10 Best Practices for Volunteer Success: A Guide for Leaders of Professional Associations and Organizations

Professional associations and organizations thrive on the dedication and passion of their volunteers. These individuals are vital to the mission’s success, serving as ambassadors and driving the organization forward. As an association management team with decades of experience, we understand that volunteers are the backbone of a strong association.

To harness the full potential of volunteers, leaders must offer opportunities, the right tools, and guidance. Here, we delve into ten comprehensive best practices to set your volunteers on the path to success.

Streamline Application and Sign-Up Process

Begin with clarity. Outline roles, expectations, and objectives upfront. Consider tools such as online forms that detail position requirements, particularly for high-stake roles like board members or instructors. This fosters transparency and sets the stage for commitment.

Implement a Cohesive Communications Plan

Communication is paramount. From the onset:

  • Email Campaigns: Launch targeted volunteer email campaigns using platforms like Mailchimp. Highlight committees’ responsibilities and provide a bird’s-eye view of their mandates.
  • Personal Outreach: A personal touch can make all the difference. Send introductory emails using your email platform of choice, or make introductory calls. Offer overviews of committee meetings and identify primary contacts for members to follow up.
  • Volunteer Info Pages: Ensure your association’s website has a detailed volunteer section. Use it to outline expectations, share testimonials, and embed interest forms to capture potential leads.

Establish a Resource Library

In today’s digital age, a resource library is invaluable. A centralized, cloud-based system like Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive provides volunteers with templates, historical documents, and other essentials. Think of it as a knowledge hub that offers both autonomy and continuity.

Provide an Onboarding Manual or Handbook

A resource that’s worth its weight in gold! An onboarding manual can encompass:

  • The Association’s Ethos: Outline the history, mission, values, and vision.
  • Operational Details: Overview of roles, responsibilities, bylaws, and essential contacts.

Invest in Association Management Software (AMS)

In our tech-driven world, an AMS is indispensable. It manages databases, financial transactions, members, events, and more. Platforms like Wild Apricot or YourMembership can be a game-changer, streamlining processes and ensuring efficiency.

Equip with Communication & Collaboration Tools

Effective collaboration and communication are critical:

  • Internal Communication: Tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams can foster real-time discussions, brainstorming, and decision-making.
  • Task Management: Platforms like Trello or Asana can help volunteers track, manage, and delegate tasks efficiently.
  • File Sharing & Organization: Offer cloud storage solutions and emphasize best practices for file organization, ensuring easy accessibility for all.

Incorporate Calendar & Scheduling Tools

Because time is of the essence:

  • Shared Calendars: Tools like Google Calendar can flag important dates, industry holidays, deadlines, and events.
  • Meeting Scheduling: Platforms like Doodle eliminate the back-and-forth, making it easy to find available timeslots.

Roll Out Comprehensive Training Programs

Equip your volunteers for success:

  • Orientation: Provide a general overview of the association.
  • Role-specific Training: Cater to individual roles, especially intricate or specialized ones.
  • Technical Training: Cover platforms like association management software (AMS) and tools like Slack or Zoom.
  • Soft Skills Training: Guide on resolving conflicts, improving communication, and other related topics.

Prioritize Feedback Mechanisms

Evolve with feedback to ensure your organization maintains strong volunteer participation:

  • Feedback Forms: Tools like Google Forms or SurveyMonkey can provide insights into the volunteer experience.
  • Regular Check-ins: Mentorship programs or periodic one-on-one sessions can help address issues and gather feedback firsthand.

Launch a Mentoring/Shadowing Program

Pairing newcomers with experienced volunteers can be incredibly beneficial. It offers a safety net, reduces the learning curve, and fosters community. Experience is valuable, but guidance is essential.

In Conclusion

Ensuring volunteer success is more than a strategy; it’s an investment in the association’s future. With the right resources and support, there’s no limit to what a united group of passionate volunteers can achieve. Etherio specializes in providing association management services. Let us partner with you to build a brighter future for your association.

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