Onboarding a new volunteer is never easy. They're eager to jump into the fray but will first need to familiarize themselves with the basics of the organization, their work, and the cause for which they work.
That's where volunteer welcome packets enter the equation. Built the right way, they're a great tool for volunteer onboarding and can enhance any type of volunteer orientation designed to set up new team members for success.
In this guide, we'll cover the importance of a new volunteer welcome packet, and how to build one designed to help your volunteers succeed.
Why Is a Welcome Packet/Strategy Important and How Does it Fit into Volunteer Onboarding?
When growing your volunteer program, you will likely welcome a steady stream of new team members into the fold.
A welcome packet can fit perfectly into your volunteer onboarding efforts by helping them familiarize themselves with the core context of the work they're about to do while also providing crucial resources for them throughout their time as volunteers.
In addition, the welcome packet can also become a part of your volunteer engagement strategy. The right resources and pieces, from communication tools to training opportunities, can turn the packet into a tool volunteers use far longer than just their first few days or weeks with your organization.
Who Benefits from a Welcome Packet, and How Does it Play into a Larger Volunteer Welcome Strategy?
Welcome packets are a great way to acquaint any of your new supporters with your organization before they begin volunteering. They make sense regardless of the situation, but that situation might influence the way you build them.
For example, you might already have an annual volunteer orientation scheduled for new members eager to join and help. In that case, a volunteer orientation packet can help to reiterate the points you're making in writing, making them available for future reference.
At the same time, welcome packets can also be relevant in a more digitally-focused onboarding environment. Here, the addition of either printed or emailed documentation can help your volunteers go along with any initial training and onboarding they may be completed on screen.
What to Include in a Welcome Packet
Ultimately, the pieces that make your welcome packet most successful are those most needed by your volunteers and of course, that information can change depending on your situation.
When thinking about what to include in a welcome packet, these 7 elements should be essential:
- A volunteer welcome letter. The volunteer welcome letter should come from the highest executive officer in the organization, thanking volunteers for their work and introducing themselves and the cause. For digital distribution, a volunteer welcome email can serve the same purpose.
- A table of content. No matter which components your welcome packet entails, an overview of all of them helps new volunteers always find what they're looking for without having to search for it.
- A list of key contacts and resources. Ideally, this list should come with the names and titles of everyone included, as well as at least a sentence or two describing why their contact will be beneficial to know for new volunteers.
- Background information. This can include the story of your organization and the reason your program is set up to do what it does. Chances are it's already available on your website or in other materials; you just have to make sure it's formatted in a succinct manner for the welcome packet.
- A link to your new volunteer training. Including entire training modules or documentation in your welcome packet risks turning it into an unwieldy document. It should, however, at least introduce that training and provide some easy steps for new volunteers to get started.
- Key volunteer policies and standard operating procedures. Including this information ensures that especially in their first days and weeks, volunteers have easy reference materials on what to do and how to do it.
- A feedback opportunity. Give your new volunteers a chance to chime in on the welcome packet, the helpfulness and organization of the materials, and what else they would have found beneficial. For example, a simple three-question survey can help you gather enough information to improve your welcome packet over time.
How to Create a Volunteer Welcome Packet that New Team Members Will Love
Not every volunteer welcome packet is created equal. These 9 steps can help you understand how to create a volunteer orientation packet for new members of the team:
- Decide whether your volunteer packet will be most effective when distributed online or offline, based on your onboarding process.
- Ask your current volunteers what information they would have found most valuable when first starting out.
- Write down any training your volunteers will have to complete when first starting for context.
- Gather all necessary resources new volunteers will need, like org charts or contact information lists.
- Gather any policies new volunteers will need to be aware of, like behavioral conduct or working with minors.
- Collect or create basic standard operating procedures for the work your new volunteers will be expected to do.
- Gather any background information for your organization and cause that helps volunteers understand the context of their work.
- Compile all of your information in a standard packet with a format aligned to the distribution method, like print-outs for personally distributed packets or PDFs for online packets.
- Run your draft welcome packet by current volunteers to get their initial feedback on the presentation, and adjust as necessary.
Of course, you can adjust these steps as needed. Listening to your current volunteers about the information they find valuable can and should influence the information that new members of the team will receive.
New Volunteer Welcome Packet Examples to Use as Inspiration
All of the above components and steps are hypothetical. If you're still looking for inspiration, consider these examples of great (digital) volunteer orientation packets you can emulate:
- Chesapeake Housing Mission, which compiles key contacts and personnel, background information, important dates, and frequently asked questions in a simple and well-designed PDF.
- Camp No Limits, which focuses on the basic tasks volunteers need to achieve but also includes an overview of the accommodations and a helpful packing list for volunteers.
- The National Postal Museum, which includes information about typical museum visitors, customer service tips, basic safety procedures, museum maps, and more.
Make a great first impression with your volunteer welcome packet. It can get your new volunteers started on the right foot, ultimately leading to more successful and satisfactory work and improved retention. Build it the right way, and the ripple effects will be significant in growing your volunteer program long-term.