by Tatiana Morand
photo ny istockphoto.com
Most nonprofits and membership organizations depend on volunteers to help run projects, raise funds, organize events, and even manage day-to-day administration.
These individuals are also likely members, supporters or donors – the very folks your organization is trying to engage and retain. So making the effort to get your volunteers off to a good start is critical. They need to understand – from the get go – how important their role is to your organization. They also need to feel they are part of a team working towards a common goal.
So do you have a process for welcoming, orienting and engaging your new volunteers?
We recognize that finding time to develop, customize and maintain a new volunteer welcome and orientation process can be difficult, especially for small organizations with few or no staff. Although they rely on volunteers, the staff or volunteer leaders are often time and resource-challenged.
So we’ve developed this New Volunteer Checklist to help you get started. Take a look through our checklist and check off the items you’ve got covered (for a great sense of accomplishment); identify items you need to address; or use this as a jumping off point for your own volunteer orientation “to do” list.
For more details, you can also check out our article Volunteer Orientation and Training for Nonprofits: The Ultimate Guide, which offers additional ideas and resources.
Take a look through the following checklist – scan it or print it out, then:
- Check things off that you’ve got covered
- See what pops out that you need to address or pull out pertinent items and create your own checklist
How will you get to know the new volunteer?
☐ Did you capture information about the volunteers in the screening process?
☐ Is the volunteer a member or supporter – whose profile will be available in your membership database?
Who should be involved in the welcome and orientation process?
☐ Does each committee or event chair provide a one-on-one welcome for their new team members?
☐ Do you provide mentors or volunteer buddies to help welcome and orient new volunteers?
Do you have a structure in place for communication and performance management?
☐ Do team or committee leaders perform regular check-ins with volunteers?
☐ Does each new volunteer have an assigned coordinator or manager as a key contact?
What tools and resources will you need?
☐ Does each volunteer role have a job description?
☐ Do you have a volunteer manual?
Making new volunteers feel welcome:
☐ Do you have a process in place to welcome new recruits?
☐ Is someone assigned to greet the new volunteer in person?
Onboarding remote volunteers:
☐ Did every remote volunteer receive a welcome email with everything they need to know?
☐ Did every remote volunteer receive all the necessary training and onboarding materials via email?
☐ Did you set up a group introductory call to replace an in-person meeting?
☐ Does every remote volunteer have the necessary software tools, access to online communication channels (ex: Teams, Slack) and all the login information?
☐ Do remote volunteers have a contact person they can reach out to at any point if they have questions or need help?
☐ Do remote volunteers have an online space where they can engage and support each other?
Orientation or onboarding that inspires and empowers:
☐ Does your orientation or onboarding process inspire:
☐ Can you customize your orientation based on…
- The individual’s background with or knowledge of the organization?
- The particular volunteer job?
- Prior experience with this type of role?
- Legal or liability issues around the job to be performed?
☐ Have you considered non-traditional ways of providing orientation information? For example:
- Can some of the documents be available online (for mobile access) for review prior to a face-to-face session?
- Would existing volunteers be willing to offer their insight and experience?
- Are there documents or procedure manuals that some volunteers are required to read prior to starting their job? If so, how can you make these available and/or confirm their comprehension?
☐ Do your orientation materials include:
- An overview of the organization – its mission, vision, values?
- An outline of the organizational structure (e.g., key staff members, leadership volunteers and an explanation of their roles)?
- A general overview of the type of volunteer jobs?
- Physical orientation to your office, project location, event venue – so they know their way around?
- An outline of any policies, rules, and procedures?
- An overview of any volunteer training that is required and pertinent schedules?
- Contact information and emergency procedures?
Training that motivates and engages volunteers
☐ Does your training style match your volunteers’ needs? For example…
- Can you offer informal versus formal, classroom-style training?
- Is peer-to-peer training an option you can consider?
- Can you incorporate hands-on practice into your training?
☐ Are you overwhelming new recruits with too much material?
- To avoid information overload can you:
- Offer only “need to know” information?
- Allow learners to check out additional optional information on their own via your website?
Saying thank you and recognizing volunteers’ efforts:
☐ Do you have a process for checking in with volunteers and offering feedback?
☐ Do you recognize volunteer efforts and explain how these are making a difference at your organization?
☐ Do you thank volunteers often and sincerely?
We hope this volunteer checklist helps you fine-tune your existing volunteer onboarding process or acts as a roadmap for developing a consistent new process to welcome new volunteers. Best of luck with your new volunteers!