Volunteer advocates are the backbone of many non-profit organizations, grassroots campaigns, and social movements. In fact, there are over 10,000 active volunteers in the United States.
Building a network of passionate volunteer advocates can propel your organization toward its goals and help you effect real change in your community, but acquiring volunteers is only the beginning; if you want to harness the power of your volunteer advocate network and ensure they continue investing time and energy in your cause, you’ve got to keep them engaged, and that’s often easier said than done.
With that in mind, we’ve outlined the following seven practical ways to maintain high levels of engagement among volunteer advocates:
Clearly Communicate Goals and Expectations
Ask yourself whether your volunteers know what’s expected of them or what your goals are. If they aren’t up to speed on either aspect, consider fixing that to be your first step toward maximizing engagement.
While your volunteers may have a general idea of your cause or beliefs, you need to get granular when outlining what the organization hopes to achieve. Connect the dots, demonstrating how their individual contributions can support the greater good. When they have concrete goals to pursue, it will become much easier for them to stay motivated as they are provided with a clear purpose.
Offer Meaningful Opportunities
Volunteers are more likely to stay engaged when you give them meaningful tasks to do. Offer a range of opportunities that cater to their diverse skill sets and interests, though do be careful not to lock someone into a specific set of narrow tasks, as that can make the work feel monotonous.
A simple approach is to ask your volunteers what they like to do and what talents they have. Take the time to get to know the members of your team and put them in positions that allow them to do what they love. Allowing volunteers to take on roles that resonate with their passions and skills can increase feelings of commitment and satisfaction.
Provide Training and Development Opportunities
Organize training sessions on advocacy techniques, communication skills, or specific issues relevant to your cause. When practical, provide refreshments or meals during training to help build chemistry among your team.
Getting everyone together for training is also an excellent means of reducing volunteer churn. Even if the current initiative will only last a few weeks, you want your volunteer team to keep coming back to support your organization for years to come.
Recognize and Celebrate Contributions
Far too often, life as a volunteer advocate is thankless. Volunteers often put in long hours while juggling personal and professional responsibilities. With that in mind, one of the best ways to boost engagement is to provide a genuine, sincere showing of gratitude for their efforts.
Acknowledging the hard work and achievements of your volunteers, whether through public appreciation, awards, or simple thank-you notes, can go a long way in keeping everyone on board. Celebrating the small wins and milestones of the campaign also helps maintain enthusiasm and commitment. Whatever you choose to do, make it about the cause and the volunteers behind it.
Foster a Community Among Volunteers
Creating a sense of community among volunteers can lead to a more fulfilling and enjoyable experience, so encourage interactions through regular meetings, social events, or online forums. A supportive network can provide volunteers with a sense of belonging and an additional reason to stay involved.
Developing a community can also assist with new volunteer onboarding. When someone joins your cause, connect them with a senior volunteer who knows the ropes. Having someone to turn to for advice, information, and insights is a great way of making new members feel welcome.
Offer Flexibility and Respect Their Time
As mentioned, volunteers often juggle their advocacy work with many other personal commitments, so it is best to offer flexible roles and respect your team’s time constraints, perhaps by providing different levels of involvement or allowing volunteers to work remotely where and when possible. In offering flexibility, you demonstrate a level of respect for their dedication that can, in turn, lead to longer-term commitment.
On that note, make sure you honor their boundaries as well. If a volunteer tells you they are unavailable or not comfortable taking on a particular role, don’t press them; instead, devise a workaround that suits everyone while simultaneously ensuring the needs of the organization are met.
Solicit Feedback and Apply It
Perhaps most importantly, you need to listen to your volunteers. Regularly solicit their feedback about the campaign, their roles, and the support they receive, and don’t just file away that feedback; listen to what they have to say and apply it to your volunteer management strategy.
Acting on the feedback you receive improves the campaign and shows volunteers that their options are valued. If you can’t apply a particular piece of feedback, be honest about it and explain why so that you work to reduce friction with volunteers.
Building Better Campaigns With Aristotle
Creating a winning campaign or impactful grassroots movement requires a group of passionate, engaged volunteer advocates, but advocates are only part of the equation. You also need to make the most of your volunteer resources, and that requires timely, relevant insights.
At Aristotle, we provide non-profits, grassroots movements, advocate groups, and political campaigns with the data they need to pursue their objectives. Our records include tens of millions of voter and consumer files, and we provide dynamic data management tools so you can get more out of the insights we deliver.
Connect with Aristotle today to schedule a demo.