How much are your volunteers worth?
The not-for-profit advocacy group Independent Sector estimatesthe value of the average American volunteer at $24.69 an hour. Volunteers whoperform specialized services may be even more valuable.
Whether your entire workforce is unpaid or you rely on a fewvolunteers to support a paid staff, you need to safeguard these assets. Here’show.
1. Create a professional program
“Professionalizing” your volunteer program can give participantsa sense of ownership and “job” satisfaction. New recruits should receive aformal orientation and participate in training sessions. Even if they’ll becontributing only a couple of hours a week or month, ask them to commit to atleast a loose schedule. And as with paid staffers,volunteers should set annual performancegoals. For example, a volunteer might decide to work a total of 100 hoursannually or learn enough about your mission to be able to speak publicly on thesubject.
If volunteers accomplish their goals, publicize the fact. Andconsider “promoting” those who’ve proved they’re capable of assuming greaterresponsibility. For example, award the job of volunteer coordinator to someonewho has exhibited strong communication and organization skills.
2. Keep them engaged
A formal program won’t keep volunteers engaged if it doesn’ttake advantage of their talents. What’s more, most volunteers want to know thatthe work they do matters. So even if they must occasionally perform menialtasks such as cleaning out animal shelter cages, you can help them understandhow every activity contributes to your charity’s success.
During the training process, inventory each volunteer’sexperience, education, skills and interests and ask if there’s a particularproject that attracts them. Don’t just assume that they want to use the skillsthey already have. Many people volunteer to learn something new.
3. Make it fun
Most volunteers understand that you’ll put them to work. At thesame time, they expect to enjoy coming in. So be careful not to make the samedemands on volunteers that you would on employees. Also, try to be flexiblewhen it comes to such issues as scheduling.
Because many volunteers are motivated by the opportunity to meetlike-minded people, facilitate friendships. Newbies should be introduced toother volunteers and assigned to work alongside someone who knows the ropes.Also schedule on- and off-site social activities for volunteers.
4. Remember to say “thank you”
No volunteer program can be successful without frequent andeffusive “thank-yous.” Verbal appreciation will do, but consider holding avolunteer thank-you event.