How to Invest in Volunteer Programs for the Best Return

Volunteers are making a deep, personal choice when they agree to join your team.  They are as discerning as retail customers, but rather than assessing whether a product or service has value in a commercial sense, they are listening and watching closely to see whether there is the promise and the invest in volunteer programs where they can truly make a difference.  

When volunteers decide to join your team, they are making an investment, with a calculated risk, that their time and energy will be used effectively.  And, they expect to realize good returns, regardless of the economic climate.

Three Things Invest in Volunteer Programs

Time — Volunteers seek to spend their time wisely.  They trade in the time they would otherwise spend with family, earning money, relaxing, or socializing in return for the chance to make a difference.  When they give up their precious time, they are taking the chance that their volunteer experience will fulfill a need that is as equally as important as their other personal needs.

Talent — All volunteers bring existing skills and knowledge to the table.  They expect that this raw material will be put to good use in support of the cause.  In some cases, volunteers are clear about which talents they want to bring to bear, and which they do not.  Some want to use skills they also use in their work lives, others want to expand their use of another skill set, while still others want to develop new abilities.  What’s important is that there is a match between what the volunteer is asked to do and what they are comfortable with and that their talents, in their estimation, are used effectively. 

Social Capital — Volunteers invest a significant amount of goodwill in a shared endeavor with your organization, and they expect that the experience will bear fruit for both sides.  In addition, volunteers who recruit other volunteers, or ask their network of friends to support the organization, are also expending the social capital they have built to date with those they have approached. The lack of follow-through on the organization’s part, after such a request, may have personal consequences for the volunteer.  Each request should be considered carefully.

If all three of these investments pay off, volunteers are likely to experience a relatively seamless experience that feels good and sits right with them.  In fact, their volunteer experience may seem more than just worthwhile.  Volunteers who are highly satisfied often express that volunteering has given them more than they’ve ever put into it, and they’re surprised by the fact.  When this happens, you know you are delivering dividends in spades.