Ronn Torossian believes one of the surefire ways to keep your nonprofit venture healthy and growing is to keep your volunteer pool healthy and growing. If you can keep your workers engaged in the work and the mission, you will likely achieve some measure of success. However, if your pool waxes and wanes, or your methods create a revolving door of volunteers, expect at best no growth. Keep that up for long enough and your work will wither and die on the vine.
Bottom line, your volunteers have a specific set of skills you need to keep your operation…operational. Even if you can find similarly qualified candidates, the endless training, retraining and recruiting will steal too much of your time, artificially handicapping your success. So, how can you ensure that your volunteer base stays engaged and excited?
First, make it about them. Not the cause, necessarily, but allow them to grab some ownership of whatever they are doing. Your messages should be inclusive and generously appreciative. Let them know, often and specifically, what you can accomplish with their help. But you must also communicate in a way that engages your volunteers. If they love mobile, you must go mobile. If they are stuck in last century, don’t be afraid to send out letters or make “thank you” phone calls.
A word about this… far too many organizations assume how their volunteers communicate. They take how they and their friends do it and just do it that way. Or, in some cases, they are unaware of other alternatives that may be a better fit. While there is no blanket “right” or “wrong” way to do this, there is a right or wrong way to communicate in your organization.
Do not ignore social media, but please, do it right. Social media is one of the greatest tools and most notorious time-wasters of our age. While “everybody” uses it, most everybody is not using it properly. Social media can be a tremendous tool to keep your volunteers, fans and donors attached to your organization IF you manage your resources well. If you don’t know how to do that, DO NOT GUESS. Every mistake is time wasted you will not get back. Instead, invest in someone who knows what they are doing, maybe even a team of skilled volunteers.
In the end, the “secret” here is simple. Keep people engaged by learning what they want and need to hear and then delivering that information in a way they understand. Speak their language, and they will keep the conversation going.