Volunteers are often the lifeblood of charitable projects and provide the much-needed man hours and drive to get your ideas off the ground. Whether you are raising money or organising an event, if your intentions are charitable, it’s highly likely that you will rely on a team of volunteers to make your idea happen. It’s important to understand that charitable organisations are now competing for the best volunteers, and you will have to make it a positive experience in order to keep your volunteers happy.
There are also legal aspects to consider, from ensuring that your volunteers don’t face any health and safety hazards, to making sure you don’t fall foul of any employment law. You may be dealing with volunteers of any age, including young children and elderly people, and each group will have specific needs that you need to cater to. Rather than scare you away from thinking about hiring volunteers, consider this advice to help you build a stellar team and keep them motivated throughout your project.
Nothing will kill your volunteers’ enthusiasm faster than poor organisation. Organisation should come from the top and work down, so make sure your core team is in place before recruiting anyone. Once you’ve organised your core team, you will then need to identify any areas where you are lacking skills or manpower. Maintain a sense of organisation throughout, as there is nothing worse than feeling like you are volunteering for a shambolic organisation.
Make sure your volunteers feel valued
Volunteers should have an enjoyable experience rather than feeling like they are simply free labour. This starts with the way they are hired. Recruit for roles that will give each person a sense of achievement, rather than just recruiting for numbers. Don’t feel that you have to fill every role, as an empty seat is much better than handing the position to someone who isn’t able to take on the challenge.
Create micro teams
No one wants to work alone, so it’s best to create small teams that will work together well. Some volunteers will be looking to gain more experience, particularly students and young adults. This offers a great opportunity to pair people up based on their skills and offer everyone a learning experience.
A mass email thanking everyone for their hard work will not cut it in this situation. If volunteers request feedback on their work, be prepared to offer personalised feedback to each and every volunteer. Individuals may also be hoping to list you as a reference on their next job application. This is all part of the process, but the good news is that this often paves the way for building strong relationships with your volunteers.
This can be anything from a monthly prize draw to simply providing snacks and coffee at your meetings. If your volunteers have already worked a full day, they will be much more likely to show up your meeting if you provide something as simple as coffee and donuts.
After studying law in the UK, Alice switched to career in journalism specialising in law, non-profit organisations and employment law. When she isn’t working, she enjoys spending her time with family or travelling.