Are You Ignoring Your Volunteers?

Jamie Klobuchar
November 9, 2021

Any nonprofit professional will tell you volunteers are essential to their nonprofit’s success. Some smaller nonprofits are entirely volunteer-run, and even larger nonprofits rely on volunteers to significantly expand their capacity. 

So, why are volunteers so important? In an industry that often runs on tight budgets and tends to be short-staffed, volunteers provide valuable labor at no cost to the organization, expanding their capacity and ensuring they can serve more people in need. (Volunteer labor is worth an average of $28.49 an hour, according to a recent report by Independent Sector!) 

Volunteers also bring talents and expertise to your nonprofit. For example, volunteers with professional skills in industries such as finance or administration can provide training or pro bono services for your staff or the people you serve. 

And most importantly, volunteering strengthens your organization by creating powerful advocates and ambassadors for your work. Your volunteers love and understand your work. They give hours of their time because they believe in your mission and want to be a part of your organization’s growth. 

Remember: there is a strong overlap between folks who volunteer and folks who donate, so current or former volunteers can turn into some of your organization’s most loyal donors. Some of the volunteers I’ve worked with over the years gave thousands, if not millions of dollars to the charities they support. 

Although volunteers are a vital part of nonprofits’ success and stability, volunteer engagement often falls to the wayside in a busy development shop. When we don’t schedule touchpoints and engagement opportunities throughout the year, we miss out on opportunities to deepen those relationships and increase value to our organization. 

After all, what happens when we ignore our volunteers? They start volunteering in other places! 

So, how do you retain your volunteers and make the best use of their time and resources? Today, we’re sharing 3 different strategies for meaningfully engaging your volunteers across different departments: 

  1. Invite them to join your board: Your board members are also volunteers! Joining the board of directors is a great way for an engaged volunteer to become more deeply involved with the mission, especially if they have a background or skill set that is missing from the board. Long-time volunteers could also be involved in board development by helping to put together recruitment materials or sharing your call for new board members with their networks. 
  2. Ask for their advice and help to reach more people: Your volunteers already know and love your work, which makes them some of your strongest advocates. Use their expertise to help get the word out! You could write some social media posts for your volunteers to share on their personal pages, or ask your volunteers to brainstorm ways to connect with a wider audience or target a specific demographic. 
  3. Involve them in your fundraising campaigns: In addition to being donors themselves, volunteers can help you grow your donor base and bring in more supporters who care about your mission. Help them learn how to fundraise by showing them how to run their own peer-to-peer fundraising campaign that they  could launch for their birthday. Invite them to your events and introduce them to their peers.  This will help them feel like an insider and give them a front row seat to how you fund your work. . 

Although volunteers give their time and expertise out of love for the mission, we want to make sure they feel appreciated and continue to feel their work is valued. To retain these essential volunteer relationships, download today’s freebie: 10 ways to show your volunteers you appreciate them