4 Tips to Tap into the Power of Virtual Volunteering

This post is a guest contribution from Shreya Tragad, Digital Marketing Specialist at InitLive

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, nonprofits worldwide went virtual when possible. Many organizations chose to take their volunteer programs online as well.

Virtual volunteering allows nonprofits to engage volunteers who might not live nearby or who have transportation or mobility issues. Plus, they’re a great way to allow busy supporters to fit volunteering into their packed schedules. 

It’s now been two years since the pandemic began, and virtual volunteering has stuck around for many organizations. Your nonprofit’s leaders might be interested in embarking on a digital transformation to accommodate and plan better virtual volunteer opportunities. 

We’ve pulled together this article to help, which provides actionable tips to help leverage your volunteers more effectively through virtual volunteer programs. We’ll cover:

  1. Identify what roles need to be filled.
  2. Provide a thorough onboarding process.
  3. Don’t let your communication standards slip.
  4. Create a foolproof technology plan.

Don’t use these volunteer management strategies to attempt to fully recreate your in-person volunteer opportunities in the digital realm. After all, your supporters won’t expect your virtual experiences to be completely identical! Instead, determine how you can use these strategies to make your virtual experiences unique and appropriate for remote participants. Let’s dive in!

1. Identify what roles need to be filled.

There’s no point in starting a virtual volunteer program without a clear understanding of what that program is trying to accomplish. Investing the time in creating an effective virtual volunteer program plan and setting goals is well worth it. Establish the outcomes you want to achieve and then start considering how you’ll accomplish them through a virtual volunteer program. 

To get started, it’s helpful to think about the types of virtual or hybrid events and programs that your organization is interested in hosting. These might include: 

  • Telethon fundraisers
  • Virtual tutoring
  • Virtual wellness calls
  • Contactless food drive 
  • Virtual helpline

Once you have a grasp of each of the types of opportunities you want to offer, you can determine the volunteer roles that are required to execute the relevant activities. There are plenty of operational tasks you may not have considered before that can be done completely virtually. 

Here are some examples of virtual volunteer roles: 

  • Community outreach coordinator 
  • Foodservice administrator
  • Social media ambassador
  • Fundraiser
  • Graphic designer
  • Data entry specialist

Create detailed role descriptions that provide volunteers with a good idea of what each role entails and the required skills. This will allow volunteers to self-select which roles best fit their skills and interests. When volunteers are engaged in suitable roles, they can make the biggest impact on your volunteer efforts. 

2. Provide a thorough onboarding process.

Even in the digital space, starting a new volunteer program still requires proper volunteer onboarding and training. By setting your team up for success through virtual training, you ensure that volunteers are equipped with all of the resources and knowledge needed to be successful. 

Since the nature of virtual volunteering is remote, it is even more important to invest in comprehensive training, coupled with active communication, to ensure all your volunteers are engaged and productive. 

Here are a few virtual training methods that organizations are currently leveraging: 

  • Virtual Meeting Training Sessions: This is as close to an in-person training session as possible. You can train your volunteers in lecture- or webinar-style sessions through Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Google Meet. 
  • Online Courses: Many organizations choose to invest in a learning management solution to create, host, and track volunteer training. Create an online training course and share it with volunteers to complete within a certain time frame. You can even monitor volunteers’ progress and note any areas of confusion to address common questions and concerns. 
  • Training Handbooks: Some organizations choose to create training documents and request that volunteers review them prior to working with the organization. You can make the documents available in a shared platform or system, such as Google Docs, to ensure all volunteers have access to important resources at all times. 

However you choose to train and onboard your volunteers, what is important is that all your volunteers are equipped with information to do their best work. In turn, they’ll be more successful in their roles, resulting in a more fulfilling experience.

Plus, as pointed out by InitLive’s guide to hosting effective volunteer orientations, volunteer training sessions help grow awareness of your mission by putting volunteer efforts into context. When volunteers can see the bigger picture of how their work helps advance your organization’s mission, they’ll feel more inspired to continue participating in your virtual opportunities. 

3. Don’t let your communication standards slip.

Although virtual volunteering comes with new management challenges, it’s important to maintain the same volunteer code of conduct and program best practices that made your organization successful in the first place. Upholding standards, policies, and procedures will ensure that all new virtual volunteer programs continue to work within your organization’s existing structure. 

Specifically, putting in extra effort to communicate with virtual volunteers and educate them on best practices may be required since everyone is working remotely. To keep things running smoothly, clearly state expectations and policies during training and be available to support volunteers while they are doing their work. 

Stay engaged with your volunteers using:

  • Frequent check-in communications to ensure they feel like they are a part of the team.
  • Volunteer surveys to better understand how you can improve procedures to support your team better. 
  • Thank-you messages and mission progress updates. 

Sharing updates and wins with volunteers keeps everyone motivated to do their best work. 

Also, use your communication strategy to engage volunteers in other initiatives happening at your organization. Whether it’s virtual events, volunteer grant opportunities, peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns, or advocacy initiatives, engaging volunteers in multiple areas strengthens their bonds with your organization. 

4. Create a foolproof technology plan.

Now more than ever before, nonprofit organizations are rethinking how to manage operations to accomplish more with the same resources. This is exactly why purpose-built technology solutions are created. Building a customized technology plan allows you to meet your organization’s current and predictable future needs. 

There are so many technology solutions available, and many of them can be brought together to deliver integrated technology strategies to help your organization meet its goals. For example, if your nonprofit uses the Salesforce CRM to help manage donors, you can integrate directly with the Salesforce Experience Cloud for Nonprofits to help manage volunteers. 

Bringing solutions like this together can help convert volunteers into donors and donors into volunteers, furthering multifaceted engagement in your organization and cause.

If you aren’t sure where to start with your technology plan, a skilled consultant can help you assess your needs and evaluate your options. Getting the right solutions set up the first time will ensure long-term success for your organization and allow you to keep your focus on what matters most: your worthy mission. A robust virtual volunteering program can give your nonprofit access to a widespread, dedicated volunteer corps that you might not have connected with in the past. With the right digital strategies and technology resources in place, you can make virtual volunteer management a breeze while offering supporters an engaging, fulfilling experience.

 

About the Author

Shreya is a creative content creator focusing on delivering information about the importance of volunteerism for nonprofit organizations. She is passionate about creating engaging content, writing, and graphic design to help viewers easily retain information. You can find her work at www.initlive.com or on Linkedin and Twitter.

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