6 Creative Volunteer Engagement Ideas for Nonprofits

As a volunteer coordinator, one of your most important ongoing responsibilities is to engage your volunteers. This is because it’s much more time and cost-effective to engage and retain current volunteers rather than constantly expend energy on recruiting new volunteers. 

However, if your volunteer program has been in operation for a while, you might feel like your volunteer engagement strategies are getting a little stale. You’ve tried all of the traditional advice, from segmenting your volunteers to creating personalized outreach, but you’re looking for something new to inspire and excite your supporters. 

If this sounds familiar, it’s time to change things up and explore some creative ways you can interact with your volunteers and keep them engaged in what you have to offer. Here are six ideas for better volunteer engagement: 

  1. Use your social media pages to interact with volunteers. 
  2. Offer a reward for your volunteer of the month.
  3. Inspire friendly competition with gamification.
  4. Give your volunteer opportunities a creative theme.
  5. Encourage volunteers to bring along family and friends. 
  6. Help volunteers cultivate new skills. 

Keep in mind that effective volunteer engagement isn’t a one-and-done task. It requires an ongoing process that combines multiple engagement strategies to keep volunteers in the loop and offer them compelling reasons to stay involved. Let’s dive in to learn more!

1. Use your social media pages to interact with volunteers. 

Social media is more than just a tool for accumulating followers. It’s also a great place to show off your volunteers’ achievements, update them on upcoming events, and express appreciation. There are approximately 3.78 billion social media users worldwide, and with this rise in popularity, you should leverage multiple social pages to inform and interact with your volunteers.

Post volunteer shoutouts highlighting certain volunteer projects or specific volunteers who went above and beyond during a recent opportunity. Take photos during your volunteer opportunities and events and post those photos on your social media pages such as Facebook and Instagram. Be sure to tag each individual and encourage them to share the posts to help spread awareness of your opportunities.

Social media is also a great medium to communicate important information to your volunteers all at once. Let’s say you’re hosting a fundraising gala, and you want to attract as many potential attendees and donors as possible. You can encourage volunteers to be ambassadors and share your posts and event page on their social media accounts to get the word out. This way, you can attract a larger pool of audience members and encourage them to participate in your event.

2. Offer a reward for your volunteer of the month.

Acknowledging and rewarding your volunteers is a crucial component in keeping them engaged and motivated. Your volunteers donate many hours to help your cause, so it’s necessary to recognize the positive impact they have on your organization. 

To reward volunteers who make a sizable impact on your mission, consider offering a volunteer of the month program. Make the designation extra-special by offering winners a special prize or award. Examples of rewards can be:

  • A gift card to a local business or restaurant – Everybody loves free food! Rewarding your outstanding volunteer with a gift card to a popular restaurant nearby will generate excitement and motivate your volunteer to continue giving their best efforts. This is a fun way to encourage your volunteers while also supporting a local business.
  • Free merchandise – Consider offering your volunteer of the month free merchandise such as a t-shirt, mug, hat, or water bottle. Customize your merchandise with your nonprofit’s logo as well as a short message such as “Volunteer of the Month, April 2022.” This is a memorable gift and will make your organization stand out! 
  • A special gala/certificate – Host a volunteer appreciation gala where attendees dress up and celebrate each other’s achievements. During this event, you can offer a certificate to your hard-working volunteer of the year. You can also highlight their accomplishments and what exactly they did that made them the volunteer of the year. This will make your volunteer feel special and encourage them to stay involved in your cause.
  • A trophy – This is a great tangible reward that your volunteer can take home and place on a shelf. This symbol of their achievement will remind your volunteers of the general positive feeling that your organization promotes, which will make them want to continue volunteering with your nonprofit longer.

Rewarding your volunteers contributes to keeping them engaged and feeling appreciated for their accomplishments. Even a simple gesture of appreciation, such as a handwritten note, can go a long way.

3. Inspire friendly competition with gamification.

Gamification involves adding game mechanics to non-gaming environments and features elements such as points, leaderboards, and badges. This concept can be used to motivate and engage your volunteers in a fun way.

Use your volunteer management tools to keep track of each volunteers’ progress. For instance, keep track of volunteers’ total number of hours or statistics related to fundraising initiatives, such as how many peer-to-peer donations volunteers raised. Then, inspire a little friendly competition by incorporating gamification into your volunteer tracking system.

Award volunteers with badges or points once they hit certain milestones, such as a specific number of hours worked or donations raised. Then, volunteers can continue earning points until they hit a certain benchmark, where they can receive a prize.

Gamification is very effective in inspiring volunteers to reach a goal because it encourages them to push themselves. People love to participate in activities with a slight edge of competition because it inspires a drive to succeed and makes accomplishing tasks fun. Plus, elements like points and badges provide instant feedback on your volunteers’ performance, which will satisfy the need for recognition and will push them to do even better.

4. Give your volunteer opportunities a creative theme.

Giving your volunteer opportunities and events a theme makes them more fun and exciting for everyone. With the right planning and strategies in place, a themed event can boost engagement and attract more participants. 

For example, if you’re hosting a canned food drive near Halloween, consider making it more than just a canned food drive— make it a Halloween-costume-themed canned food drive! Or, if you’re hosting a 5K event, encourage participants and volunteers to come wearing their favorite Disney-themed outfit. This changes things up a bit and adds an extra flavor of excitement. It also allows your volunteers to socialize with others, making their volunteering experience less work-intensive and more fun.

Making your volunteer and fundraising opportunities themed also helps market them to community members. It will catch the attention of anyone who passes by, offering a great opportunity to talk about what your event and organization as a whole is all about. This can encourage community members to donate to your cause or even sign up to volunteer at a future opportunity. 

5. Encourage volunteers to bring along family and friends. 

When your volunteers include their family and friends in your events and activities, they’ll feel much more comfortable participating and likely have more fun since they already have one or two people they know. It also helps promote awareness of your volunteer program to a larger audience.

However, the first step is to offer a memorable experience for your volunteers first before they bring their family and friends along. Proper volunteer engagement and management involves giving your current volunteers a positive experience so that they promote your program to family and friends via word-of-mouth advertising. 

From there, you can encourage them to create social media posts to share information about any upcoming activities, conferences, and fundraising events to attract the interest of potential participants. Remember to offer proper training and tools to help them feel confident in getting the word across. 

Once they’ve caught the interest of new volunteers from their audience of family and friends, add the names and contact information for these new volunteers to your volunteer management database to help grow your audience. 

6. Help volunteers cultivate new skills. 

Every volunteer offers their own unique set of skills and strengths. By providing training opportunities, you can enhance their skill set and offer an added benefit to your volunteer program! 

Learning never stops, and by offering new roles, you will help your volunteers step out of their comfort zone and grow their knowledge base. As a volunteer coordinator, you will have a much easier time engaging with volunteers if your program is just as beneficial for them as it is for you. 

There are plenty of ways you can help volunteers earn new skills, such as:

  • Offering volunteers eLearning training – This allows your volunteers to learn at their own pace, in the comfort of their homes. You can create several modules for your volunteers to work through and provide a certificate for completion. Offering an eLearning training experience also allows you to monitor volunteers’ progress and provides an ongoing resource if volunteers have any questions or concerns.
  • Providing unique virtual experiences – If you’re hosting a virtual event, you can offer your volunteers valuable virtual experiences. Your virtual volunteers can help manage your nonprofit’s digital efforts, such as website maintenance or hybrid event management. This is an excellent opportunity for them to learn independently as they will be in charge of different areas of your online event. Most in-person volunteering experiences don’t offer as much independence since there is typically a volunteer coordinator on site to oversee everything. However, virtual volunteer opportunities can offer greater leadership opportunities, allowing volunteers to gain confidence and learn new technical skills.
  • Giving them leadership opportunities – If you have any experienced or long-time volunteers, you can upgrade their role by offering leadership opportunities. This can include taking charge of training new volunteers, leading a volunteer opportunity, or even being a mentor! This can provide volunteers with a resume booster and offer the experience they may need for any future job opportunities.

Helping your volunteers grow by offering opportunities to learn new skills can foster an enjoyable, unique experience for participants. Remember to celebrate all their achievements and offer ongoing support to help answer questions or address concerns!

There you have it! Now that you’ve learned six different volunteer engagement ideas, it’s time to plan how you will go about putting these plans into action! Shaking up your current engagement strategies will bring some excitement to both your staff and volunteers. Your volunteers are the backbone of your organization and help you reach your goals, so it’s important to focus on how to increase their satisfaction and plan accordingly.

Remember to request feedback from your volunteers as it will help you measure the success of your program. Good luck!

Author: Shreya Tragad is a creative content creator focusing on delivering information about the importance of volunteerism for nonprofit organizations. She is passionate about creating engaging content, writing, and graphic design to help viewers easily retain information. You can find her work at www.initlive.com or on Linkedin and Twitter.

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