How To Engage And Inspire Volunteers

How To Engage And Inspire Volunteers
Written by - 03 Dec 2018 Category: Non-profit Challenges

A robust volunteer base can do wonders to a non-profit. Volunteers can be ambassadors, may bring funding, or even act as the much-needed helping hand for ad hoc tasks.

A robust volunteer base can do wonders to a non-profit. Volunteers can be ambassadors, may bring funding, or even act as the much-needed helping hand for ad hoc tasks. In an earlier article, we talked about addressing volunteer management challenges, but the subject is vast enough to necessitate more pondering. So, without further ado, let’s dwell further on effective ways to engage and inspire volunteers.

Before Recruiting Volunteers

A well-structured volunteering programme assigns different tasks to different volunteers, based on their skills. But are your collecting this information during recruitment? If not, you need to put some more thought into your volunteer recruitment process. Here are a few tips to get you started.

  • Ask for past experience, skills, and interests, so you can assign the most relevant tasks.
  • Ask for any preferences of location, availability (days and times), type of task etc, so you can match volunteers with the most suitable opportunities.
  • Ask how they learned about you and whether they can provide references to reach out to. This information is critical to ensure a continuous inflow of volunteering leads.

Just After Recruiting Volunteers

The first few volunteering activities are critical to cementing a long-lasting relationship. An effective onboarding experience ensures more engagement and loyalty on the part of volunteers. Here are a few steps that you can take to make the best first impression.

  • Provide comprehensive induction and training. It is essential for new volunteers to acquire necessary knowledge about assigned tasks and your non-profit to function well as an organisation’s member. 
  • Ensure that new volunteers have the tools and resources needed to perform. For a volunteer assigned the job of tele-calling for fundraising, you must ensure that the volunteer has the knowledge of the best practices and do’s-and-dont’s of tele-calling that the full-time members of your non-profit follow.
  • Help volunteers develop new skills. Many volunteers come onboard with a non-profit to contribute to a cause they feel passionate about. Many may not have the required proficiency for an assigned task. In such cases, a bit of training and mentoring will make a volunteer appreciate the opportunity to learn, while contributing.

During Volunteering Efforts

Smart recruitment and smooth onboarding are just the starting points. For a volunteer programme to succeed, volunteer engagement must be kept high during the actual volunteer work. A few points to take care of this area are listed below.

  • Build a variety of opportunities. Moving volunteers from one set of tasks to another will keep them involved and excited. This way, your non-profit can also receive assistance in a plethora of different areas.
  • Ensure timely supervision and mentoring to keep track of volunteers’ efforts and to guide them when in doubt. A Buddy System, as noted in an earlier article, will go a long way in ensuring that volunteering is easy and fun.
  • Assign clear objectives for volunteer tasks, so volunteers know what is expected from them. Volunteers may not be around to see the long-term benefits of their work, so objectives that can be immediately measured work the best. E.g. ‘Your assignment for today is to call 50 donors’ is an easily understood and measured assignment for a volunteer.

After Volunteering Efforts

If volunteers care enough about your non-profit to contribute with their time, efforts, and skills, it is essential that you reward their commitment formally. A few ways in which this can be done are listed below.

  • Sharing success stories with the wider public will encourage volunteers and make them more loyal to your non-profit. Social media can be effectively leveraged in this exercise.
  • There is no perfect volunteering programme and any scope of improvement needs to be explored. In that regard, proactively asking for feedback will make the volunteers feel involved and valued. 
  • Encouraging volunteers to spread the word about your non-profit will have a two-pronged benefit. Firstly, it will make volunteers feel more connected to your organisation, and secondly, it will create a good name for your non-profit in the long run.

Have you tried any of these tips at your non-profit? Do you have any experiences to share? We would love to hear from you. Please write to us @civi_hr.
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This post is the next in the series of addressing specific challenges non-profits face, and builds on top of earlier posts such as acquiring the right talent, employee retention strategies, and addressing volunteer management challenges.
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CiviHR is a philanthropic project funded by a charitable foundation, on a mission to create a best-in-class people management solution for organisations that deliver social good. You may read more here or sign up here for a trial.

About CiviHR

CiviHR is a project to create affordable HR software for non-profit organisations. By developing open source technology the benefits can be shared with non-profits everywhere.


CiviHR is a project to create affordable HR software for non-profit organisations. By developing open source technology the benefits can be shared with non-profits everywhere.