Volunteer Communication

Mary Gormandy White
What motivates volunteers?

Maintaining effective volunteer communication is essential to the success of every nonprofit organization. To keep volunteers energized and engaged in their work, it's important to let them know what the organizations needs are, express appreciation for their efforts, and make sure they understand how important their contributions really are.

Volunteer Communication Tools

Any organization that relies on the service of volunteers must take steps to retain those who share their time and talent and to recruit new people to help carry out its work. It's a good idea for nonprofit organizations to use several different methods for reaching out to volunteers. There are many types of volunteer communication tools, each of which can play an important role in building lasting relationships.

One-on-One Personal Contact

When it comes to building relationships with volunteers, there is no substitute for making personal contact with the individuals who donate their time and talents to your organization. It's advisable to periodically schedule face to face meetings with volunteers who hold chair positions or who play other key roles that allow your charitable group to accomplish its mission. Periodic telephone calls to volunteers can also be an effective way to maintain individualized contact with volunteers without having to ask volunteers to set aside time for a formal discussion.

Committee Meetings

Volunteer committee meetings can be essential to the success of all types of projects. When a new product is starting, it's advisable to hold a meeting with those interested in volunteering so they have an opportunity to learn more about what types of roles are available and what kind of time commitment each might require. Once a committee is formed - whether for a special project or for an ongoing workgroup - regular meetings continue to be important to manage process and maintain effective volunteer communication. It's best to establish a set schedule for meetings, such as the third Tuesday of every month, so that volunteers are able to make plans in advance.

Volunteer Newsletter

Many nonprofit organizations send out a newsletter to volunteers, as well as to donors, funding agencies, consumer referral sources, and other groups on a monthly or quarterly basis. Distributing a newsletter is a great way to let interested parties know about the charitable group's recent accomplishments, current projects, and future goals. It also provides an excellent vehicle for recognizing the contributions of outstanding donors.

Depending on who your volunteers and other interested parties are, you may need to print and mail a newsletter or you may be better served by an electronic newsletter. E-newsletters tend to be less expensive that printed newsletters that have to be mailed. However, if your volunteers are individuals who aren't likely to read an electronic document, this method might not meet your needs effectively. However, if the people you are trying to reach are Web savvy and frequently check their email accounts, an electronic version can be very effective.

Website Communication

It's becoming increasingly popular for nonprofit organizations to publish a special section just for volunteers on their websites. By setting up and maintaining a volunteer communication center on your group's website, you'll be creating a way that those whose help you depend on have an easy way to keep up with what is going on with the organization. The website can list volunteer opportunities, upcoming committee meetings, progress toward fundraising goals, and more. Depending on how sophisticated your website is, you can also provide opportunities for volunteers to upload documents, record hours worked and view volunteer training materials.

Maintaining Contact with Volunteers

There's no substitute for maintaining effective communication with your volunteers. The time you spend making sure that the lines of communication are open between your charity and the individuals who freely share their time, you'll be on your way to cultivating solid relationships with volunteers who are likely to remain loyal to your organization for many years to come.

Volunteer Communication