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Christina 10 Jan 2020 | 4 min read

How to: Resource Your Volunteer Team

Volunteers are an incredible asset to nonprofit organizations.

According to research done in 2016, the average value of a volunteer hour is $24.14. With over 62 million people volunteering in the United States alone, and 7.9 billion hours of service, that equals over $184 billion. 

That’s a LOT of value. 

Volunteers add a tremendous amount of worth to organizations. And it’s not just the time they spend serving. More and more, we are seeing volunteers donate specific skillsets like graphic design, business, law, medical, or photography to their favorite nonprofits. 

The face of volunteering is changing. Volunteers are global, mobile, and bring marketable skills to the brand. It’s not enough to hold an annual party to thank the team or give everyone a free bumper sticker. Organizations have to start investing just as much into their nonpaid workforce as they do their paid staff members.

At Volunteer U, we believe in resourcing volunteers. 

Resourcing goes far beyond giving your team the tools they need to get the job done (although that is important!). It is about stewardship. It is recognizing the invaluable contribution of a volunteer and offering them a chance to grow their skills and feel like they are making a real difference. 

Here are three ways to RESOURCE your team. 

1. GIVE YOUR VOLUNTEERS THE TOOLS THEY NEED TO SUCCEED. 

A few weeks ago, I was sitting on my couch watching TV when I heard what I assumed was our house collapsing in on itself. It turns out it was the metal shelf in one of our closets. The nails holding the shelving ripped right out of the wall, leaving the rack (and everything on it) sprawled haphazardly on the floor. After spending an hour cleaning the mess it created, I began to look at how to fix it. The builder who installed the original shelving put nails in the drywall instead of the wall studs (which I learned is much less secure). I knew I had to fix it, but after searching, I realized I didn’t have a stud finder. It was too late to go to my local hardware store, so I did what any DIYer would do. I searched online for hacks and did my best Chip Gaines impression as I knocked on the wall until I hit the spot that “sounded” like it was a stud. I put new holes in the wall, rehung the shelf, and put everything back on it. I was feeling pretty good about myself until a week later when I was putting groceries away, and I heard the same loud crash from the other room. This time not only did the shelf rip the nails out of the wall, but little chunks of plaster and drywall came along with it. It was a bigger mess than I had initially. After a few hours cleaning up, I drove directly to the hardware store and bought a stud finder (and putty to patch those new holes in the wall). What could have been an easy one-time job took me a whole weekend to fix. 

Having the right tools for the job matters. 

If you’re a nonprofit, chances are you are working on a budget. While you might not always have enough funds to get your team everything they want, with a little bit of creativity, you can still get the job done. There are tons of incredible (and free) tools that can help your team succeed. Some of our current favorites are Canva (design), Unsplash (high-resolution photos), MailChimp (email management), Trello (task management), and Planning Center (volunteer and team management). 

If you have a problem, chances are there is a (free) solution. Talk with your team about what they want to accomplish and how they plan to get there. Find out if they are stuck or need help solving an issue. Then, as a team, discuss possible solutions and walk-through an ideal serving scenario. Let them give you feedback on what they think will work best. From there, you can research free tools and other hacks to save time and equip your team for success. 

2. OFFER YOUR TEAM OPPORTUNITIES TO GROW

Not only does your team need resources to help them get the job done, but they deserve to be invested back into…regularly. 

Your organization’s culture will play an essential role in the way you invest in your team’s growth. Is your organization formal and community-driven? Try Mastermind Groups, Seminars, or Book Clubs. Is your group more laidback and tech-savvy? Access to audiobookspodcasts, virtual workshops, or webinars might be right up your team’s ally. The way you invest back in volunteers is entirely up to you. Just remember, no matter how you choose to invest back in your team, make sure it is a routinely scheduled activity. Not only a once-off event.  

Another way to offer team members a chance to grow is by allowing them to take on new volunteer roles within the organization. One of the great things about volunteering is the chance to try new jobs and have new experiences. Giving your team the occasion to test new positions not only gives them a new challenge but could help them stay engaged in the long run. Aside from the more apparent benefits of volunteering, it gives people a chance to learn valuable skills (that could potentially help in future careers). Allow your team members to stretch themselves by taking on new positions and trying new things. 

3. CREATE AN ATMOSPHERE THAT PRODUCES FANATICAL VOLUNTEERS 

Fanatical volunteers not only serve your team with excitement, but eventually, they turn into megaphones for your brand. These volunteers share their experiences with friends, family, and anyone who will listen. 

At Volunteer U, we call these star volunteers…ambassadors. 

Ambassadors know they are a part of something bigger than themselves. They are proud of the brand they work with and vocally support the mission, which turns them into a viral sales force. Fanatical volunteers can’t help but recruit others. They want everyone to have a chance to be a part of what’s happening. 

What makes a volunteer fanatical about your organization? 

According to a Forbes article, getting people to an extreme level of engagement with your brand doesn’t have to be a complicated process; it just takes a little strategy. To get an enthusiastic fan base, try “seeding” your team with high-level, engaged volunteers. These star team members tend to infect other members with their enthusiasm. You should also work to engage volunteers and build personal relationships that go beyond the usual surface-level chit-chat. Make a point to learn about team members and their families. Like we always say at Volunteer U, people come for an organization’s vision, but they stay for the relationships. 

The Volunteer U LAUNCH kit is full of easy to follow strategies to engage your volunteer team and turn them into devoted brand ambassadors. 

Ready to resource your volunteers so they can be unstoppable brand ambassadors? The Volunteer U LAUNCH kit will help you build an intentional strategy to IDENTIFY, RECRUIT, TRAIN, ENCOURAGE, and RESOURCE your dream volunteer team. Get your LAUNCH kit today and take the guesswork out of volunteer management.  

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Here at Volunteer U, we’re passionate about helping volunteer teams thrive. Your organization is doing important work. You deserve to have an incredible crew behind you to get the job done.

Email the author christina@volunteeru.org.