Volunteer Engagement

boy with manThe face of volunteerism is changing. Today’s volunteers seek purposeful involvement, opportunities for personal and professional growth, connection to community, and meaningful relationships. Many have decades of professional and life experience that could be leveraged effectively in the social sector. Most have multiple options for giving back.

If your organization is steeped in the tradition of placing volunteers in fundraising and low-level administrative roles, it’s time to think outside the box! Skilled volunteers have the time, expertise, tools, connections, and resources to fulfill organizational dreams you’ve always considered beyond your grasp. They can solve problems or challenges that impede your growth and effectiveness. And they can lend a helping hand to programs that are chronically resource starved.

Making the shift to high-engagement, high-impact volunteerism requires a well-conceived strategy that advances the organizational mission while satisfying the needs of the available talent pool. It should contemplate a culture of collaboration in which paid and unpaid workers are committed partners in achieving beneficial outcomes. It should include clear statements of accountability to ensure success. And it should secure the full-throated support of your Board and leadership team.

Before you get too far into the planning cycle, think about the resources that you’ll need to support the program. Although volunteers lend their time and talent at no (or low) cost to the organization, they are not “free.” You’ll need one or more folks to recruit and screen prospective volunteers, match their skills and interests with agency needs, provide appropriate training and mentoring, measure contributions, and establish recognition and reward structures. If you do not have a full- or part-time Volunteer Coordinator, you should identify a person on staff who has the time, interest, and energy to assume this responsibility.

Engagement Resources

articleVolunteerism: The Spark for Sustainable Social Impact (Maren Symonds)

book365 Ideas for Recruiting, Retaining, Motivating and Rewarding Your Volunteers: A Complete Guide for Non-Profit Organizations (Sunny Fader)

The New Breed: Understanding and Equipping the 21st Century Volunteer (Jonathan McKee and Thomas W. McKee)

articleThe New Volunteer Workforce (Stanford Social Innovation Review)

websiteOregon Volunteers!

PDFVolunteer Management Advocacy Kit (Oregon Volunteers!)

websiteEnergize, Inc.

websiteNorthwest Oregon Volunteer Administrators Association