Building a Dedicated and Engaged Volunteer Community

Earlier this month, members of our team attended the Texas Volunteer Management Conference. This virtual conference was centered on the theme “Shaping the Future of Volunteerism.” Sessions sought to improve the social impact organization community’s “ability to adapt to change, think innovatively about volunteer engagement, and prepare for the return of normalcy.” The methods and ideas they shared can all be accomplished with the help of a comprehensive volunteer management system.

In this post, we will share our key takeaways from the conference, illustrating how you can use a dedicated volunteer management system to: 

  • Leverage your community’s skills and passions 
  • Recognize and build upon potential conversion to other forms of engagement
  • Strengthen partnerships across organizations 

Whether you’re a social impact organization or otherwise engaged in the community, we believe that these three elements are critical to developing lifelong and sustainable impacts in the community. Chat with us to learn how a digital volunteer management system can support each of these points. 

Leverage your community’s skills and passions 

GivePulse search page with filters for Skills

Many volunteers are more motivated to engage with an organization if they will be able to use their skills and passions.To avoid missing out on potential dedicated volunteers, we encourage our partners to align programming with volunteer interests during recruitment, training and throughout their engagement. Here are some ideas to consider: 

Explicitly align your organization and experiences with causes and skills 

When volunteers set out to find opportunities, they will likely have an idea of how and why they want to make a difference. Volunteer management systems like GivePulse allow volunteers to browse by causes or skills, improving matching algorithms. To recruit volunteers dedicated to your mission — who are therefore more likely to be ongoing volunteers and stay for long term engagement — consider adding causes and skills to your organization and opportunity listings. 

Key action: List opportunities with skills, causes and SDGs to improve recruitment

Develop a process for collecting information and learning about volunteer skills and passions 

Even if volunteers sign up and show interest in your cause, your organization may not know what skills your volunteers bring to the table — so why not ask them? Include questions about skills, dedicated causes, and ideal roles in your applications to let volunteers know you’re excited to find room for these skills. You can also request membership profile updates on an ongoing basis, or automate these updates through the many other workflows that exist on the GivePulse platform. 

Key actions: Configure membership applications, set up custom fields for event registration and impact/hour tracking, send out surveys

Ensure processes support engagement with individuals and groups 

Dedicated volunteers can strengthen your community through a relationship management structure, creating space for personal interactions as well as for sharing notes on volunteer experiences. These networks can also help you learn that volunteers are thinking about leaving well before they do, allowing you to find another avenue for them to make an impact through your organization. 

Key actions: Organize with subgroups, role based access, threaded discussion boards

Recognize potential conversion to other forms of engagement 

Once volunteers are dedicated to your organization and excited to put their skills to good use, there is a better chance of them converting to donors, fundraisers, and champions for your cause. Here are some ideas to broaden your volunteers’ forms of engagement: 

Make it easy to shift between forms of engagement 

Give your community the ability to easily move between different forms of support based on their capacity, interests, and skills. GivePulse curates both virtual and in-person volunteer opportunities in addition to engagement opportunities such as crowdfunding, giving days, pledging, research, and more, ensuring that volunteers will see and consider new opportunities on a regular basis. Being able to find and track these opportunities from the same location as their volunteering makes this transition organic and easy. 

Key actions: Organize a variety of engaging remote and in-person opportunities on an all-in-one platform, from crowdfunding to virtual events 

Show the impact of their roles

Volunteers want to know that they are making a difference, whether in their current role or in roles they are considering. Tell stories of impact from all different elements of your organization, and tie these elements together. For example, share how a donation ties directly into volunteer engagement to encourage a volunteer to donate, and make sure that you’re sending impact reports to your volunteer community as well as to grant committees and your board. Develop strategic and essential roles so that volunteers can recognize their impact in the stories that you tell. 

Key actions: Use data, reporting, and visualizations to tell your organization’s story

Inspiring Minds data visualizations for number of volunteers, hours of engagement, and teachers requesting volunteers

Our partners at Inspiring Minds use our data and visualizations to generate effective reports on their community engagement and outcomes

Strengthen partnerships across organizations 

Sharing volunteers can create broad and engaging experiences that recognize the entwined nature of many community gaps. Recognize that organizations are not competing for volunteers — instead, they can build each other up. Strengthen your entire community with the following: 

Networks with similar or different causes 

Networking with similar organizations can strengthen volunteers’ skills and ensure that you are leveraging the passions that brought volunteers to your cause in the first place. You might even consider affiliating with organizations doing work in areas more tangentially related to your cause, encouraging volunteers to develop new passions and skills. Promoting opportunities outside your organization can help with volunteers’ development and show you take a holistic approach to engagement, leading to greater retention in the long run. 

Key actions: Promote partner events to your page, build relationships and affiliations

If we’ve learned anything from this past year, it’s the importance of coming together as a community to make a difference and being innovative and agile with our volunteer opportunities. These learnings can strengthen programs now and in the future. To talk about how a volunteer management system like GivePulse can help you leverage volunteer passions, convert volunteers to additional roles, and partner for a cause, schedule a call.