Adding volunteers to your nonprofit's "fan club"

July 28, 2016

Adding volunteers to your nonprofit's

*Updated to add: The upcoming Volunteer Program Management: Part 1 workshop in August is sold-out and has a waiting list. We are proud that so many nonprofits are interested in creating excellent volunteer management programs! However, due to the curriculum for this cohort model, the classes are designed to be completed in order. For maximum impact for participants, the size of each cohort is intentionally set in advance. Please keep an eye on our Workshop Calendar for another set of volunteer program management opening in the spring.*


Why should nonprofits want volunteers in their "fan club," and how can they make this happen? Hands On Nashville's Nonprofit & Volunteer Relations Coordinator Julie Abbott answers these questions and more in the conversation about volunteer management below:


Q: Volunteers are critical for many nonprofits, but why is it also important for nonprofits to have a volunteer management system in place?

A: It’s comes down to what we call your "fan club." These are the folks that come to your organization and then turn around and spread the word for you. You want to have volunteers in your fan club because it affects your organization’s reputation. When your volunteers have a great experience, you are sending new fans out into the world.

What we talk about in class is how volunteers can transition to become donors and board members in the future. You should treat every volunteer that way, and that also comes from being well-prepared for the different situations that come up when dealing with volunteer work. You need a volunteer management program in order to be fully prepared for your newest fans!


Q: What are some of the aspects of a great volunteer management program?

A: Number one is staff buy-in, including your executive director. The ED needs to be on board. This is not your program, but is the agency’s program. And other staff members should be willing and able to manage volunteers, if needed, while you manage the program.


Q: Why do you need a volunteer job description?

A: A description sets the expectation early, for all involved: the volunteer, the agency, and the staff who are potentially going to be working with the volunteer. This way everyone not only knows what to expect, but they all know what the outcomes should be for the work, too.


Q: Let’s say an organization – a smaller nonprofit just starting out – does not have a volunteer management program officially in place yet. Where should they start?

A: Assuming the person in charge of the organization’s volunteer management has the support of the staff and the executive director, the next step is to think hard and identify places where volunteers can help. This should include ways that volunteers can help directly with the nonprofit’s mission and serving its clients, and ways that volunteers could help with the business side of the organization. Can they develop your website? Can they do graphic design? Get creative with where you can use volunteers.


Q: On the other hand, then, what about a larger organization that might already have a volunteer management program in place. What improvement or updates might they consider?

A: The volunteer job descriptions would be number one. There are a lot of larger organizations that have volunteer programs that have never thought to post a job description before.


Q: Who should attend the volunteer management workshops and complete the Volunteer Management Certificate Program?

A: Anyone who is managing volunteers, a volunteer management program, and/or is working day-to-day with volunteers because they will get an understanding of how the overall process should work – regardless of level of your program (or lack thereof) and experience. Having the different levels in the class really makes it stronger because the participants can learn from each other, no matter the level of experience.


Q: What should participants know about these classes?

A: This set of classes is not textbook. We take your real-world issues and we deal with them in class. That’s where the collaboration and different levels of experience come in. If your program is currently facing a challenge or issue, we will deal with it in real time.

These classes are also a great pipeline to getting your organization EVE-certified. EVE, for those who might not know, stands for Excellence in Volunteer Engagement, and it is a certification awarded to nonprofits that have great volunteer management programs in place. It’s a collaboration between Hands On Nashville, CNM, and the Mayor’s Office. Throughout the classes, we discuss every aspect of the EVE application, so organizations that participate will definitely be ready to apply for EVE by the end.


Julie will lead the upcoming round of volunteer program workshops as part of CNM's Volunteer Management Certificate Program.


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