Most volunteers just want to show up and start helping. However, from your organization's perspective, it is important to have best practices in place for registration, check-in, hour tracking, check-out, and other processes. In this article, we'll offer some tips for streamlining your queue, building efficiency, and solidifying volunteer trust.
Simply Meeting Expectations Just Doesn’t Cut It
People usually come to a work environment with some basic assumptions. These can include aspects such as a clean, well-lit workspace and office equipment that functions as it should. Also in this category, and most apropos to our article, is the assumption that a business is efficiently run. Of course, it’s not hard to apply this theory to the volunteer world. The interesting thing here is that, although these trust-building factors by themselves will not help retain workers (and volunteers), their absence is a fairly clear indicator that individuals will not remain with an organization for long.
With this in mind, it may not hurt to look around your office — and perhaps your entire volunteer program — to take stock of it through the eyes of a volunteer. (Click here for additional tips on reviewing your volunteer program.) What happens around the organization that your volunteers probably see as time and/or money wasters? In many instances, these issues can be solved with technology, specifically those that might impede the volunteer from performing the respective task(s).
Leveraging Tech to Build Trust and Rapport
At first thought, the idea of leveraging technology to improve personal concepts like trust and rapport may sound strange. However, start thinking beyond the surface level, and it’s really not. When volunteers show up for an event, they don’t want to be greeted by disorganized staff members riffling through papers. The same goes for hour tracking and check-in/out processes. Bottom line: your agency looks much more professional when processes are managed by a streamlined system.
Your Volunteers Have “Gone Mobile”…Shouldn’t You?
Once again, technology can be a key component of your program, but now let’s talk about mobile technology in particular. According to consumer information company Nielsen, over half of Americans now own a smartphone, with that number jumping to 66 percent in the 25-34 year-old demographic. In fact, some estimates suggest that in 2013 the sum of mobile devices and tablets will exceed total PC usage. People have integrated these mini-computers into their lives, so why not take advantage of it when they donate their time? Having volunteers use their smartphones to check into an event is an excellent way to speed up the process for them and take up fewer resources for you. Also, while participants have their smartphone on, it’s very easy for them to do a quick mention on their favorite social media sites. Encourage this behavior as most people enjoy spreading the word about one of their favorite causes, and it’s great marketing for your organization.
Tech Builds Trust
Take this opportunity to re-evaluate your volunteer program and think about ways management apps can improve it. Although some may argue that with technology comes impersonalization, I have to disagree in this case. It’s often overlooked that, because systems are automated and create efficiencies, there’s now time for more personalized interaction between volunteers and staff. Less time organizing operations means more time making sure the volunteers are having a great experience and connecting more deeply with you and your mission. Isn’t that what trust and engagement is all about?
The preceding is a guest post by Corbit Harrison, Chief Operating Officer for VolunteerHub, a cloud-based volunteer management software application that offers online event registration, email and SMS (text) messaging, report generation, and much more. Corbit has been actively helping non-profit organizations better engage constituents for over 10 years. Connect with Corbit on LinkedIn. This is part of our ongoing VolunteerCorner series – focusing on issues that you need to know about in the nonprofit sector.