Hospice of the Western Reserve Dominion volunteers at Ames Family Hospice House
Imagine that there was a way to simultaneously trim down your nonprofit’s budget, build relationships with local companies and community organizations, and boost your media presence. What could provide all of these benefits? Volunteer groups, of course! Engaging with corporate and community groups is a fantastic opportunity for non-profits. Organizing group volunteer experiences can save thousands in labor dollars while also establishing deeper relationships with these valuable partners. Furthermore, volunteer engagement can be a great public relations tool to generate a positive media presence.
Here are some tips for building successful relationships with corporate and community groups:
Find Meaningful Projects
Before seeking out volunteer groups, make sure you have appropriate projects. This is crucial—volunteers know right away when they are given inconsequential tasks. Identify a real need in the organization, and think of ways to engage volunteers to meet this need. Is the annual campaign mailing a headache every year? Is the landscaping looking overgrown? Has the fall fundraiser grown too large for the staff to handle? There are lots of ways for volunteers to contribute to alleviate these burdens.
Make the Ask
Start with existing relationships. Connecting with board members, current volunteers, donors, and community supporters can lead to some great referrals. Local agencies are also excellent resources to make connections. BVU (Business Volunteers Unlimited), Greater Cleveland Volunteers, and HandsOn Northeast Ohio can use their networks to match your non-profit with a volunteer group. Finally, online research can provide information about companies that hold annual service days or community days.
Preparation is Key
Setting clear expectations of the work is important. Provide details such as appropriate clothes, parking, food provided, rain plan, etc. Also, have materials ready for volunteers when they arrive. Typically, groups are energized and ready to work upon arrival. You can maximize their time and your return by having everything prepped in advance.
When volunteers come to your non-profit, it is tempting to get them started and then go back to your everyday work. However, working side by side with volunteers demonstrates the importance of their time. It also provides a chance to chat and get to know them. Communicating links between the work being completed and the mission of your agency helps to create a positive experience.
Show the Love
After volunteers have completed service, be sure to thank them for their work. Appreciation can be shown in many forms. A handwritten thank you shows gratitude in a heartfelt way. Facebook or Instagram posts are a public form of recognition. However, be sure to have media releases before pictures are published. For large groups, press releases, newsletter articles, inclusion in your annual report, or recognition at your annual meeting are all options to show appreciation.
Working with volunteer groups can be a lot of work, but the end result generates gratifying experiences for volunteers and a multitude of benefits for a nonprofit.
Hospice of the Western Reserve Forest City volunteers at David Simpson Hospice House
About this post's author:
Charity McDonald works as a Volunteer Service Manager for Hospice of the Western Reserve. She graduated from Case Western Reserve University with a Bachelor of Science in Business Management and from Cleveland State University with a Master of Business Administration. She served in the Peace Corps in the Kingdom of Tonga from 2010 to 2012 and is currently president of the Northern Ohio Returned Volunteer Association. Charity enjoys singing, travel, and apples.