Think Your Non-Profit Can Go It Alone? Think Again.

by Stacey Diffin-Lafleur

shutterstock_183388412How far can you stretch…and still get everything done? I’ll bet it’s not as far as you’d like; it never is. Your budgets, resources and technology needs vary with time. The needs of your clients, can move in peaks and valleys, however when all is said and down, they still need your help.

If you are trying to be all things to all people in your organization, you may not succeed the way you hope to. Consider this, you got involved to help people and society, to make their lives better? Yes. If you are head down in spreadsheets, dealing with landlords, staff, paying the bills…and more serving the needs of you agency how much capacity do you have left?  When you get down to the front line work ― the role you trained for and joined this sector to do ― are you going to feel stretched pretty thin?

Help is available

Think of volunteers, there are hundreds, nay thousands of talented people who want to help you ― they may be retired accountants, public servants, students, fundraisers, event planner, or lawyers ― but they need and value your guidance and direction. Here are a few ideas to keep in mind to make volunteer talent and experience work for everyone.

Meet first: Have an initial meeting to scope out what experience your potential volunteer is looking for, and what they know about your organization. They may know nothing other than they’ve been referred to you, and they just want to help. This is the time to educate them about what the organization needs, and what is expected from volunteers. It’s also a time for them to ask questions and really nail down their interests.

Orientation: Once on board, your volunteers must understand your organization’s Mission and Vision. In addition to volunteering, they will also be advocates for your organization. In my experience organizations can look a lot different from the inside than from the outside. In fact it is more than likely a lot bigger and busier than they even imagined.

Job descriptions: You’d never hire and individual and say, ‘well do what you can’, so don’t do that with your volunteers. Develop a job description that outlines milestones, progression plans, feedback opportunities and why this job is important to the bottom line and your mission.

Check in: frequently at first. Make sure your volunteer is not getting bogged down by not understanding their role, or in their eagerness to help by saying yes too often. Make sure what they are doing suits them, the level of effort reasonable and is doable; otherwise you could risk having a demotivated volunteer, which won’t help, and in fact can hurt your good plans.

Say thanks: Thank them how they want to be thanked. A simple handwritten note, and personal thank you, public recognition, a plaque, all these things can be your regular way of saying thank you. You may be surprised though, for most volunteers no thanks are necessary. I have always thought that, and I’ve volunteered for years, a simple thanks and a smile is more than enough for me.

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