One of the biggest challenges that nonprofit organizations face is how to keep their volunteers engaged, both remotely and in person. Four out of five nonprofits use volunteers, but only one in four effectively manage their volunteer resources. A lot of volunteers don’t come into the nonprofit’s location regularly, like event volunteers, which makes it especially important to be able to communicate with them.
Even regular volunteers can become disengaged. When fundraisers, galas, events, and even regular shifts are canceled, they feel disconnected. It’s during times like these when nonprofits need to reach out to them.
However, if it’s possible for staff to work from anywhere, then it’s also possible for many volunteers to do the same thing. To activate their volunteer base, however, nonprofits need to carefully let them know they can step up from the comfort of their homes. Here are three ways to enable volunteers to volunteer from anywhere.
Be creative with opportunities
It’s not going to be easy, but there are a lot of ways that volunteers can help no matter where they are. If they’re not very computer savvy, they can still complete activities like stuff envelopes and make calls to donors and other funding sources. They can also help coordinate food, medicine, and essential deliveries to people in their communities. Those that are better versed in technology can take the lead on helping to plan online fundraising events, as well as increasing the nonprofit’s social media presence and share resources online. For example, you can host envelope stuffing events virtually on a videoconference or transition in-person community visits to online meetings or phone calls.
There are also virtual opportunities that can augment what you’re already doing with your in-person volunteer program. For example, a school could host volunteers over a videoconference to read books to students. This type of program encourages people who are limited by travel and time constraints to volunteer.
Before you start activating a remote volunteer program, make sure you have clear goals for it. Define the objectives for the program clearly, including what needs to be done to make this successful and what you’ll need to make sure the program works. Identify how you’ll determine what makes volunteering from anywhere a success, like how many people in the community you’re able to serve effectively, and regularly reevaluate your program so you can adjust it as needed.
Make it as easy as possible to collaborate with volunteers and stay in close communications. Remote teams need to be able to connect, and that requires great communication tools. The good news is that nonprofits have their choice of videoconferencing, messaging, and other tools. However, too many disconnected tools can make it difficult to follow conversations and require switching back and forth to communicate with volunteers.
Choosing a single real-time platform that lets you use text, video chats, and other communication methods in one place can solve this problem. This lets your volunteers communicate in a way that’s comfortable to them but provides both you and them with a way to interact while they’re volunteering remotely. This can also help you brainstorm with your volunteer teams on how they can best serve their communities, as well as help the nonprofit.
The right opportunities allow volunteers to get the job done from wherever they might be—whether in the field, or right from home.
Originally published Apr 08, 2020, updated Sep 10, 2021