Thursday, July 30, 2009

Top 7 Tips - Volunteer Engagement

Tip 1 Attracting People to your Organisation
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So many charities, so little time! Ensure that your charity is at the top of the list. Volunteers will tell their friends and contacts about their work with your charity. Help them to recruit new volunteers for you. Provide them with up-to-date information about the work of the charity.

Give them newsletters, flyers, promotional goodies and gifts that are useful. This will help spread the word about the charity and provide the volunteer with something tangible to help them tell the potential new recruits about the organisation.

Tip 2 Recruiting Volunteers

Preparation is key to the successful recruitment of volunteers. It is worth taking the time to draw up a brief outline of the role you want the volunteer to perform, the types of skills that will be required, the ideal number of hours to be worked and an overview of the environment the volunteer will be working in.

Consider how you will advertise the role (remember that volunteers currently working with you could be your best marketing channel, so make sure they are aware that you are recruiting!).

Other methods could include online recruitment via dedicated volunteering sites to appeal to those who regularly use the internet, adverts on internal notice boards or maybe as an advertorial in the local newspaper. Always remember to monitor your success rate with each method used.

Tip 3 Induction is Key

Your new volunteer has arrived and is eager to start putting energy into the role. People who volunteer are giving up their discretionary time and want to make a difference, feel valued and happy in the knowledge that they have done a great job.

A formal induction from day one of their time with you provides a welcome and introduction as well an understanding of the basic rules of the workplace.

Written policies and procedures demonstrate professionalism and an outline of how volunteers are expected to work within your organisation. Providing a formal induction programme for your volunteers will give them knowledge to start the role with confidence.

Tip 4 Train and Develop

Ensure that your volunteers continue to be trained and developed once the initial induction has been completed. Ongoing learning and development for your volunteers is vital to ensure that they carry out the duties they are required to undertake in a professional and knowledgeable manner.

It is an investment that will bring short and longer term rewards. Consider the different ways in which you provide learning for your volunteers. Make use of structured on-job training, coaching, mentoring and other skills development learning activities.

Always ensure that you keep records of the learning and training you provide for your volunteers. Remember to relate the new skills, knowledge and behaviour back into the work environment.

Tip 5 Leadership

How clear is your mission? What are your organisation's values? How does your leadership team communicate the strategy? Your volunteers need to be motivated by the cause and the work that you want them to do.

The engagement of your volunteers will be influenced by the degree to which the organsiation's core values are communicated, understood and demonstrated by your senior management.

The work of your volunteers should be directly linked to the organisation's overall strategic objectives and measured on a regular basis. Volunteers can then recognise how the work they do has a positive impact.

Tip 6 Innovate to Retain Your Volunteers

Your pool of volunteers come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. Many will be in full time employment and have little spare time so you need to consider how to keep in touch with them, how to provide meaningful short term project work, how to make use of their skills from a distance.

Create oportunities that can be done online, or provide flexible hours or specific projects that can be managed around the volunteer's other commitments. Consider the impact of the rising retirement age and how this will affect the reducing volunteering hours available to you.

Tip 7 Communicate

How do you keep your volunteers informed and involved with the organisation's activities? What channels of two way communication do you use? Is it easy for volunteers to have their say? In order to encourage feedback, involvement and commitment, use as many different communication channels as you can.

As well as formal surveys, consider forums, focus groups and intranet-based options. Make use of the internet and social networking sites. Appeal to a wide audience and remember to keep up-to-date with the information being communicated.

By Jane Child

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