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Building a Volunteer Program

Volunteers are often every organization’s dream. They believe in your mission and are committed enough to support it for free. However, volunteers require structure, support, and guidance to succeed. As you build your volunteer program, consider how your volunteer experience can resemble your donor journey—how easy is it for volunteers to get involved and how many of your volunteers are retained? Read on to learn more about expanding your volunteer initiatives.


Like any job, volunteer programs begin with recruitment. Your organization has a mission, and ideally, you have a strategic plan that details how you’ll achieve that mission. Develop a list of all the types of tasks you’d need volunteers for. If the tasks require specialized skills, advertise these skills and seek out interested individuals. Many communities have volunteer boards to specifically showcase these opportunities, and it’s easy to post online or in your newsletters.



You should put as much thought into your volunteer experience as you do your donor journey. Your volunteers show up time and again because they are invested in your mission, and creating a supportive, interesting, and open environment will help ensure that they return in the future. No matter how many volunteers you have, make sure that someone within your organization is responsible for managing them, whether that involves training or supporting them throughout their service.



You can use your website data to better understand the types of messaging that have the highest conversion rates. You’ll be able to examine the ways people are interacting with your message, uncover why it resonates with them, and adjust your strategy accordingly. Similarly, your email campaigns can be analyzed to identify the initiatives that yield the most success compared to their counterparts.
Consider adding a volunteer survey to assess your volunteer opportunities. This could help you to uncover the types of activities that are the most meaningful or engaging for your volunteers, the shift times most useful for your volunteer base, how they like to be thanked, and many other data points. Whether you survey or not, paying close attention to your volunteers’ experiences will help your program year after year.
Additionally, you might consider using segmentation. This technique allows you to personalize your communications depending on their interactions with your brand. By using segmentation, you can create personas for your volunteers, donors, and donor-volunteers to make sure you’re giving them content they’re interested in.


Volunteer Management

As you develop your volunteer program, you may need to implement a volunteer management system. While your volunteers are passionate for your cause, they’re even more likely to come back and serve if you make it easy and organized for them to get involved. By using volunteer management software, you can help create a strategic process registering volunteers for events, assigning volunteer tasks, and managing volunteer data on the backend.

By storing your volunteer data under a single source of truth, you might be able to see when you welcome the most volunteers, spot your most frequent fliers, and discover other valuable information. Just like your other platforms, you’ll want to be sure that you are properly maintaining this data.



Volunteers are giving their time away for free, and it’s essential to recognize their commitment. Showing your appreciation helps ensure that they feel valued, return to your organization, or share your cause with their family and friends. Like your donor appreciation, thank your volunteers by telling them how critical they are to your organization. Consider sharing a shout-out to them on social media or in your newsletter, mail them a special thank you card, or make a page dedicated to their impact on your website.