strategic volunteer engagement

Your Exclusive Checklist for Strategic Volunteer Engagement Planning 

Many volunteer managers in the VolunteerPro Premium Membership community are struggling with how they can build strategic volunteer engagement that is better than ever before.  

After more than a year of unrest in our communities due to COVID-19, social injustice, severe weather, etc., they come to realize that a fresh look is warranted. 

You might think so, too!  

It’s no hyperbole to say that the past 18 months have left us changed.  And, when society evolves, so too must volunteerism. 

It’s also been a period that has left many of us completely spent. 

But the need for your services or programs hasn’t changed. In fact, it may have even become more intense. 

Times like these leave us to take a second look at things. 

You might question… 

  • Where should I focus my limited energies and resources for the greatest return?  
  • What should I include in strategic volunteer engagement to drive results and success?  
  • What should I let go of that is no longer serving my organization or my volunteers? 
  • What infrastructure is needed to keep my volunteers happy, productive, and engaged over the long term? 
  • And what tools and skills do I need to have on hand to build it? 

And, we’ve got some answers!  

Over the past few years, our training has evolved to answer these questions and more. 

Next month, we will kick off our Total Transformation Series. This seminar series is specifically designed to help our members become a better “architect of the volunteer experience” and build a volunteer program that generates real impact.  

The backbone of this 6-month series is our proprietary Volunteer Strategy SuccessPathTM, based on years of boots-on-the ground experience coupled with what the research tells us. This helps everyone focus on taking actions that deliver results and reduces the time spinning their wheels on things that sounds good in theory, but don’t really bring about change. 

Through the Total Transformation Series, our members will learn the key steps they need to take to transform their efforts from fundamental to fully strategic volunteer engagement, with a mature approach.  

To help you get a handle on the key elements you need for success, we’re giving you a peek inside to see what we have planned!  

Compare what you have working for you at your organization and see where you stack up and where you have work to do. 

Continue reading and you will learn the 6 key planning action steps you need to take to develop a best-in-class volunteer program that drives engagement:  

  1. Mapp Out Your Goals 
  2. Create a Risk Management Plan 
  3. Create an Operations Plan for Volunteer Services 
  4. Define Your Key Outcomes Metrics and Targets 
  5. Design a Blended Volunteer Training Plan  
  6. Create a Recognition and Retention Plan  

Creating a Goal-Setting Strategy 

A BIG part of planning strategic volunteer engagement is setting the right targets. After all, if you don’t know where you’re going, chances are you won’t get there. 

By setting and communicating a set of specific stretch goals, your team will know what the priorities are and what they will be accountable for. 

Make sure your goals related to volunteer engagement also directly align with your organization’s strategic plan. 

A lot has changed over the past year. How can volunteers be re-deployed to help the organization build back stronger than before?  What roles need to be changed and which will stay the same?  What new proacts or initiatives need to be added to address emerging gaps?  

Strengthen Your Foundation to Do More, Not Less with Better Risk Management 

strategic volunteer engagement

Proper risk planning is an important foundation to better program policies. What’s more, when volunteer programs embrace and manage risk effectively, they also realize the rewards of increased quality of service to their membership, community, and cause. 

Risk management is more than just keeping bad things from happening – it can also help you make better planning and management decisions and support the growth and sustainability of your nonprofit organization. 

As a leader, you need to get your ducks in a row quickly and without confusion. 

Here are some suggestions to get you started:  

First, identify the 5 kinds of risks associated with volunteer involvement. 

Review the list below and brainstorm some risks that might be present in each category.  

  • People – the possibility of inappropriate volunteer-client/caregiver boundary setting  
  • Property – theft, loss, damage to equipment 
  • Reputation – the damage to your community credibility 
  • Income – the loss of grant or contract funding, as well as individual giving  
  • Liability – for supporting the health and safety of volunteers, employees, partners, and clients 

Now that you have list of potential risks, prioritize them to determine which ones are most important for your organization to address.  

  • Then, choose the right strategies to manage risks with a high magnitude of harm  

If you choose to move forward with an action that may involve risk, management strategies can be put in place to reduce or mitigate harm.  This does not always mean that harm is eliminated.  

  • After determining which risks you will want to combat and how, you’ll want to brainstorm a list of new or revised volunteer policies you need to develop, based on your chosen risk management strategies. 

In our community, we teach members a simple process to determine top priorities and four different ways to mitigate harm.   

Make sure you have a risk assessment system in place, too, so you’re not simply brainstorming without structure.  That’s a one-way ticket to wasted time and ineffective planning. 

Build a Blueprint for Volunteer Services 

With the hustle and bustle of day-to-day tasks, it’s hard to find time to reflect on whether or not your current volunteer engagement strategy is the best one.  

A solid volunteer operations plan can help you align your volunteer strategy with the goals of your organization and offer a clear blueprint for action that includes growth goals and the resources needed to realistically support them. 

So, what’s included in a full operational plan that educates and generates buy-in for all that’s involved in effective volunteer management and sets a course of purposeful growth?  

Here’s what you should include:  

  • Environmental Scan: Scan your organizational context or environment to determine which might have an impact on the plan’s success, positively or negatively.  Consider what may need to be included in your plan for growth to ensure you are fully prepared and your plans aren’t blindsided. 
  • Goal Alignment: The most powerful and sustainable operations plan’s goals align across boundaries. Brainstorm a list of goals for your community, organization, and program.  
  • Philosophy of Volunteer Involvement: Your Philosophy of Volunteer Involvement should communicate the value of volunteers to an organization. This must be understood and agreed upon by the top levels of management.  
  • Your Risk Management Plan: Include your analysis, your priorities, and your policies/procedures.  
  • Targets, Goals, Outcomes: Include the top goals that are impacted by volunteer work and what will be reported regularly.  
  • Service Delivery: Include a detailed description about the roles volunteers will play in service or program delivery. 
  • Outreach & Marketing: Include your plan for reaching prospective volunteers 
  • Your Volunteer Program Budget: Include your realistic budget and resource plan (including expenses and in-kind resources).  
  • Implementation Schedule: Include your accountability plan with due dates, milestones marking a significant change or stage in development, and when reporting will occur] 
  • Evaluation Strategy: In order to determine if your volunteer engagement strategy is working, you need to evaluate it! Include your strategy in your operations plan.  

Without this guiding document, your organization may tend to manage volunteers in a reactive way, leaving leaders of volunteers without a rudder to keep on course.  

With this full operations plan, you’ll set a course of purposeful growth. 

Build Metrics to Measure True Volunteer Impact, Outcomes, & Value 

strategic volunteer engagement
Much the same as corporate shareholders seek positive growth in their financial portfolios, non-profit executives, volunteers, and donors want to see their investment in good causes reap rewards in the form of a social return on investment, or volunteer ROI.  

The ability to explain the value proposition of volunteer services can help you more accurately paint a picture of volunteer effort while keeping stakeholders apprised of your progress. Having consistent, credible data on hand also builds trust and equips you to better advocate for respect and resources.  

Have you been tracking volunteer hours, but want to do more? Have you been called upon to prove volunteer impact? Do you wonder what data is worthwhile to track, given your busy schedule?  

Here are some suggested metrics you should start tracking and communicating to stakeholders:  

  • Number of volunteers  
  • Total volunteer hours  
  • Average hours per volunteer per month  
  • % of total volunteer roles filled or open shifts completed  
  • % increase in volunteer leaders 
  • Volunteer retention satisfaction or referral rate  
  • # of service beneficiaries reached (or reduced waitlist)  
  • % grant or strategic plan outcomes achieved 
  • In-kind & cash resources generated by volunteers  
  • Changes in beneficiary & volunteer condition/status, knowledge/learning, or readiness 

Boost Volunteer Confidence, Competence, & Follow Through with a Focused Volunteer Training Plan

Reducing volunteer turnover and improving volunteer follow-through and accountability can all be accomplished with a better orientation and training program. But the job of adjusting human behavior for the good of all is a tall order that takes strategy, solid, planning, and skill. 

Do you know how to design a high-quality training that both engages volunteers and improves the quality and consistency of the services they offer your organization?  

If not, you might want to refresh your orientation training program so that your volunteers will be more prepared than ever to help and have fun doing so!  

Follow our step-by-step plan to get you there:  

Step 1: Develop learning goals that also help you evaluate whether your training worked 

A learning objective is a statement that defines the expected goal of a curriculum, course, lesson, or activity in terms of demonstrable skills or knowledge that the learner is expected to acquire.  

They must be real world, observable and measurable.  

A completed, action-based learning objective has three parts:  

1. A brief description of the task to be performed 

2. The conditions under which the task will be performed (including locations, resources to assist, equipment or software to be used, etc.) 

3. The standards that describe how well the task must be performed

Step 2: Choose innovative “sticky” training elements that ensure skills are used. They should include  a good mix of presentation, interaction, and self-reflection activities.  It also helps to invite experienced volunteers to help build out your training with real-life case studies.
Step 3: Design a training program that primes volunteers for deeper engagement 

Include the following:  

    • Your goals and training objectives 
    • Your training activities 
    • Your training methods (live, online, hybrid, etc.)  
    • Any material/equipment that is needed 

Build an Appreciation Strategy That Boosts Retention & Reduces Early Turnover

Showing your appreciation for volunteers on a regular basis isn’t just a “nice to have,” it’s high impact, strategic volunteer engagement.  

Expressing gratitude regularly can boost volunteer satisfaction and, research shows, is a key driver of high volunteer retention rates. But how do you weave recognition into your daily practice, rather than reserving it for your annual celebration? And, what if you have a limited budget to work with? 

There are many meaningful, low-cost ways to acknowledge the valuable work of volunteers in support of your mission throughout the volunteer lifecycle.  

Here are a few ways to ensure you are hitting the mark:  

So, there you have it, the full run down. 

A solid volunteer strategy includes these 6 elements: 

#1. A Set of Goals for Volunteer Services Aligned with Agency Goals 

#2. A Risk Management Plan That Empowers People to do More, Not Less 

#3. An Operations Plan that Services as a Blueprint for Volunteer Services  

#4. A Focused of Your Key Outcomes Metrics and Targets  

#5. A Volunteer Training Plan that Blends Digital and Classroom-based Learning  

#6. A 360° Recognition and Retention Plan that Everyone Owns 

How many of these do you have in place? And what are you most inspired about building next?