By Derek Alley, CFRE, Co-Founder and President of Arthur Alley

There are many reasons to appreciate your volunteers. This selfless group of individuals gives their time and talent to propel your mission forward.

While the time commitment of a volunteer may range from a one-day project to a board seat, many nonprofits neglect to empower their volunteers by placing them in roles that can add momentum to the charity’s mission. We believe this is an opportunity missed!

Your Next Steps to Bolster Your Volunteer Program and Increase Their Total Impact at Your Nonprofit Organization


1. Invite volunteers into strategic conversations.

Simone Joyaux, in her book Strategic Fund Development: Building Relationships That Last highlights the importance of inviting volunteers into strategic conversations. She writes, “Planning committee members challenge your organization by asking the tough questions. Don’t just recruit board members and other insiders. Seek new perspective and expertise in your community.” Inviting volunteers to join strategic committees is one way to do this.

2. Ask your volunteers to assess community needs.

Community Needs Assessment identifies unmet and under-met needs in your organization’s service area and suggests how you can best address those needs within the parameters of your mission. These assessments serve as the roadmap for your organization’s future, setting a strong foundation for your strategic plan and fundraising case for support.

Yet, most nonprofits don’t ask for their volunteers’ input.

Your volunteers live and work in the same community where your nonprofit provides services, and their opinions and experiences can challenge your status quo and bring a fresh point of view.

3. Use volunteer involvement to set organizational direction.

Volunteers can help plan and achieve your mission’s goals.

Invite volunteers to join your Planning Task Force, a 7-to-10-member group that ensures your plans are community-owned and have community commitment. Their outside perspective will help you create a plan that is on-mission, needed in the community, and achievable.

By including volunteers from the start of the planning phase, you’ll have broad-base support and ownership of your organization’s next initiative.

4. Train volunteers to be your best fundraisers.

There Are 6 Ways Volunteers Can Impact Your Fundraising

  1. Volunteers have a unique perspective on your case for impact. In their own words, let them share why people should give! Hand them the mic at a fundraising event, or ask them to take over your social media account for a day.
  2. Volunteers help identify new donors or volunteers and make strategic introductions.
  3. Volunteers extend the impact of your nonprofit organization’s paid fundraising staff.
  4. Volunteers bolster your stewardship programs. Have your volunteers make thank-you calls or send hand-written notes to your donors. Pro tip: Many volunteers appreciate a script or template to guide them through this outreach. 
  5. Volunteers willingly share their credibility and network with you.
  6. The enthusiasm generated by volunteers is contagious. Whenever you’ve seen a viral fundraising campaign, it’s due to volunteers extending the message.


5. Encourage volunteers to get involved where they can make the biggest impact.

Oftentimes, volunteers are tasked with admin jobs or physical labor. While most volunteers are currently retired or stay-at-home parents, many have a wide range of experiences. Additionally, sometimes people are drawn to volunteer opportunities as an outlet for a hobby or passion they don’t get to pursue during their 9-to-5.

For example, someone with a retail background may be able to train your thrift store staff on visual merchandising best practices. Or a volunteer with a bent for personal finance may be able to lead a course for your clients.

The key is to connect your volunteers’ talents with your mission’s needs. Here are 3 questions to ask during your volunteer interviews to uncover their best fit:

  1. What do you spend your day doing? Are you looking for a similar volunteer experience or wanting to do something else?
  2. What hobbies or interests do you have that you think could apply to your time volunteering here?
  3. How will you measure your personal impact here?

Using the volunteer’s answers to place them in a volunteer role will also make it more likely that they’ll stick around for the long run.

A fulfilled volunteer is a committed volunteer.

No matter how you decide to leverage your volunteers’ time and talents, remember this: “Volunteers must be meaningfully involved, properly recognized, and given a sense of importance,” writes Timothy Seiler in Achieving Excellence in Fundraising. “They must be made to feel that they are an important part of a worthwhile team serving a worthwhile program.”

As nonprofit leaders and consultants, we have a responsibility to create this type of experience.

Are you looking for new ways to improve your volunteer programs and make the most of their donated time and talents? Arthur Alley can help. Reach out for more information about our Mission Planning Study service and how a Task Force of volunteers can support your ministry’s long-term goals.