Nonprofits depend on volunteers for all sorts of things. In some organizations, they may answer phones or process donations. In others, they may assist clients or staff. But volunteers also direct strategic campaigns to bring millions of dollars into organizations. And they often govern the very structure of the nonprofit, through board service and operations.
It should be a slam dunk for nonprofits to celebrate their volunteers, right? Not always. I have volunteered for organizations large and small. And I have done everything from simple tasks like showing up and manning a table to more complicated ones, like creating a strategic communication plan. Nowhere have I been treated more graciously than at Guide Dogs of Texas, a San Antonio-based organization which provides guide dogs to visually impaired Texans. I currently serve on their board and as chair of the Communications Committee.
So how does Guide Dogs of Texas create great volunteer relationships? With clear guidelines and expectations for volunteers, a great training program, and an amazing volunteer coordinator. Every organization can treat their volunteers like rock stars. Here are 5 things your organization can do to make your volunteers want to come back and serve another day.
1. Say thank you….a lot! Say it in person, on the phone, and every internal communications channel.
2. Brag about how great your volunteers are. Why not use them in media interviews? It might lead to more volunteers coming forward.
3. Give them a small thank you gift at the end of the year. Or better yet, host a volunteer appreciation event for all your volunteers each year.
4. If their service is sponsored by an employer, tell the employer how that volunteer helps your organization.
5. Feature a volunteer in outward-facing communication– your web site, newsletter, Facebook page or podcast.
The “attitude of gratitude” will pay off in happier volunteers and staff. Not to mention the opportunity to further the mission of your organization.
**It’s Guide Dog Awareness Month and Guide Dogs of Texas is in need of more volunteers. They will no doubt celebrate you every day! Pretty soon they’ll have a new group of puppies – yes, cute fluffy puppies – who will need to be raised and socialized by volunteers before they are accepted into training. If you think you would make a great volunteer, call Susana Dias, the volunteer coordinator, at 210-366-4081 or e-mail her at Susana@guidedogsoftexas.org.