3 Tips To Make A Fulfilling Virtual Volunteer Experience
Volunteers are the backbone of your nonprofit. From running your programs on the ground to soliciting gifts for your online fundraising campaigns, your volunteers work around the clock to support your cause. While you might plan your volunteer programs with a focus on your in-person supporters, it’s also critical to keep your remote volunteers in mind.
Your remote volunteers move your mission forward, even when they’re miles away from where your nonprofit is located. Because of their distance, however, it’s easy for them to feel disconnected from your nonprofit’s community if you don’t have specific initiatives to help them feel included and engaged.
Use these tips to create a fulfilling volunteer experience and retain your remote volunteers’ support year-round:
- Provide thorough training
- Use the right tools
- Show volunteer appreciation
By keeping your remote volunteers motivated, you can leverage their unique skills and interests to fuel change in your community. Let’s begin.
1. Provide thorough training
The first step to providing an enriching volunteer experience is making sure your new supporters know the ins and outs of their roles and your organization. Follow these best practices to prepare your volunteers:
- Host an orientation session: Some volunteers you recruit might be unfamiliar with your nonprofit’s projects and activities, so it’s important to cover everything from your values to your strategic plan for the future. Host a live-streamed orientation session and consider recording it to give volunteers the flexibility to watch it at any time. This way, they’ll understand what they’re working toward and feel confident in representing your nonprofit.
- Create a digital resource hub: Share an online copy of your volunteer handbook and other resources, such as training videos, that provide further details into volunteers’ roles. With the help of a website builder, you can create a private intranet network that allows volunteers to log in and access these digital materials.
- Set up a mentorship program: A mentorship program is an excellent way to welcome new remote volunteers to your nonprofit’s community. Pair your new supporters with veteran volunteers who can answer questions, review best practices to succeed in their roles, and more. Consider asking volunteers who have been at your organization for at least six months to lend a hand and become mentors.
Be sure to create open lines of communication so your new remote volunteers feel supported in their roles and can check in with their mentors or volunteer managers as needed. You might leverage a messaging application or discussion board on your website to streamline communication and make it easy for your volunteers to get in touch with your nonprofit (and vice versa).
2. Use the right tools
Remote volunteering may feel confusing and difficult to navigate, especially for first-time volunteers. Therefore, it’s essential to have the right technology in place to easily manage your volunteers and facilitate their transition into their new roles. Consider investing in the following solutions:
- Volunteer management database: Comprehensive volunteer management software can help with everything from scheduling shifts to generating automated reports on volunteer program data. For your volunteers, this serves as an all-in-one hub to track their hours and stay connected to your nonprofit. On your end, you can get a bird’s-eye view of your volunteer program and make the virtual volunteer experience more engaging with intuitive features like easy schedule building, built-in communication tools to share news, and more.
- Video conferencing platform: Depending on your remote volunteers’ work, it might be helpful to check in with them regularly or hold meetings. Use a video conferencing platform that allows you to host meetings with live chat, create breakout rooms, and record meetings for future reference so you can effectively connect with your virtual volunteers, no matter where they are in the world.
- Marketing software: Promote your volunteer opportunities with nonprofit marketing software. A marketing management solution empowers you to generate content across channels like social media and email and reduce your administrative burden. For example, if you’re hosting a fundraising gala in the next few months, you can schedule content in advance across all of your social media accounts about open volunteer roles.
- Recognition tool: Build strong relationships by consistently celebrating your remote volunteers’ accomplishments and thanking them for their hard work. eCardWidget’s guide to volunteer appreciation recommends leveraging a greeting card platform to send custom thank-you cards that volunteers will receive in just moments. From celebrating birthdays to one-year anniversaries at your nonprofit, regularly recognizing your volunteers allows them to feel truly a part of your community.
Reflect on your existing toolkit and do your research to find the right technology solutions for your nonprofit’s needs. With innovative solutions in place, you can create a streamlined experience for volunteers and make it easier for your organization to oversee your program and make improvements as needed.
3. Show volunteer appreciation
Just like you need to thank your donors, it’s also crucial to recognize your volunteers for their hard work. With a thoughtful volunteer appreciation strategy, you can keep your volunteers’ motivations high and form lasting connections with them. While saying a quick “thanks” over the phone or wishing them well on a holiday are nice gestures, you need to go above and beyond to show virtual volunteers that they’re a significant part of your nonprofit’s success.
Consider these best practices to show your gratitude and boost your volunteer retention:
- Craft personalized thank-you messages: A generic thank-you message doesn’t speak to the unique role your volunteers play in your mission, so it’s important to tailor your thank-you notes to the individual. Fundraising Letters’ overview of thank-you letters recommends greeting recipients by their first name, referencing the specific work they did to push your mission forward, and expressing gratitude for their ongoing support.
- Send volunteers gifts: Along with thank-you notes, gifts can make your volunteer appreciation efforts even more memorable. Consider sending your volunteers branded merchandise, gift cards, or books that align with your mission. If your volunteers are particularly passionate about one aspect of your cause, you can personalize their gift to this interest. For instance, a marine conservation organization might send reusable straws to a volunteer who is passionate about reducing plastic pollution.
- Spotlight remote volunteers on social media: Publicly acknowledging your remote volunteers can help them feel a sense of belonging and pride in their contributions. Consider sharing a photo of a remote volunteer and asking them for a quote to include in the caption about why they chose to volunteer. This also doubles as a great marketing strategy to attract new volunteers.
Some of your remote volunteers may prefer to be acknowledged in private rather than public, so survey them ahead of time to find out what type of recognition they most prefer.
Remote volunteers play a significant role in your nonprofit’s mission, helping you with everything from marketing to IT services, helpline support, and more. In return for their efforts, you need to develop an engaging volunteer experience that maintains their interest and makes it easy to carry out their roles. To show your volunteers that you value their insights, periodically ask for feedback so you can restructure and improve your program as needed.