Amazing volunteer experiences may seem like a lot of extra work on a short-term basis, but it does improve your brand image and goodwill, which means a lot in the long run. No matter how big or small your nonprofit organization is, you must focus on making your volunteers happy. There are many ways to do this—with the strength of your cause, with incentives that you can offer or with amazing volunteer experiences.
With all the other nonprofit opportunities out there, succeeding with your organization nowadays is a matter of wills. Are you willing to provide the best possible value? Are you willing to offer your volunteers the perfect volunteer experience? If you are, then it’s time to get started at improving the volunteer experience your nonprofit provides. Here are a few important tips to help your organization provide your volunteers the perfect volunteer service experience.
1. Know your mission and cause inside and out
No matter the nonprofit you’re in, knowing your mission inside and out is absolutely necessary. Volunteer experience is, after all, all about helping your volunteers succeed with your cause. Therefore, your volunteer opportunity should focus on offering the proper suggestions, tips and solutions to ensure that success. Each and every employee (not just volunteers) should know the ins and outs of what you’re all about. Helping your employees succeed by providing the proper training (regardless of their job description) is the first step in helping your volunteers succeed.
2. Be more accessible
If you want your nonprofit organization to strive for success, here’s what you should know—volunteer coordinators must be readily accessible to all of your volunteers. One easy way of accomplishing this is setting up more communication channels in which volunteer can connect with a volunteer coordinator when they have a question or issue. The minimum that you can do is to provide a phone number, an e-mail address and a mailing address. If your organization can afford it, and really need it, develop an online support desk that can be instantly reached 24/7. This communication channel is usually required when the organization reaches a big number of requests and website visitors.
3. Speed up your response times
Volunteers and donors love quick answers. According to a recent report performed by Frost, 41% of customers suggest that their biggest frustration regarding service is when they’re put on hold. They want to be respected, and your organization must give your best to solve everyone’s issues quickly.
4. Focus on the volunteer, not on the result
Volunteer experience is all about the volunteer's feelings and experience. You must focus on their well-being and you must avoid thinking about combining volunteer experience with other aspects of your organization. If you want to leverage your volunteer management platform in order to get more donations, I’m sorry to disappoint you: it’s not that effective! The donation side of your organization is totally different and you should focus on it separately although the idea of experiential donor and volunteer opportunities is growing in popularity. Continually work at ways that you can improve the volunteer experience to keep your volunteers satisfied and coming back for more.
5. Clear communication
Keep communication simple and ask straightforward questions when communicating with your volunteers. The truth is that we all communicate differently, so be prepared for communicating with your volunteers in different ways to ensure that they will understand whatever information you are trying to relay to them. If corresponding by email or online, grammar and spelling should be perfect or your credibility as a trusted organization can slowly vanish.
6. Over-deliver whenever possible
Over-delivering can help create loyal volunteers. On average, loyal volunteers can be worth 10x more than their first engagement. If someone gets treated right, they’ll often come back. They’ll perceive your organization as a trustworthy nonprofit organization; therefore, over delivering from time to time helps your organization's reputation to grow positively. Find a way to reward your volunteers with an issue when they demonstrate patience. It could be anything. Nothing costly or hard to obtain. Ideally, this small attention should also deliver some value.
7. Find and fix your mistakes
Mistakes are a part of any organization, after all we are all human. Nevertheless, do your best to make things right with your volunteers and donors. When we’re talking about mistakes, we’re talking about a person that hasn’t been treated right. Your organization can make it right by offering them solutions or future guarantees. Pay attention: if you’re not fixing your mistakes in time, your nonprofit's reputation will suffer. People will start talking, reviewing, and sooner than later you’ll realize that your donor and volunteer engagement is dropping.
8. Test, fail, test again and ultimately optimize
Before reaching success in a volunteer experience program, every organization goes through a trial-and-error process. The marketplace and the constituents within any industry tend to become more complicated as an industry ages or becomes more fragmented. If you try out a new product, service, or volunteer initiative, don’t be afraid to fail. Know that “failure” isn’t failure, it is merely feedback—it lets you know what not to do so you can start focusing on things that might work. After you find something that works, begin the scaling process. Optimize everything until you find the balance that you’re looking for.
Nonprofit organizations are always looking for new ways to make a name for themselves and creating an excellent volunteer experience is one of those ways in which a they can afford to get a great reputation in. Competition is almost always growing in any industry and new strategies and actions must be implemented to keep up with the constant flux. Providing the perfect experience is just one way for your organization to stand out from the others, win volunteers over and keep them coming back. It’s never too early or too late to create a volunteer experience program that turns your volunteers and donors into ambassadors of your organization's mission.