Message from a Happy Volunteer

In light of National Volunteer Week that came to a close yesterday, I’d like to share a message with you from a lovely young woman I met last month when I traveled to Bali. Although the time we spent together wasn’t all that long, with the commonalities in both our approach to life and keen interest in making a difference in the world, I believe we formed a friendship that will last for years.

Lauren Moss is a kind-hearted, twenty-something, big-dreaming gal who has had vast experience in the world of volunteering both in paid roles in volunteer management and as a volunteer herself. In this post, Lauren shares with us her advice on keeping your volunteers happy:

When it comes to volunteering there are a lot of things that can go right and a lot of things that can go wrong. It is extremely important to get all the pieces of the volunteering jigsaw in place before accepting volunteers into your organisation. So, with that being said, here are five tips on how to keep your volunteers happy, master these and you will be off to a great start!

1. Be prepared for your volunteers
The worst thing is walking into an organisation as a volunteer, excited to help in whatever way you can and having no guidance. Make sure you have a great volunteer handbook explaining everything in detail that is sent out before your volunteer’s arrival, this way they will already be aware of what to expect from you and what you expect from them. Also, have a really good welcome and induction. You need to make sure your volunteers feel comfortable from the get-go and that all queries and concerns are cleared up as early as possible.

Volunteer message 22. Tap into volunteer motives
Everyone volunteers for different reasons and it is important to know those reasons and look for ways that you can satisfy them. Find out what their skills are and why they are wanting to be part of your organisation, that way you can really get the most out of every person and that will keep both you and them very happy.

3. Communication is key!
Regular communication is motivating for volunteers and a lack of it will be sure to stop them helping out. Volunteers like to have a particular person to look to, so make sure you have a very good Volunteer Co-ordinator in place who can be there to respond to concerns immediately. I would also suggest having a volunteer feedback form so you have a record of what your volunteers think about your organisation and your volunteering program, this way you will always have ideas on how to improve.

4. Show appreciation
People who volunteer want to make a difference in the World and they want to feel that is happening when they’re volunteering for you. The best ways to do this are to make sure they know they are doing work that is vital to keeping your organisation running, giving thanks often and making them feel as valuable as your paid staff. A really good tip would be to have an event dedicated to your volunteers every year to say thank you for all their hard work!

5. Make volunteering fun!
Volunteer message 1Remember that people are giving up their time for your organisation and not getting paid for it. Of course they will want to work hard but it is also really important to make sure they really enjoy the time that they are volunteering for you. Have a variety of tasks for them to do, maybe you need them to do some office organisation but then you might need that same person (who is a great photographer) to take photos for your upcoming newsletter. By giving a mixture of tasks you will be sure to get the very best out of everyone.

Lauren has had some great experiences on both sides of the volunteering coin and her insights here could really help make a difference in your organisation if you are in the fortunate position to have the support of volunteers. Thanks so much for sharing this important message about volunteers with Fish, Lauren, we appreciate it!

See you in the Pond,

The Fish Chick

P.S.  A bit more about Lauren…  From managing volunteers as a Wishgranter and then as Events & Challenges Fundraiser at Make-A-Wish Foundation UK, to being fully immersed into the volunteering world herself as a teacher in Ghana and a volunteer coordinator at an orphanage in Bali. Lauren is still on her journey to find her purpose on this planet but getting closer every day, read more about her by visiting http://www.perfectlyimperfectuk.wordpress.com.

Valuing our Volunteers

Making sure your volunteers feel appreciated is one of the most important things you can do… if you want to keep them around!  After all, they freely give their time and energy and expect little in return – certainly they don’t do it for the money!  There are a number of ways that you can make your volunteers feel special. Here are some ideas below, and while most of them seem quite obvious, I’m surprised at how many non profits forget them!

We’re so glad to see you!

There’s nothing like a warm welcome to greet you on arrival and it’s a sure way to your volunteers heart. Make sure you include your vollies in conversations and let them know that what they are doing is important and valued. Be sure to ask them how their week has been or what they did on the weekend – and take an interest in them as individuals.

Coffee with heart

Include your volunteers in the coffee run

Buy them a coffee! $3.50 is money well spent and such an easy way to show your appreciation.

Ongoing training and opportunities

Where possible offer your volunteers the opportunity to learn new skills through training. Encourage them to develop their volunteer skills within the organisation or take on other roles that they might find interesting or challenging.

By doing so you will increase their feeling of being valued and reduce volunteer turnover. If your volunteer applies for a job elsewhere show your support by providing a written reference or agreeing to be a referee.

Formal recognition

Make sure you tap into the opportunity to thank your volunteers by celebrating International Volunteer Day and National Volunteer Week (NVW). Volunteering Australia has some great information regarding NVW – with everything from celebration tips to Fast Facts about NVW – check out their website for more information here.

Hold your own volunteer thank you function – high tea, barbeque, picnic lunch or breakfast is a great opportunity for a get-together of staff and volunteers. Part of the function could be a formal presentation ceremony where volunteers can be presented with a certificate, badge or organisation t-shirt.

Some non profits hold activities such as bare-foot bowling or a movie night so that volunteers can get a sense of how they fit into the overall structure of the organisation and the good they are doing.

You could also consider nominating your volunteers for awards or even featuring a volunteer in your newsletter.

Don’t forget the little things…

  • Birthday and Christmas cards.
  • An anniversary card highlighting their year(s) of service. Note how they made a difference in your organisation over the past year.
  • A little (or big) card saying well done with a chocolate waiting on their desk following a recent project they completed.

Just say it – “Thank you!”

Just two small words – thank you – but they mean so much. Let your volunteers know you appreciate their time and effort. They could have been spending their time playing tennis, having lunch with friends or having their nails done – instead they chose to help your organisation.

Whilst recognising and celebrating volunteers’ achievements can take some time and planning, it is well worth it as the rewards can be substantial. It will help maintain volunteer loyalty and increase retention levels, which in turn benefits your organisation.

Do you agree with these ways of acknowledging volunteers? Are there any other ways you recognise your unpaid team members? Let us know. 

See you in the pond,

The Fish Chick.

Two’s Company, Three’s Crowd Funding

A term that is being bandied about in fundraising circles recently is crowdfunding. It is a relatively simple concept that describes the act of raising funds through a group of individuals (or crowd) for a specific project or cause.

Crowdfunding has its roots firmly in the charity sector, although it is quite popular in the music and arts industries and becoming more popular with business start ups.

While it’s not a totally new concept – it’s been around since the late 1990s – it has had a recent resurgence due to the ease by which it can work with the support of the internet.

Crowdfunding sites are starting up all over the globe, with seven already in Australia, as indicated in the diagram below.

According to the Daily Crowd Source website, there are three main categories of crowdfunding;

Equity-based crowdfunding is asking a crowd to donate to your business or project in exchange for equity.

Debt-based crowdfunding is asking a crowd to donate to your business or business project in exchange for financial return and/or interest at a future date.

Donation-based crowdfunding is asking a crowd to donate to your project in exchange for tangible, non-monetary, rewards such as an ecard, t-shirt or just for the giving  feeling.

It is this last type of crowdfunding that we will feature here today as it most commonly used by charities.

So, exactly how does it work?

Once they have decided on their project, charitable organisations can choose an online crowdfunding platform to use and then they set up their project page. They list on here all the details of the project including what the project is, who it will help, why it is needed and how much it will cost. It is important to remember that this page is your only chance at getting through to a potential donor – be sure to inspire them!

As your project funding period passes your organisation should promote it through various online networks and social media sites. The more people that visit your project page the more chance you have in raising the funds you need. When an interested donor visits your page, they can pledge an amount to donate. This amount is only taken from their account when 100% of your funds have been raised.

How can it help charities?

Crowdfunding can be of great benefit to the charitable organisations because it can help raise funds for some of those innovative projects that perhaps you can’t get off the ground elsewhere. It can also be a great way to grow your donor base.

Crowdfunding seems to appeal to a younger, more savvy investor who wants to have more involvement in the social outcomes they help fund, so this type of fundraising may just help your organisation tap into potential new, younger donors.

Before you get started

One crowdfunding blog recommends asking yourself three questions to see if you’re ready for a crowdfunding project;

1. Is this an idea that enough people will think is valuable? You want enough people to invest in your project otherwise it won’t be viable.
2. Is this a project that can be accomplished with limited funds?  Make sure you get your ask amount right. Obviously, the less money you need the quicker you can raise it, but you don’t want to fall short and have to change an ask (or ask again).
3. Are you dedicated to seeing this project through to fruition? Individuals who invest in your project are investing in your ability to complete it – they have the faith that you will do it, so you need to be sure you can.

So, if you think you’re community group is ready to get started here are three Australian sites you might want to check out;

And remember, every crowd has a silver lining (at least the potential to, anyway).

See you in the pond,

The Fish Chick.