When developing a volunteer role or task description identify why you think people would want to volunteer for your organisation and this particular task. It will be very difficult to engage with volunteers and keep them involved if you really don’t know why people would want to volunteer for your organisation or what they might get out of your program.
Meeting volunteer needs
People volunteer for a variety of reasons, they may want to meet new people, contribute to their community, learn new skills, use existing skills or find a way to gain experience that may lead to a job opportunity. If you know why people are volunteering, it is easier to make sure the volunteer experience you are offering matches some of these needs.
For example, someone who is volunteering to gain more skills and experience is more likely to want to access training opportunities and free courses than someone who is retired and volunteering in their spare time to help the community. For the retiree, a training course might feel like a waste of time and resources. Or they might even be intimidated by the thought of undertaking training.
Alternatively, people who are volunteering to be part of the community, make new friends and have fun are looking for a completely different volunteering experience. These kinds of volunteers are much more likely to see regular social activities such as a barbeque, potluck dinner or street party as a benefit or fitting reward for the time they put into volunteering. Whereas a person who volunteers to gain a good reference and work experience may view small social events as a waste of time.
Promote the benefits of your program
Think about what type of volunteers you want involved in your organisation and what you can offer them that will increase their interests in being involved. For example, can you offer free first-aid courses or training in project management? Or do you have the staffing and right policies to hold barbeques or thank you dinners on your premises?
Whatever you decide the perk of volunteering would be for the group of volunteers you want to attract, make sure you promote the benefits in your recruitment drive and include the details in the volunteer role description.
Once the volunteers are recruited, include details of the various opportunities in volunteer induction sessions. And keep talking to your volunteers about their motivations for volunteering, what they want out of the experience and what kinds of things they enjoy. Listening to your volunteers and responding to their needs – even in the smallest of ways – shows them that you appreciate their contribution and helps them feel recognised. Sometimes it's the little gestures that have the greatest impact.
Being aware of volunteers' motivations will also help you relate to your volunteers and continually provide opportunities so they remain interested in your organisation and project.