What Volunteers Want You to Know (but Are Afraid to Say)

You’ve got a room full of volunteers staring back at you after a training meeting. Your event is three weeks away, and this is the second group of volunteers you’ve held a big training for. After the first meeting, no one had any questions, but mysteriously a few volunteers bowed out the week after the training. You finish off the meeting by asking, “Any questions or concerns?”


A few shrugs and blinks later you dismiss them saying, “Can’t wait to see you again soon!”


When the event comes around, a few more don’t show. You feel like you gave them so much info and opportunity for questions, so what is it that they aren’t telling you?


Every volunteer is different and has their own reasons for volunteering or not volunteering, but here are some of the common things that might be going on with your volunteers:


  • They are giving up time with friends or family to be here. They are making a sacrifice with their time, and they need you to acknowledge it. Sometimes a last-minute emergency comes up and they need your understanding or they need time to focus on the people closest to them, but don’t feel like that excuse is good enough. Find out if there is a way they can volunteer during off-hours or in a different way to meet their needs and make that option known.


  • They came to make friends or network. Try to get to know your volunteers to find out all of their motivators. Sure, they might love the cause but maybe part of their goal was to add some social interaction in their lives. If they aren’t getting those personal goals fulfilled, they may bail in favor of another volunteer opportunity that does give them that chance.


  • They are unclear on their assigned tasks or feel mismanaged. There are some tasks that you’ve done a hundred times and think anyone can jump in on. Maybe that’s the case, but if a volunteer feels like they were dropped into a role without much communication or training, they may decide to not come back in the future. If you aren’t going to be around to help train and answer their questions, make sure to pair them with an experienced volunteer.


  • They don’t see how they can make a difference. Perhaps their role seems insignificant, but you know that it supports the overall goals of the event. Make sure you explain how their participation has an impact. Even if it’s as simple as handing out t-shirts, let them know that they are the face of the organization in that way, and without them you wouldn’t have the ability to do it all.


  • They feel overwhelmed by the workload. Always keep an eye on your volunteers for possible burnout! Some of these volunteers are straight up rock stars, and you trust them with everything…but they don’t have the capacity to take on everything. Remember that they are volunteers and probably also have work responsibilities or homework or simply need to take a break. They are passionate about the organization and have kept coming back to volunteer, but every volunteer has a breaking point so make sure you don’t let it get there.


  • The volunteer sign-up process was too tedious. It seems simple (and with VolunteerLocal it’s a simple fix!) but when people have a hard time getting involved to begin with, they may give up before they even start. Remember to make getting involved easily accessible and keep the lines for communication open.


  • They don’t feel like they know enough about the organization or cause. Maybe you gave them a bunch of info about the event or their duties, but you didn’t give them enough reason to be personally invested in the mission. Make sure that when you explain their role you don’t overlook sharing the mission of the organization.



Keeping the above list in mind will help you keep an eye out for your volunteers’ needs, concerns, and goals. In the end, you’ll have people who volunteer for a season and then that season comes to an end. Regardless, be understanding of what’s happening in the lives of your volunteers and grateful for the time they do volunteer with you. By serving as a supportive and attentive volunteer coordinator, you’ll not only keep a strong volunteer base but also maintain a positive image of your organization in the community.




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Incorporating Influencers Into Your Event

Attracting “influencers” is all the buzz in marketing these days. The practice centers around building relationships with the people who can help build relationships for you. (Think:
Kylie Jenner Instagramming a pair of jeans that all her followers then rush to buy.)

Your organization probably doesn’t need to ink a deal with the Kardashians to raise funds for your cause, but cultivating key volunteers with a big reach/audience in your area can be an amazing asset.

If you’re a volunteer manager, building relationships is probably already your jam. There are a few things that you can do to help convert good vibes into social promotion:


Look to your board. These people are likely well-connected in the community, and if they don’t have the active social media presence to position them as “influencers” per se, many are connected to companies with significant followings. Tag the business in a thank you post for their leadership.

Many organizations also form a separate advisory board comprised of younger supporters who might not have the cash or clout, but have a certain level of cache as an up & comer. If an invitation for one of your organization’s events comes from a popular peer, it might have more power.


Try a takeover. If you have a limited staff, it can be hard to decide which social media channels are worth your time. As Instagram gains popularity and functions such as stories, empowering influential volunteers to do a weekly “takeover” can be a way to gain new followers. A selfie serving at one of your events speaks volumes, as people look for a meaningful way to connect. Bonus points if you can enlist a local celebrity / news personality to take up your cause.


Make it easy. Embedding social sharing buttons into your newsletters is a no-brainer. Feel free to point them out more explicitly, with a call to action at the end of the email. “Please use the buttons below to forward this message to five friends you think can help!” “Like us on Facebook to see 25 pictures of last month’s field day.”


Celebrate who showed up. Pictures of real people, engaged in your organization go a long way. Maybe it’s a gallery of gala attendees sent to the local glossy “society pages.” Maybe it’s a simple Facebook post capturing a basic board meeting. People love to see the faces behind an organization – and that creepy recognition technology built into social media makes it easier than ever to put names and networks to those faces. Get permission, snap and share!  



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How to Accept and Leverage Volunteer Feedback

If you’ve been a volunteer coordinator longer than…oh, a week or so, you know that the more people there are volunteering, the more opinions you get.


From “I don’t like this” to “Why the heck did we do that?” you hear it all. Sometimes all those comments and complaints make you want to slam the door and say, “No more!”


The thing is, you need feedback–the right kind of feedback–to propel you forward. So instead of covering your ears and screaming, make a plan to seek out feedback to help you improve. Create opportunities for volunteers, board members, co-workers, vendors, and whoever else you interact with to provide constructive criticism. Once you sort through the noise, you may find that there are some really valuable thoughts and ideas that will make your leadership skills and your next event even better.


Plan for feedback

Despite your lists and best intentions, something may go awry or need some evaluating in the future. Plan for that to happen, and plan to hear from your volunteers about it. Remember when people give you their thoughts, chances are they are trying to be helpful. So create a survey about the event, the volunteer experience, or whatever area makes sense to asses and let people know ahead of time that you’ll be asking for their feedback afterwards. That way they know you plan to hear them out, and you can be sure to capture all of the responses in one place. Create questions that rate different aspects of the event as well as open-ended questions about what went well, what went wrong, how the volunteers feel they can help improve things in the future, and how you can best support them. This will likely prove to be a really valuable resource when you begin preparing for next time.


Time and place

Sometimes the biggest issue you have with the comments and complaints is the timing. A loud complaint in the middle of the event? Not ideal. Volunteers may speak their minds without considering that you have a million and two other things to worry about at that particular moment. Instead of completely dismissing them or getting frustrated, let volunteers know you want to hear their feedback but at a different time and place. Maybe that’s with the survey or maybe that’s in a follow-up meeting a week later. If you are in the middle of the event, remind them that unless it’s something that needs to be addressed immediately, you aren’t able to discuss it yet but to bring it up again later as you do respect their thoughts and opinions.


Choose wisely

When you open up the lines of communication and seek feedback, you will likely hear a lot of thoughts and opinions, even some that contradict each other. First of all, that’s great! Remember that receiving lots of feedback means people care and are passionate enough to provide you with their thoughts. But obviously, this can be overwhelming to sort through and choose which advice to follow. While sending out a survey to a broad group of people is an excellent way to invite feedback, make sure to continue seeking out honest opinions from the people you respect the most. Talk directly with key leaders in the organization and longtime committed volunteers who may have a better perspective on things. Bounce ideas around with your co-workers and find a mentor to continue to point you in the best direction for your career. Depending on the source, you can then determine if the comment or complaint you received is worth your time and energy. You want to hear from people at every level, but choose the right people to have the biggest impact on your decisions and overall outlook on how things went.



While it might seem like the easier answer, the last thing you want to do is shut down all forms of feedback. Hearing comments, and even complaints, is one way you can continue to support your volunteers. But even more importantly, it can lead to constructive criticism that can help you strengthen yourself and your event. In the end, everyone’s better for it.  



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Benefit of Using CRM and Volunteer Management Software Together

Choosing CRM (customer relations management) software is a daunting task. Thanks to the dozens and dozens of options, pay structures, and companies, there’s probably something out there for you – but where do you start?


VolunteerLocal set out to figure out how to find the best one for you and how to integrate your CRM with volunteer management platforms like VolunteerLocal. You can have the best of both worlds!


Sites like Capterra give you side-by-side analyses of CRM software based on price, features, industry, and more. Some of the most popular CRM software, like Salesforce, have extensive volunteer management functionality – but they often lack customer-facing signups, instead
relying on your staff to do data entry and manage the process by themselves.


This is where volunteer management platforms come in. Though it may seem unwieldy to use both a CRM and a volunteer management platform like VolunteerLocal, using them side by side can maximize your volunteer recruitment.


The first benefit of using VolunteerLocal alongside CRM software is to keep your information separate. If something goes wrong with your CRM – be it a security breach or accidental deletion of files – it won’t affect your signup process at all. This means fewer worries for you as your event approaches.


The second benefit is that you can keep it simple. Is your company undergoing major changes? Are you revamping your volunteer recruitment system? If you stick with your volunteer management platform throughout the whole process, your volunteers are comforted that everything looks and feels the same – and their information won’t get lost in the process.


At VolunteerLocal, we would love to talk to you about CRM software for your organization and how to best integrate with VolunteerLocal.



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