Non-profit organizations are continuously managing challenges and changes within their communities. To be successful, non-profit leaders must be willing to look for innovative solutions that often depend on engaging volunteers to ensure the organization is making an impact in the community.
One of the most important aspects in a non-profit’s success is the number, quality and commitment of its volunteers—volunteers who bring experience, education, ideas and financial resources to the team. Public confidence in a non-profit is reinforced when they can see how volunteers are being effectively utilized and recognized by the organization.
The most effective volunteers will be those who are committed to improving the quality of life in their communities and those who are passionate about the non-profit’s mission so they can motivate others to give of their time, talents and money. They can also be instrumental in opening doors through their various contacts within the community.
It is critical that volunteers be involved in every aspect of a non-profit organization. For example, the Heart of Illinois United Way not only has a committed board of directors, but it also has a 35-plus member campaign cabinet that raises critical dollars for the health and social service needs of central Illinois and an allocation committee with approximately 80 community volunteers who examine and establish the grant process along with reviewing grant applications each year. In addition, the United Way has volunteer committees who support finance and marketing.
Volunteers need to feel that they are making a difference when they volunteer their time. To do this, three main factors need to be in place. Volunteers must be well-informed on issues and opportunities facing the organization so they can be good stewards when representing the organization in the community. Volunteers must also have support from the organization’s staff such as providing reports and setting up meetings, and staff must provide volunteers with meaningful goals and responsibilities that will support the organization.
So how do you create a satisfying volunteer experience for the volunteers in your organization? First, celebrate their successes and recognize their efforts at meetings, public events and through websites and newsletters. Second, energize volunteers with new ideas, industry trends and special events. And lastly, periodically evaluate your volunteer team and recruit, retire or reassign volunteers as needed.
While the majority of a non-profit organization’s responsibility and daily work is dependent upon staff, volunteers are even more important. A productive volunteer team is an invaluable resource to a non-profit’s success. It truly takes a community. Without our board of directors, campaign cabinet members and account volunteers, allocation volunteers, finance and marketing committee members and the multitude of volunteers who volunteer in the workplace, the Heart of Illinois United Way would not be the community problem-solver that it is today. IBI