16 ideas for working with volunteers

July 28, 2014       The NonProfit Times      

Do more with less. Hire the right people. Fundraise, fundraise, fundraise.

Do all of it, and organizations still rely strongly on volunteers. Whether it’s a matter of harnessing the passion, bringing people together for a common cause or getting work done for free, nonprofits need volunteers.

And there are people looking for some cause for which they can volunteer their time and energy.

Those needs are enough for Robert Skelton and Karl Ahlrichs to offer ideas during the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) Not-for-Profit-Industry Conference. Skelton said volunteers usually leave organizations for the following reasons:

  • Lack of follow-through;
  • Inadequate expense reimbursement;
  • Tension with staff or other volunteers;
  • Pecking orders;
  • No tangible benefits; and,
  • Lack of recognition.

They then suggested 10 ideas for improving volunteer programs:

  • Provide simple, yet meaningful ways to get involved. Consider a mix of short- and long-term tasks.
  • Link the organization’s volunteer programs to the organization’s mission.
  • Ask, ask, ask. (Don’t write off the non-volunteer).
  • Match opportunities and skills.
  • Work to mitigate time and location barriers. (Will virtual work?)
  • Train staff to work with volunteers.
  • Provide adequate resources.
  • Incorporate benefits when possible.
  • Recognize all volunteer contributions. Say “thank you.” A lot.
  • Celebrate accomplishments.