Know Your Volunteers

Get to Know Your Volunteers as Individuals

People volunteer for many different reasons, which mean they also have different motivations for lending a hand.  Regardless of the reason, if someone is willing to lend his or her time and talents to your organization, you should take the time to get to know them as individuals.

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Here is a perfect example: Years ago, I was working at an organization and was fairly new to the team.  There was a college student volunteer who would come to the office for a few hours every week and help with whatever was needed.  After assisting me with my upcoming event, I took her out for coffee as a thank you.  During this time, I got to know her more and learned that her father was the President of a major bank and her mother was a middle school guidance counselor.  Within a month, her father’s company was a major event sponsor and her mother’s school began monthly dress down day fundraisers for the organization.  More than that, I learned what this faithful volunteer was hoping to do after college, and I was able to assign her tasks that closely aligned with her future career plans.  

This was very much an “a-ha” moment for young me.  Look at the benefit (on both ends) that came out of this 30-minute coffee chat.  Most nonprofit employees understand that each volunteer is different, with their own strengths and weaknesses, but not many have the time to get to know them individually.  Time is valuable, there is no doubt about it, but here is something you can do that takes much less time than multiple coffee meetings each week: create and use volunteer profiles.  

Yes, most organizations have these profiles, but I am willing to bet they aren’t asking the right questions.  For these to be truly effective, they should include traditional and nontraditional information.  

Traditional information includes the following:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • Preferred method of communication
  • Availability
  • Emergency contact

Nontraditional information includes the following:

  • Date of birth (send a birthday card)
  • Date they began volunteering (send an anniversary card)
  • Employer (maybe their company has a matching gift program)
  • Skills/Talents (align their volunteer tasks with their strengths)
  • Interests (perhaps their interests align with an event your organization has)
  • Favorite snack (give a little thank you gift)
  • Fun fact (incorporate these in social media posts during volunteer appreciation week – or any time)

Create the volunteer profile, or have a volunteer create it and give their first-hand feedback.  Print out many copies so they are on hand when volunteers and potential volunteers come into the office.  This may not be as impactful as a 1:1 coffee meeting, but it’s pretty darn close.  Adding these personal touches will also make an impact on your organizations volunteer retention rates. And who doesn’t love that?