How to Manage Remote Volunteers
Many volunteer projects can be completed remotely. A recent example at ESC would be the creation of our new information sheet. Remote volunteering allows more people to be able to volunteer for a greater amount of time. Depending on the activity, remote volunteering can be a rewarding way for people to support missions they believe in from anywhere at any time. Remote volunteering helps organizations keep costs down while maximizing their impact.
Here is how to manage remote volunteers at your nonprofit organization.
Like with in person volunteers, it is far easier to recruit and retain remote volunteers if you match individuals to tasks they enjoy. As a result, carefully think about and communicate your volunteer needs prior to matching volunteers to them.
Set Expectations + Responsibilities
Team members, including volunteers, are provided with the greatest opportunity for success when they have clear expectations and responsibilities. That affords volunteers the opportunity to fully know and execute on their role. The challenge that nonprofits face in this is having volunteers they can depend on.
Communication Is Key
Respond to volunteers’ questions as promptly as possible. If you don’t know the answer or if the answer is subject to change, it’s okay to tell them.
Remember to avoid unprofessional language, insulting anyone or their beliefs, and never "reply all" to an email.
Feedback on Volunteers’ Efforts
Through the volunteer process provide clear and direct feedback. Negative feedback should be given by phone or video conference and not by email. Remember that it is easy to misread the tone of an email as far more negative than intended. The responsibility is on the sender to make a special effort to make email tone clear.
Utilize free technologies such as Google Drive folders, Google Voice, and YouTube to share resources and tools with volunteers. If you are sending files, use PDF format to ensure that a wide range of devices will be able to access the file contents and maintain the intended formatting.
If you’re able to create opportunities for partnerships or mentors among volunteers, do so. This increases volunteer engagement, retention, knowledge sharing, and satisfaction. It also provides volunteers with additional professional networking opportunities.
Volunteer led teams can help organizations organize their efforts through the deputization of a leader. The teams can maximize the organization’s impact without expending staff member responsibilities. They provide excellent professional experience for the leader.
The challenge with volunteer led teams for the leader is when they find themselves with a lack of active team members. As a result, nonprofits should remember that they have a recruitment and retention responsibility for volunteers in those teams as well as for the team leaders themselves.
If you can measure the impact of the work the volunteer is doing, do so. Then share with them the results. If you have the information, don’t wait for them to ask for it.
Feedback for Organizations
Short anonymous surveys can provide important feedback on the volunteer experience to organizations. Make sure that the time it takes to respond to a survey is less than 5 minutes.
Once you get the feedback use it to celebrate what you’re doing right. Then seriously focus on how you can incorporate the volunteer feedback in an improved remote volunteer management effort.
To learn more we recommend you also read “How to Lead Remotely” by the Executive Service Corps (ESC).
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