteer engagement powerhouse. It’s where your supporters and curious visitors come to learn more about your organization and your volunteer program in particular.
Chances are you already have a website. But you’ll want to set up your volunteer site for success to optimize engagement.
Make sure you have a clearly-labeled page on your website dedicated to your volunteer program and opportunities. That way, prospects know exactly where to go to check out new opportunities and program updates.
You can create an even more engaging and effective volunteer website by adding these features:
- Blog - Blogs are a great way to keep your supporters in the loop. Share events, news, successes, community stories, and more.
- Impact Tracker - Feature your program’s impact like total volunteer hours for the year or other outcomes—it’s s fun way to motivate your supporters while communicating your impact.
- Volunteer Portal and Profiles - Did you know that your website can become an engaging volunteer portal? When volunteers register and log in to your site, they can access their personal profile, calendars, opportunity recommendations, shift reminders, personal impact data, upload forms, and more. Organizations that want to provide their volunteers with unique profiles will typically purchase a volunteer management platform.
Volunteer Mobile Apps
Today’s volunteers expect to find and sign-up for volunteer opportunities from their smartphones (and even volunteer on their phones!). That’s why mobile apps are a complete game-changer when it comes to keeping up with your volunteers.
But what can mobile apps do exactly?
Some volunteer management providers have developed mobile apps designed for volunteers. For example, Get Connected’s volunteer mobile app features geolocation, which empowers volunteers to quickly find opportunities close to home, and even prompts them to log in when they arrive on site!
Mobile apps are great for volunteer leaders, too! When volunteers check in or out from their mobile app, it will automatically record their hours, so there are no more paper hours logs, no more nagging to log hours, and volunteers get started quicker!
A mobile app will streamline the entire volunteer experience, whether they’re participating virtually or on location.
Volunteer Communication and Collaboration Tools
Consistent communication and opportunities for collaboration are the pillars of volunteer engagement.
These tools help volunteer leaders maintain communication with volunteers and invite easier collaboration, ultimately leading to better engagement:
- Email - Every volunteer program relies on email to communicate with volunteers. To keep your contacts organized, you may want to consider a contact management and email marketing tool. Some common examples of these include MailChimp and Constant Contact, which integrate with other nonprofit systems like your donations management tool.
- Social Media - Social media is an invaluable engagement tool for any volunteer program. Start by mastering one or two social media platforms (like Facebook and Instagram). Mix up your content with bright images and enticing calls to action. Strive for consistency and watch audience engagement grow!
- Video Conferencing - Video conferencing is an effective tool for connecting with remote volunteers, hosting meetings, and even delivering virtual volunteer services. Zoom is a popular option, but you’ll also come across Skype and Microsoft Teams.
- Idea Boards - Design mood boards, get inspired, and collaborate on projects with online idea boards like Pinterest. You can create shared boards so that volunteers and staff can get involved in the planning process.
- Survey Tools and Volunteer Feedback - Inviting volunteer feedback is essential to keeping them engaged in your program’s outcomes. That’s why many successful volunteer programs regularly survey their supporters to learn more about their experience. Google Forms is a free, user-friendly tool for creating and collecting forms or surveys. Survey Monkey is another inexpensive option.
- Project Planning Tools - Project planning tools are helpful for volunteers and volunteer leaders working to coordinate more complex projects (say, your next big fundraising event). They’re especially great for creating a collaborative environment where participants can track progress, share ideas, and keep on top of their tasks. Trello is a popular option—it’s easy to use, free, and looks great!
Volunteer Training and Learning Tools
Engaged volunteers feel prepared for their roles. More organizations are investing in better volunteer training for better outcomes and happier volunteers.
What’s more, digital training programs increased in popularity during the pandemic, and we predict they’re here to stay. Digital or online training can be engaging and convenient, so your eager volunteers can get involved easier and faster.
If you want to compose a digital volunteer training curriculum, you’ll need to think about the infrastructure to deliver the training materials and track progress.
Inexpensive learning tools like these can help you create and deliver a manageable training curriculum that your volunteers will enjoy:
- Presentation Tools - Free tools like Prezi and Canva make it easy to create engaging, interactive presentations and lesson plans for delivering digital volunteer training.
- Quiz Tools - Pressure-free quizzes are a great way to test your volunteer’s knowledge of your training and onboarding materials. Quizlet is a great option for creating quick, fun quizzes.
- Video Tools - Record lessons that volunteers can access anywhere, anytime. Vimeo and Youtube are free and easy to use.
Volunteer Recognition Tools
Volunteer recognition results in deeper engagement and better retention. But, often, the occasional “thank you” isn’t enough. Engaged volunteers know that their work is making a difference.
The key to recognizing your volunteers is tracking their hours and impact. Therefore, hours tracking tools become an essential tool for many volunteer programs.
Smaller organizations typically start with a combination of free online forms and spreadsheets to track each volunteer’s hours. However, many find that they eventually outgrow these tools and turn to more robust hours-tracking tools.
Do I Need to Track My Volunteer Hours?
The short answer: Yes!
There are lots of reasons volunteer programs should track volunteer hours.
You may have a general idea of how many hours their volunteers contribute in total. This kind of data is critical to winning grants and allocating resources.
But are you recording every volunteer hour for each volunteer?
Sound time consuming, even impossible?
Tracking every volunteer hour is possible!
With a volunteer hours tracking tool—which often comes integrated into a more comprehensive volunteer management system—you can record every volunteer’s participation and attendance, hours, impact, and more.
Even better, volunteers are empowered to track their own hours with easy tools like mobile check-in and unique volunteer profiles that store volunteers’ information and participation records.
Volunteers who understand the impact they are having on a project are significantly more likely to care about your program's outcomes and stay engaged for the long haul.
Plus, when you know your volunteers’ individual contributions, you can recognize their efforts and demonstrate appreciation with the appropriate awards, certificates, and gifts.
Volunteer hours tracking software can even automatically send digital awards and messages of recognition when a volunteer reaches a certain benchmark!
Volunteer Management Software
Managing a flurry of disparate engagement tools is unrealistic for most organizations—not to mention cost-ineffective! Instead, volunteer programs benefit by adopting a few trusted tools that can be integrated into all stages of the volunteer management process.
Volunteer management software, for example, is all these engagement tools in one cost-effective platform:
- Volunteer Calendar and Scheduling - Volunteers can browse and filter opportunities, manage their personal volunteer calendars, and self-schedule for opportunities. When volunteers can do it themselves, there’s less wait time and more engagement.
- Volunteer Tracking and Reporting Tools - There are lots of ways to track volunteer hours, from a check-in kiosk to a mobile app, you’ll track every volunteer’s hours so you can report on volunteer impact and streamline volunteer recognition.
- Volunteer Profiles - Give volunteers a personalized experience with volunteer profiles. They can log in through your website, save personal preferences, receive personalized recommendations, view their schedule, track impact, upload documents, and more. Best of all, it’s all housed in one accessible location.
- Volunteer Matching - The software can automatically recommend opportunities for volunteers based on their preferences and skills. Plus, volunteers can easily search and filter your opportunity listings so they find the roles that will keep them engaged.
Volunteer management software can do even more than engage your volunteers. Learn why volunteer leaders love Get Connected volunteer management software for all stages of volunteer management, and schedule a free demo today!