In Case You Missed It: Engaging Volunteers


Jaclyn Wilmot, who has over 13 years of experience in volunteer engagement, spoke at the last YNPN Professional Growth Event, Engaging Skilled Volunteers at Your Nonprofit. In case you missed it, or need a reminder, here are some of the things she taught us.

In Jaclyn’s experience, engagement is best addressed when viewed as a lifecycle – each element of the lifecycle provides the foundation for a successful volunteer program.  This lifecycle includes evaluating and assessing needs, brainstorming and planning, recruiting, onboarding, and showing appreciation. The following are just a few of the gems that Jaclyn left us with about each stage of the volunteer lifecycle.

Evaluating and Assessing Needs
What better way to identify your organization’s volunteer needs than by creating a needs assessment? Within the assessment, be sure to include questions like: What is your nonprofit doing that you would like to expand or replicate? What area of your organization is understaffed and overloaded? Then ask the people doing those things: how can a volunteer help accomplish that?

Brainstorming and Planning
Don’t be afraid to dream! Volunteer positions can be one day group projects or long term, never-ending opportunities. Don’t just seek one kind of volunteer to get the jobs done. Use a position description to brainstorm a framework for the way a volunteer can make the most impact (be sure to share this with the volunteer once you have one). Don’t forget to include what success and impact looks like!  


Once you determine what skills you need from volunteers, what talents would help your organization, and what special access you’d like them to possess (like your university interns login access), go find them! Diversity is key in recruitment! Career centers, Volunteermatch, peer referrals and MetroVolunteers topped the list of shout outs at the event. Check out the Facebook page for a pic of the rest of the opportunities!

Creating a strong onboarding process clarifies expectations and leads to volunteer retention. Most importantly, provide support and training to other staff and volunteers that will be engaging with the new volunteer!

Showing Appreciation 
It’s all about expressing your gratitude, we know. It is also an avenue to get and give feedback about the volunteer’s experience with your organization. However that looks for you, consider what will resonate most with them- and it’s okay to ask them that! Some volunteers would love a LinkedIn shout out, and others would prefer a private note, so be sure to ask before you post their picture on your quarterly newsletter! FYI- Volunteer Appreciation Week is April 10-16 this year.

How do you engage your volunteers? Share with us in the comments!

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