By Paige Van Riper

Volunteers are often the lifeblood of nonprofit organizations, extending and augmenting their mission-driven work. As someone who has managed volunteers for many years, I am a big believer in the promise and power of volunteers.

These days technology plays a key role in running a robust volunteer program on a limited budget. As you enter a new year, now is a good time to evaluate if your nonprofit is taking full advantage of technology to assist in recruiting, retaining and rewarding your volunteers.

Connected Nonprofits

Salesforce.org just released their first ever “Connected Nonprofit Report” and one of the findings in that report is that, “75% of volunteers said they would be willing to volunteer more hours per year if they felt their nonprofits really knew them.” Stands to reason that we’re more likely to do more for those we have a deeper relationship with and what makes for a good relationship? Knowing the person you’re in the relationship with.

You might be thinking to yourself there are hundreds of volunteers at our organization and only a few staff. How are we going to get to know them better while still tackling the mountain of work on our plate? While nothing can replace face-to-face interactions in getting to know a volunteer, here is where technology can really help.

Technology to the Rescue

You likely had volunteers fill out an application when they started volunteering with your organization. Is that data somewhere you can easily access and take action on it? If it is still sitting in a paper application in a filing cabinet you’re not likely to be able to review and take action on data such as volunteers’ interests and skills. Imagine if you had it in a cloud-based database that was integrated with a mass email tool. With a few clicks you can easily personalize communications to volunteers based on their interests and skills to find the right position for them.

Maybe the volunteer filled out that application several years ago and their skills and interests have changed since then. Utilizing a survey tool that feeds the data about the volunteer’s new or changed interests would allow you to place volunteers in the best position for them currently and take advantage of newly gained skills.

Using technology can be critical in recruiting and engaging younger generations of volunteers. A statistic that stood out to me in Salesforce.org’s report was that 30% of Millennials said they learned about volunteer opportunities through social media. If your nonprofit isn’t utilizing social media to advertise volunteer opportunities, you’re likely missing out on a lot of younger volunteer prospects. Social media is a great platform that allows volunteers to easily recruit friends and family to help with a cause they’re involved in. Learning about volunteer opportunities from friends and family are the top two ways people cite for how they learned about volunteer opportunities, according to Salesforce.org’s report.

Technology Fears

Many nonprofit staff I’ve talked to have misgivings about utilizing technology as they fear it will replace face-to-face interactions. What I share with them is that the use of technology has the opposite effect. Using technology effectively to automate tasks that previously had to be done manually frees up staff time to spend more time interacting with volunteers. At the last nonprofit I worked for, implementing Salesforce and integrating it with our website allowed us to involve three times as many volunteers with the same number of staff managing them! It also freed our volunteer manager up to spend more time targeting and cultivating volunteers to become volunteer leaders, which was a central and key element in how we ran our tree planting programs.

Technology also allows you to engage volunteers virtually who might not be able to physically come to your location but who support your cause and want to help. Give some thought to what kinds of work you need help with that could be done virtually. As someone who works at an organization where all staff work virtually, I can tell you with confidence that with the right technology tools and a little forethought volunteers can perform a wide array of volunteer tasks virtually.

The use of technology is key to the success of any volunteer program in this day and age. If you are not the most technologically adept person, don’t worry. Go out there and find a volunteer (or two or three) who can help you maximize the power and promise technology can bring to connecting you to your volunteers.

Are you interested in becoming a connected nonprofit? Are you looking for ways to better reach out to your volunteer base? Reach out to Cloud for Good today to learn more.

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Paige Van Riper

Paige Van Riper