April 19, 2024

Revitalizing Volunteer Involvement in Nonprofits

By Desiree C. Fortuna, CPA, Director, Assurance Services

Revitalizing Volunteer Involvement in Nonprofits Nonprofit & Social Sector

As we visit our audit clients, we often see volunteers diligently working to support our clients’ programs and activities. Whether constructing houses for the less fortunate, dedicating their time to assembling food packages at a food bank, offering pro-bono consulting services, orchestrating events, or participating in various boards, their selfless contributions are pivotal in advancing our clients’ noble causes. Volunteers are a critical resource to any nonprofit organization, especially post-pandemic, where resources are scarce and demand is high for the goods and services nonprofit organizations provide. In a competitive landscape where numerous organizations vie for their commitment, it is crucial to attract and retain volunteers through innovative methods.

Most nonprofits increasingly rely on social media to recruit volunteers, especially younger demographics. Nonprofits can attract new participants by creating targeted campaigns highlighting the excitement and impact of volunteering opportunities. Engaging content, such as volunteer testimonials and live Q&A sessions, can pique interest. Nonprofits also encourage their volunteers to become ambassadors for the cause, providing them with the tools and incentives to recruit peers. This peer-to-peer approach can dramatically increase the volunteer base and create a more committed group of supporters. A strong community binds volunteers to the cause and each other. Nonprofits are creating more opportunities for volunteers to interact through social events, online forums, and recognition programs. A sense of belonging and a shared mission foster a committed volunteer base.

To continue appealing to a broader demographic, nonprofits offer flexible volunteering opportunities that accommodate varying schedules and lifestyles. This includes micro-volunteerism—small, manageable tasks that can be completed quickly—and remote volunteering options that can be done from anywhere, anytime. We are also seeing an increase in nonprofits that are offering virtual volunteering. This can include roles like virtual tutoring, remote advocacy, or digital event planning. Providing these options not only broadens the pool of potential volunteers but also caters to those with busy schedules or geographical constraints.

Nonprofits are also redefining volunteer roles by emphasizing skill-based contributions. Organizations can attract professionals seeking to donate their expertise by identifying specific skills needed. This strategic alignment allows for more impactful volunteering and gives volunteers a sense of professional contribution beyond traditional volunteer work. There are also robust training programs that are essential to empowering volunteers to perform at their best. Comprehensive, role-specific training ensures that volunteers are well-prepared, increasing their confidence and effectiveness. This commitment to professional development can also serve as a draw for new volunteers.

Another strategy to attract volunteers looking for growth opportunities is to offer a path to leadership. Volunteers can see a future in their efforts by establishing clear pathways to leadership positions. This can be facilitated through structured volunteer advancement programs, which empower and incentivize volunteers to take on more responsibility.

Lastly, recognition is a powerful motivator. Forward-thinking nonprofits are developing creative ways to show appreciation for their volunteers, such as personalized thank-you messages, public recognition at events or on social media, and awards for outstanding service. A culture that celebrates volunteers can significantly boost retention. Nonprofits are also now focusing more on measuring the impact of volunteer work, both to demonstrate value to external stakeholders and to provide volunteers with tangible evidence of the difference they are making. This includes tracking volunteer hours, measuring outcomes, and regularly sharing progress with volunteers and the wider community.

Recruiting, engaging, and retaining volunteers requires evolving with the times and adopting new strategies that resonate with today’s volunteers. By embracing digital platforms, providing flexibility and growth opportunities, and fostering a culture of appreciation, nonprofits can build a dedicated and effective volunteer workforce.