Four Steps to Strengthen Your Volunteer Communication
Volunteers are often the backbone of a successful nonprofit organization. But with staff time oftentimes overrun with internal projects or looming deadlines, communication efforts with these volunteers can sometimes fall through the cracks. Imagine for a second an amazing, thoughtful, experienced volunteer is interested in spending time with your organization – and you don’t communicate with them in a timely fashion and lose their interest. What’s the opportunity you just lost to further your mission?
It can be challenging to juggle all of the different tasks that go into implementing an event, but volunteer communication is vital to the long-term health of your organization and standing in the community. As individuals face greater time constraints and nonprofit organizations are relying on volunteers for additional support, the volunteer pool is increasingly scarce. Basic customer service is vital to avoid undervaluing the role of volunteer. Volunteer time has a tangible value at the individual and organizational level.
Below are four easy and simple tips to help your organization maintain basic customer service for volunteers.
1. Get back to every volunteer within 24 hours
This can be challenging when you’re on a deadline, but it’s basic customer service. Any volunteer that emails, calls, or messages your organization on social media should receive a response within 24 hours (during the business week).
2. Create a committee with a leader
Many nonprofit organizations have a generic email account that online inquiries or outgoing emails are directed to. Don’t leave answering these emails to a committee. Emails can slip through the cracks as staff assume that someone else is handling the account. Make one person in charge of responding to emails or directing them to the appropriate staff. If he or she is going on vacation or facing a deadline, it is important that others are aware of the processes and can step in. Empower your team to take the lead so that your constituents are not left without a response. Additionally, if you only have one person to check an email account, don’t send emails to a large audience just before that person is unavailable.
3. Respect an individual’s preferred method of communication
It is easy to get in a routine with your preferred method of communication. Some prefer to talk on the phone due to the convenience and personal connection; other people don’t ever want to pick up their phone and prefer to email. It is important to cater your communication method to the volunteer. If a volunteer calls your organization, you should call them back and not send an email. If someone reaches out via social media and seems to prefer talking with you through that venue, don’t force them to another type of communication.
4. It’s okay to not have an answer
From time to time an individual may ask a question or volunteer to help on a project that you’re not prepared for. It’s better to tell someone that you don’t need their help or are unsure of an answer than to hold off on communicating with them. A simple, “That’s a great question. We’re not sure yet. Could I get back to you next week?” validates the volunteer and sets up a clear communication line.
We hope these simple tips help your organization communicate more effectively.