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As a leader in a nonprofit, it can be tough to expect volunteers to show up and perform with the same enthusiasm and consistency as the employee of a for-profit organization. While volunteers may very well be passionate about the causes that they support, no pay and inconsistent schedules can cause some volunteers to spend their time socializing. This requires organizations to field more help and more management, draining resources further. The best volunteers are those that are motivated and can operate without much direction, but reaching this stage takes some effort from the nonprofit.

Engaging with volunteers isn’t an exact science, but I’d like to outline some of the ways that nonprofits can mold a force of exceptional individuals.

Training is king.

Just like any other business, creating a strong team requires some level of investment. Nobody would trust an individual right off the street to do a job in their company, so why would a nonprofit trust somebody to help out without any training? The introduction to a nonprofit is the most important stage of building strong volunteers, and training programs should be consistent and fully vetted. Recruit veteran members of the company who are passionate about the cause to serve as instructors.

Organize, but be flexible.

Often, volunteers are people with careers outside of a nonprofit. A stringent schedule may not work for all, so offer ample opportunities for them to help out. A nonprofit should be consistent in scheduling, with an online portal or similar method to easily organize events and efforts. Even for volunteers that don’t have a lot of time to dedicate, providing the opportunity can leverage their talents as much as possible.

Account for skillsets.

Every nonprofit needs something different from its volunteers, but if their teams have certain skills that can come in handy, they should put them to good use. From landscapers to computer programmers, nonprofits can make use of a myriad of professions, even in ways that don’t necessarily work directly with beneficiaries.

Provide opportunity for advancement.

Volunteers stay on if they feel they can make an impact. Similarly, they’ll keep working if they see the potential to positively affect a nonprofit or even manage others on their team. Provide a distinct structure for teams, or even considering recruiting professional positions from the ranks of ardent volunteers.

Leverage social media.

Building the brand of a nonprofit is based partly in social media, and offers an organization a great way to connect with their volunteers and share their hard work. Posting about volunteers generates interest and awareness about a nonprofit with a minimum of time and effort, and provides a space for volunteers to talk. Scheduling events and volunteer opportunities can even be done through social media to reach an audience instantly.