Working with corporate volunteers shouldn’t be that different to working with regular volunteers – they’re still people after all. There are plenty of things you can do to ensure they have a great experience, make a real difference to your work, and keep coming back. The key is providing a clear and well-thought out volunteering journey – just as you’d have for your other volunteers.
Before the volunteering
- Create a great role
Start from a place of organisational need. If the volunteering isn’t addressing something you need help with then what’s the point?! Once you’ve worked out your own need, make a role that’s engaging and interesting for the volunteer as well. Then it’s time to write a role description – something like a pared down job description. That way the volunteer is clear on what’s expected of them, and knows about any skills or experience they’d need to have to take part. You can then send an application form round and encourage people to apply.
- Prepare your volunteers
Having a brief interview process is often a useful step. If it’s a skilled role, it can be essential to make sure that people are right for the role. Otherwise, it’s a good way to get to know your volunteers, build a nice rapport, and make sure they’re enthusiastic about your charity and the role itself. Providing training is a really important step. It can be relatively light touch or much more in depth depending on how complicated the role is, but it’s always useful to get people into the right frame of mind. Even if they won’t be working with beneficiaries directly, it’s still useful to make sure everyone is ready. For example, for pro bono work it can be helpful to give private sector employees some tips on how to adapt their style to suit working with third sector organisations.
- Collect data
It’s very important to make sure you know who’s volunteering with you. Make sure you collect and store the relevant information while complying with all data protection guidelines. Take this opportunity to gather their preferences on the types of communications you can send to them in the future as well – follow up information about this project, other volunteer roles that might interest them, information about other ways to support you, or newsletters.
During the volunteering
- Brief everyone at the start
Starting the session with a brief is vital. It makes sure that everyone knows exactly what they need to be doing during the day, but it’s also a chance to motivate your volunteers. Take some time to remind why the cause is so important, and why the work they’ll be doing will make such a big impact.
- Ensure that everyone is busy and engaged
If you’ve spent some time creating great role descriptions at the beginning, everyone should be aware of what part they should be playing. However, it’s always good to make sure first timers are made to feel welcome and guided through the process a bit. You can even use more experienced volunteers to do this – you’re killing two birds with one stone as this empowers the regulars to take more ownership of their volunteering experience and move into leadership positions.
- Debrief everyone at the end
Providing a debrief is a chance for people to unpack their experience. Give them a chance to think about what they’ve done and the impact their efforts will have had. This part of the day is really important for keeping people engaged – by giving them the space to consider what they’ve achieved and how it made them feel, you’re allowing them to think about the way volunteering has changed them as well as the changes they’ve made to the beneficiaries or to the charity.
- Collect feedback
By collecting high level feedback on the day, you pretty much guarantee that you’ll have at least some input from every participant. Keep it light and simple – maybe just a net promoter score out of ten, and a free text option for more details.
After the volunteering
- Say thank you
Letting your volunteers know that you appreciate them is so important. It makes people feel like they’re a part of something bigger than themselves and makes them more likely to come back. Make sure it’s personal to them and not just a generic note.
- Let them know their impact
As you gather impact information about the volunteer activities you offer, make sure to share it with those that were a part of it. Knowing you’ve made a difference is fine, but if you can put an actual figure on it or see the face of a person that’s benefitted, it feels much more real.
- Cross-sell other opportunities
If they’ve had a good experience, they’re likely to want to come back, but they might not proactively approach you for opportunities. This is why it was so important to collect that data earlier on in the process. You are now able to send them ideas of ways to get involved, whether that be other volunteering opportunities, fundraising days, or becoming an ambassador.
Corporate volunteers can become really valuable long-term supporters if they’re treated right. Hopefully with these tips, you won’t let them slip through your fingers.
If you need any support with corporate volunteering, please get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Guide by Rose Delfino – Community Development & Marketing Manager at thirdbridge