It’s amazing to think that more than half of Canada’s 161,000 non-profit and charitable organizations have no paid staff and rely solely on volunteers.

If you take a quick look at your origin story, it is more than likely to include the blood, sweat, and tears of some pretty amazing volunteers looking to create a community of like-minded people ready to right a wrong they saw in society.

From the volunteer board of directors that steers your organization year after year, through rough waters or doldrums, to the gung-ho students looking to gain some “fundraising” experience stuffing annual campaign letters in a basement office, they are dedicated life flow of energy that act as a resonating pulse for most not-for-profit organizations. Canada currently has 12.7 million volunteers – they are the fuel that fires change.

National Volunteer Week is happening April 19th – 25th, 2020.  It is worth circling with a bright red marker on your calendar because it matters. Here’s why:

  • Your volunteers are most likely also donors – in a recent Léger poll for the RABQ of over 2000 volunteers across Quebec, 68% say they make donations to the organization that they give their time and skills to. It is important to highlight the financial impact that volunteers make by sharing just how altruistic volunteers really are. They give because they know that it makes a difference to your organization. Which leads directly to the next point.
  • Your volunteers can be great brand ambassadorsif they get the appropriate training and support tools. By getting to know your volunteers better through effective surveys and feedback sessions you will be able to identify who could make a great brand ambassador for your organization. Provide them with the right speaking points, targeted marketing packages, and opportunities to shine and your volunteers will open doors that you might not have imagined. Don’t forget that volunteers also touch most, if not all, aspects of the organization and if you do not take a proactive approach and plan properly, your volunteer might unintentionally reveal aspects of your organizations that could tarnish your reputation.
  • Your volunteers need to stay motivated – Don’t take them for granted or you might find yourself lacking the manpower to get through your next fundraising event or missing a board member to make quorum. It is important to find out what motivates the volunteers you presently have and find the right kind of volunteers needed for the different areas in your organization. A recent survey suggest that the top 5 reasons people donate their time are: 
      • To contribute to their community 
      • To make use of skills and experience 
      • To support a cause that directly affects them 
      • To network and meet people 
      • To improve health and well-being

Do you know what motivates your volunteers and how you can better direct and increase that motivation? The degree to which they add value to your work and mission is dependent on how they are assigned tasks, trained, supervised, evaluated, and loved. Celebrate with your volunteers during National Volunteer Week this April 19th-25th. Here are a few ideas to get things brewing:

  • Use your organization’s newsletter, blog or social media channels as a way to profile the different kinds of volunteers you have on your team. Depending on your time and resources, you can schedule an interview with them in person or by phone, give them some questions to answer by email, or ask them to write something personal about their volunteering experience. Not only will it serve as a possible recruiting tool it is also a way to stay top of mind with donors without making a direct ask.
  • Volunteers want to know the impact of their efforts – 80% of volunteers surveyed by Volunteer Canada stated that they would like to be recognized or thanked by hearing about how their work has made a difference. This is about being sincere, authentic, and personal – a heartfelt handshake or small notecard and a concrete example of how your volunteer changed the outcome of an event or program can go a long way in saying thank you. It takes coordination and forethought not a special “volunteer appreciation budget” to celebrate your day to day heroes. A simple Linkedin recommendation can go a long way to make a volunteer feel appreciated.
  • It is all about community – remember that the number one reason volunteers do what they do is to contribute to the community. By offering simple opportunities for the community to create bonds using classically proven methods like pot-luck dinners, picnics, or outdoor activities that include food, drink, and cheer, your organization is celebrating the very thing that motivates the majority of volunteers – a resilient and self-sustaining community.

Volunteers should be at the top of your list when it comes to getting some appreciation. If you want to show some love to the people that have the biggest impact on the health of your organization, then do it right! Start planning now for the week of April 19th – 25th, 2020 – National Volunteer Week, come up with a plan, get the right tools, and show some love! Get started with Phil’s Karma Kit, great resources that you can use on your social media channels for Valentine’s Day and available right here.

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