At verynice, we manage an extensive distributed team of 500+ volunteers from over 150 countries who engage in pro bono service. When volunteers collaborate with our team, they help us extend our mission for helping nonprofit organizations through meaningful and impactful work.
Collaborating with volunteers has been an integral part of our business since our inception. Along the way, we’ve learned a few things when it comes to managing a network of individuals and improving the volunteer experience.
#1: Use a Reliable Tracking System
Free tracking systems like Podio, allow your organization to efficiently track and communicate with volunteers. Whether you’re working with volunteers across the globe or exclusively within your community, a central system helps ensure all volunteers are connected to the organization and are easily accessible when it comes to reaching out.
There are many key features that come with using this system. Besides general communication and updates, your organization can set up reminders to follow-up with volunteers and receive notifications when new volunteers join the network or update their information. Volunteer profiles also connect with LinkedIn to display profile photos, putting a face to a name in an extensive network.
#2: Create Custom Surveys
Another great feature of using a tracking system is the ability to create custom surveys for your volunteers that cater to specific areas of expertise. Depending on your organization's needs, you can create surveys that help gain insight on new volunteers or updates on existing volunteers’ experiences. Creating a custom survey can take a load off of filtering through the volunteer list and help optimize the efficiency of finding exactly who you’re looking for, automatically creating a repository of data to reference at your convenience. At the same time, allowing a free-form response from volunteers can help your organization gain insights on skills you might have never expected needing or even knew existed in your network.
When creating a survey for new volunteers, keep it clear and concise. Six to ten questions at most, covering basic questions such as name, location, and availability. Then expand into skills specific questions like, “How would you describe your skill set?” or “Please describe your professional experience in X, Y, and Z.” This process not only efficiently gathers critical data for your organization but also guides the volunteer through assessing what exactly they are looking to contribute as a volunteer.
Don’t continue re-using the same volunteers. There is always going to be a volunteer waiting for their opportunity to contribute. Giving everyone a fair chance to work on a project acknowledges volunteers willing to donate their time in assisting your organization. It is also important to remember people with different backgrounds and ranges of experience bring new information and skills. Giving different volunteers the opportunity to work on projects creates an environment for development, creativity, and leadership. Diversifying your selection or rotation of volunteers enhances the overall collaboration and turns one-time volunteers into lifelong volunteers.
#4: Follow Through on Check-ins
Communication is key when it comes to keeping your volunteers engaged and eager to work on upcoming projects. Integrating annual check-ins with your network at large and scheduling out one-on-one check-ins with volunteers will enhance your organization’s performance and establish a connected community of volunteers. Additionally, it is useful to check your system annually to make sure all information is up to date. Systems such as Podio allow you to send volunteers direct links to their profile information, removing any confusion or hassle for volunteers when it comes to updating their information.
#5: Show Gratitude
Volunteers are an extension of your organization and without them, the scale of your current and future impact would not be as effective. Acknowledging great work and personally thanking your volunteers for the free time and effort they put into every project is invaluable. Expressing gratitude is an investment you can and should make, and your volunteers will be inclined to volunteer again.
At verynice we’re reminded every day that our greatest impact is made when we collaborate and work together. Our volunteers are essential to completing pro bono projects and realizing our greatest impact. To learn more about our volunteer process visit verynice.co/impact or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.