Engaging & Growing Volunteer Programs During & After COVID-19

In times of social distancing and quarantine, it might feel like the whole world has come to a halt. When time seems to move more slowly, we often find ourselves with an opportunity to reflect.

Volunteer coordinators might find themselves reflecting on their volunteer programs. How is the program faring, overall? How are the spirits of the volunteers, given the current circumstances? What will ensure the wellbeing and moral of your volunteer base during and after times of COVID-19?

We’ve put together a “Top-10” list of creative ideas to grow and enrich your volunteer base in preparation for eventually re-opening your doors:

  1. Develop a recruitment team. Find volunteers/staff who make it a focus to meet regularly to discuss and implement initiatives focused on new volunteers. (Remember, you can get started on this now with virtual meeting platforms, like Zoom.)
  2. Create fun team names and/or titles for your different volunteer groups! This will help your volunteers bond and get to know each other, without even trying.
  3. Create short-term project teams to help volunteers get a feel for your organization and make an impact before committing long-term. Depending on the nature of the project, they might even be able to do it from home!
  4. Recruit volunteers online (Idealist, Network for Good, VolunteerMatch).
  5. Develop partnerships with companies that will bring in new volunteers. We’ve heard it before, and it’s true in this context as well: we’re stronger together.
  6. Reach out to local schools for potential field days, workshops, and collaborations.
  7. Come up with a friendly competition! For example: Who can make the best sign/flyer? Who can come up with the catchiest tweet?
  8. Make it quirky! A famous example: the ice bucket challenge.
  9. Reach out to local government organizations that can offer community-mandated volunteers.
  10. Research “volunteer organization meet and greet” events that may be happening in your area, or organize one of your own! Again, this can be held virtually.

We are inspired by the creativity and ingenuity we are observing from volunteers and volunteer coordinators around the world during these challenging times. We hope that these tips are helpful in keeping volunteers engaged and growing a volunteer base, even after COVID-19.

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Limiting Volunteer No-Shows

If you’ve ever coordinated (or helped coordinate) a volunteer event, you know one of the most frustrating parts of the job is handling last minute changes.

Unfortunately, to a certain extent, there’s not much you can do about it. There are always going to be certain situations and things that come up for people. That said, there are processes and safeguards you can put in place to limit last-minute changes. The best news? We’ve curated a top-5 list for you below! 

Think through contingency plans.

The first step is to take the time to think about what could go wrong or change at the last minute, and have a plan in place for when/if these things happen. You know there are going to be volunteers who can’t make it at the last second, so what do you do? If your event is outdoors, what is the plan if the weather turns? Make a list of “what if’s” and make sure to address them all at least a couple of weeks before the event to limit the stress of when/if they happen. 

Specifically recruit stand-by volunteers.

Volunteer no-shows are a given. Have a certain number of volunteers sign-up specifically as fill-ins if needed. Make sure to let them know how you’ll be communicating with them, and what to expect if they’re not needed anymore.

Make it known how volunteers can back out if necessary.

If something does come up last minute for a volunteer, be sure to have communicated to them the steps they need to take in letting you know. Send e-mail reminders to volunteers prior to the event, and specifically ask them to reply to the e-mail if they no longer can make it. It also can be useful to communicate a date that volunteers can no longer back out, unless absolutely necessary. 

Penalize no-shows.

It may seem harsh, but there should be accountability in place for people who agree to volunteer, especially if you’ve enacted some of the processes mentioned above. You might give people one strike, but if they continue to volunteer and then not show up, consider not allowing them to volunteer for a certain period of time, or restricting which jobs they can sign up for next time.

Print schedules for volunteers ahead of time.

Make sure things run smoothly by printing schedules and distributing them to volunteers ahead of time. This not only provides yet another reminder to your volunteers, but also helps reduce confusion the day of the event. It’s often comforting to volunteers to know exactly when and where they need to be and reduces the stress on them in addition to you on event day. 🙂 

We’d love to hear from you! How do you handle last minute changes and limit no-shows?

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Quick Tips to Cover Your Bases When Planning an Event


Have you ever had an event go 100% according to plan? We wish it weren’t true, but we’re guessing your answer is probably no.


While it’s impossible to plan for every single thing that could go wrong, making sure you have adequate backup plans in place can help minimize the stress on the actual day of the event — especially if something does go awry. Here is a list of 5 quick tips to help you prepare and make sure you have those bases covered! 


Standby Volunteers 

People get sick and things come up. Have a specific sign-up for “standby” volunteers. Make sure to let them know that if they haven’t heard by a certain time the day of the event, they can assume they’re not needed and can get on with their original plans. 


Weather Plan

If you’re organizing an outdoor event, make sure you plan for mother nature. Do you have tents or shelter that can be utilized so the event can stay outside, or do you need an indoor space as a backup? Or can you set a “rain date?” There are a number of options, just make sure to have chosen one beforehand! 


First Aid 

Regardless of your event, make sure to have a first aid kit ready in case someone gets hurt. In general, check out the space (indoor or outdoor) and correct any potential safety hazards. For example, if you’re organizing a volunteer race, don’t choose roads with lots of potholes. 


Prepare Your Volunteers & Attendees 

Communicate helpful tips to volunteers and attendees. For example, if your volunteer race is on a trail that may have uneven surfaces, let them know. If you’re doing an activity that would be best with closed-toe shoes, make it required. 


The Right Volunteers 

Think carefully through the types of jobs you’ll need volunteers for leading up to and during the event. Then make specific roles for volunteers instead of just having everyone sign-up for a general “volunteer” position. Giving volunteers autonomy will be motivating to them, and will also ensure you’re utilizing their skills for the right thing. 


No event will ever be perfect, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive for the best possible experience for both your volunteers and your attendees! We hope this list helps your planning and we’ll cross our fingers that you’ll never actually need to use any of these tips. 🙂 Happy planning! 



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5 Steps For Choosing The Perfect Race Route

If you’re organizing a race, of course you need a route!

What might not be so obvious, though, are the little things that could end up making or breaking whether or not racers have the best experience possible. We’ve compiled the top-5 “off the beaten path” steps to help ensure your route contributes to your run’s success!


  • Determine your audience – The first step is to figure out what type of runners you’re targeting. Is it a family fun run, a run that you can bring along your dog, or do you want to attract racers trying to set PR’s? Determining this will not only help you narrow in on the most effective marketing campaigns, but also provide useful context when choosing the route.
  • Make a list of the “must haves” – You know your audience. Now, put yourself in their shoes. What type of route would make them excited to sign-up? For example, if it’s a fun run, make sure to incorporate nice scenery or a route that goes through the city/town. If you’re trying to attract more competitive runners, make sure that the route is accessible – you won’t be able to get away with a route that isn’t 100% closed off to runners. Other “must haves” may include:
    • Route that includes lots of trash cans (if dog friendly
    • Route that includes a loop or easy way to break it into a smaller distance, if you’re planning to have a 1 mile, 5K, and 10K.
    • Smooth terrain if attracting kids or parents pushing strollers.
  • Start experimenting with routes – Once you have a clear idea of what you’re looking for, it’s time to start experimenting! There are free tools online (RaceEntry, PlotARoute) that can help you start mapping out possible paths. Don’t forget about public parks that have designated running/walking paths/trails!
  • Take ‘em on a test run – Choose your top few routes and try them out! Nothing beats actually experiencing how the route flows. You may find out that the route uses a road that is going to be too busy, or the hills are a little too challenging for your audience.
  • Choose the best one – Hopefully you have a clear winner, but if not, don’t forget to consider things like distance from where your racers are going to be coming from, parking accommodations and amount of space for spectators.


There you have it! Easy peasy, I hope! Now that you have your route, it’s time to start promoting the race! If you need help recruiting and managing volunteers, we can help! Our platform makes it so seamless that you’ll wonder how you ever got by without it.


We’d love to hear from you! What considerations are most important to you when choosing a route?




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Top 5 Reasons To Consider Corporate Volunteer Groups

There are certain benefits prospective and current employees have come to expect, most notably things like health and dental insurance, paid vacation time, and some type of retirement savings plan. While many companies are racing to give themselves an edge by offering “trendy” perks like beer on tap and ping-pong tables, another benefit is also gaining traction: paid volunteer time.


Research has shown that employees tend to stay with companies longer if they encourage volunteering so it may not come as a surprise that according to a recent survey, 60% of companies offer paid volunteer time, with another 21% planning to do so within the next two years. As a volunteer coordinator, corporate volunteers may not seem to be the best option, as most companies only offer 8-16 hours of paid volunteer time each year. However, we believe
that corporate volunteer groups can definitely be beneficial, and
have outlined the top-5 reasons why below.


  •  They’re reliable! We’ve all experienced the frustration of flaky volunteers. Corporate volunteers are usually extremely reliable not only because they’re being paid, but also because their employers may require proof that they actually volunteered.


  • Great for larger group volunteer opportunities. Companies will often try to organize large volunteer events where many of their employees can volunteer at the same time. Maybe you need some landscape work done, or could use some new paint on the interior of your building? These are excellent candidates for a larger group project with corporate volunteers.


  • They’re available when others typically aren’t. Whereas most traditional volunteers are available nights and weekends, corporate volunteer groups are looking for opportunities during the normal 9-5 workday.


  • They’re skilled. Need trade-specific help? Corporate groups can be a perfect fit! Need help redesigning your website? Why not reach out to the engineering department at a software company?


  • They might just stick around. Corporate volunteerism can be the first step in a much longer journey. Be sure to let your corporate volunteers know about ongoing needs that they may be interested in. Sign them up for your email list and be sure to thank them for their efforts! You might just have found a great group of long term volunteers.


We’d love to hear from you! Have you partnered with companies who offer paid volunteer time? What advice can you offer those who are on the fence?





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Building a Mission-Driven Team

Communities are like living organisms — constantly growing, evolving, and trying to survive. People identify with these living, breathing communities. They’re also self-organizing, and each community has its own set of morals and issues they feel strongly about. Can you think of communities that you’re a part of? Your neighborhood? A book club? Sharing a love for a particular sports teams? What about your non-profit?

How do you break into a community, and make your mission as a volunteer coordinator/organization THEIR mission?

The first step, believe it or not, is to make sure you have a clear, well-articulated mission. Common mistakes are making mission statements that are too long, full of big words, and ultimately not easy for people to align themselves with.

We really like the general formula of:

  • Our Cause (Who? What? Where?)
  • Our Actions (What we do; How?)
  • Our Impact (Changes for the better)

For instance, this great example from Nonprofit Hub is clear and to-the-point: “We’re a nonprofit organization bringing clean, safe drinking water to people in developing countries.”

  • The cause (Who?): People in developing countries
  • The actions: Bringing clean, safe drinking water
  • The impact: Clean, safe drinking water

While it’s important that mission statements be concise, Donorbox shares both a brief and extended version of their mission. In a sentence, their mission is to “provide nonprofits with simple, effective tools to manage their fundraising activities and connect with donors on a deeper level.” Take a peek at the extended version here!

Next — share it! Make sure your mission is out there for the world to see. Use social media, your website, and ground troops to put your cause out in front of those who might want to join our community. Pro-tip: have an easy way for interested volunteers to get involved immediately. If you catch someone’s attention, you want to capitalize it!

Finally, keep your community alive and well.

Your mission is what brought your community together, so it must be nurtured to survive.

Make sure your community stays centered and true to what brought it together in the first place, and don’t be afraid to shed members who no longer fit in with the group. Have you been in a group or organization where one toxic individual completely brought everyone else down? Don’t let this happen! 🙂 Building a strong, vibrant community takes time and effort but it’s well worth it in the long run!

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The Simple Secret To Recruiting Better Volunteers



“Volunteers wanted!” How many times have you received an e-mail or walked past a sign with that written on it? If you’re like most people, the answer is: a lot. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with the message, it’s lacking a key ingredient that can tremendously help the quality and quantity of your volunteers.  What is it, you ask?


Here’s the secret: Be specific!


Companies are constantly vying for your attention, time, or dollars. If they all said the same thing, how would you know which to choose? Instead, businesses use specific marketing messages to try and convince you that Pepsi is better than Coke, or Toyota is safer than Honda. If you’re a volunteer coordinator trying to recruit volunteers, we recommend utilizing the same approach.


Stand out from the other nonprofits looking for volunteers by being specific about the jobs that need to be filled. The first step is to identify what types of skills are needed for each volunteer position, and then what type of person would best fill it. For example, maybe you’re looking for help with social media. Why not target high school groups to see if they need volunteer hours filled for school? Looking for volunteers to help outdoors with greenery? Go to your local community garden or co-op to hang flyers and find people passionate about composting or recycling.


This approach may take more time and thought, but we believe the benefits definitely outweigh the costs.  Being specific with your asks will ensure that you find volunteers that not only have the qualifications for the role, but also the passion to go along with it!


We’d love to hear from you! Do you create specific positions and target groups that have those interests and/or skills or do you go with the general approach?


P.S., if you’re worried that managing volunteers in numerous roles will be difficult, that’s exactly why we built VolunteerLocal. You can learn more here.





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