How to engage a volunteer when they want to be more engaged

by fundraiseme on August 5, 2011

It’s a nonprofit’s dream – a volunteer that approaches YOU to do more for your organization. We all hope for it, and try to encourage volunteers to do more at every event. However, it doesn’t always happen. But what should you do when a volunteer wants to use their skills and experience to fill a void in your organization (usually marketing/brand management from my experience)?

First – don’t waste this opportunity. I have volunteered at many organizations, and despite telling them about the skills I can bring to the organization, I am left to stuff envelopes. Yes, that  needs to get done, but as nonprofits we really need to start utilizing the skills our volunteers have – the ROI will be tremendous.

Second – ask them what they want to do. I am always amazed at the ideas that our volunteers bring to our organization. They have worked on media projects, marketing and communications, database management, and many other areas that our staff just simply does not have the time to do (sound familiar?). Sometimes it is those very things that your nonprofit needs most that can be assigned to a skilled volunteer.

Third – make sure that their ideas align with your vision for the organization, and that you will not end up carrying the weight of the project. It is great if a group of volunteers want to work on a marketing plan or a fundraiser, but if your staff ends up doing the bulk of the work, it may not be the best project.

Fourth – always remember that volunteers work for FREE. That means they don’t have to answer to you, and they can leave at the drop of a dime. If you push volunteers too hard, or don’t listen to their ideas, you will lose the opportunity for them to do great work.

Finally, always thank your donors. Thank them many times, and in many different ways. In the end, they will thank you for that effort.

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