Consider the barriers some prospective volunteers face when deciding whether or not to sign up to work with your organization. For instance, you may have audience members who don’t speak the same language that’s predominantly used within your organization. Or, some of your prospective volunteers may have disabilities that require a unique set of accommodations.
To foster an inclusive volunteer program and attract new volunteers, your organization must invest in creating an accessible volunteer sign-up process to ensure anyone who wants to volunteer can do so.
Investing in the right communication tools and updated technology allows your organization to reduce barriers to participation and start recruiting more passionate volunteers from all walks of life.
By investing in the development of an inclusive volunteer management strategy and sign-up process, your organization will be able to recruit more diverse volunteers and foster more meaningful and long-term relationships with them along the way.
In this article, we’ve compiled four ways to make your volunteer sign-up process more inclusive and convenient:
- Offer a variety of inclusive volunteer opportunities.
- Ensure your website is up to accessibility standards.
- Provide intuitive online scheduling tools.
- Build personal relationships with volunteers.
Practicing inclusive volunteer recruitment plays a major role in helping your team grow efficiently, build strong relationships, and create an enjoyable environment for all. Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can create an inclusive volunteer management process.
1. Offer a variety of inclusive volunteer opportunities.
To foster an inclusive volunteer sign-up process, you should first ensure your volunteer opportunities themselves are accessible for all. Providing a wide range of accessible volunteer opportunities increases your pool of potential volunteers, opening your opportunities to individuals from all backgrounds and ability levels.
Consider the wide array of barriers prospective volunteers may face before signing up for one of your opportunities. In addition to language barriers and disabilities, volunteers may be single parents who need access to childcare before being able to volunteer or those without vehicles who require access to public transportation or carpooling.
Creating volunteer opportunities with these limitations in mind allows everybody to get involved. For instance, you can:
- Set up a volunteer carpool list.
- Offer free childcare throughout your volunteer opportunities.
- Ensure your organization’s facility/volunteer opportunities are ADA compliant.
- Invest in the services of a translator or offer your volunteer training materials in a variety of languages.
In addition, you can offer volunteer experiences that are entirely online to reduce barriers to participation, such as transportation or scheduling issues. Peer-to-peer fundraisers are effective online volunteering opportunities because participants can conduct their fundraising campaigns from home. All they have to do is set up their personal fundraising pages and share them among their family members and friends.
The more you consider your prospective volunteers’ barriers to participation, the better equipped your volunteer opportunities will be to engage a wide variety of individuals.
2. Ensure your website is up to accessibility standards.
An accessible website plays a vital role in an inclusive volunteer recruitment strategy. A well-designed website not only presents all the information prospective volunteers need to get involved, but it also delivers that information in a way that’s readable by everyone.
Implement the following website accessibility guidelines into your volunteer program’s website:
- Include alternative text for images and transcripts for videos.
- Avoid flashing elements on pages.
- Ensure there’s significant contrast between any foreground text and the background.
- Provide clear page titles on each page.
- Ensure content can be navigated using just a keyboard.
Making your website accessible will ensure you aren’t turning away any prospective volunteers because they aren’t able to browse your online content. Plus, accessibility and user experience go hand in hand. This means that by making your nonprofit website more accessible, you improve the user experience of all visitors.
3. Provide intuitive online scheduling tools.
A convenient, accessible online scheduling system is also a crucial element of an inclusive volunteer sign-up process. Robust volunteer management software can easily provide the tools you need to ensure every volunteer can sign up and easily adjust their schedules.
Your volunteer management system should offer features such as:
- Opportunities for volunteers to sign up directly from your website.
- Matching tools that automatically link volunteers with opportunities that align with their preferences, availability, and interests.
- A mobile app where volunteers can receive updates and review their personal schedules.
Your volunteer management software should be user-friendly for people of all ages, backgrounds, and ability levels so that all volunteers can access the convenient scheduling and communication features.
Plus, you can boost volunteer satisfaction by allowing volunteers to adjust their schedules and preferences without needing to contact your organization to do so.
4. Build personal relationships with volunteers.
You won’t be able to find a one-size-fits-all solution that makes your volunteer program more accessible and inclusive. It’s important to form personal relationships with supporters to learn about each individual’s unique situation and how your organization can best support them. Doing so allows you to offer genuine, impactful support to each volunteer that empowers them to participate fully in your volunteer opportunities.
You can build these personal relationships by:
- Learning each volunteers’ name and initiating one-on-one conversations with them throughout the volunteer experience. This makes volunteers feel seen and appreciated as individuals and allows you to learn more about their backgrounds.
- Tracking volunteers’ interests, skills, and preferences in your volunteer management software. Maintaining accurate records of volunteers’ preferences allows you to reach out to them with relevant opportunities that they’re more likely to engage with.
- Sending surveys before volunteer opportunities to get to know more about volunteers. These surveys are a good opportunity to ask volunteers about what kind of accommodations they require. This might include anything from letting you know about their severe allergies to requesting an ASL translator.
- Sending surveys after volunteer experiences to solicit feedback. Ask volunteers about what they think went well and how your organization could support them better in the future. This gives your organization valuable insight that allows you to improve your volunteer opportunities while also allowing volunteers to make their voices heard.
By taking the time to form personal relationships with volunteers, you can boost their satisfaction with your organization, which can ultimately help you increase your volunteer retention rate. InitLive’s volunteer engagement guide also recommends implementing occasional one-on-one check-ins with volunteers. This is a great way to engage your core group of frequent volunteers and ensure they have everything they need to be successful.
Your efforts to make your volunteer experiences more inclusive should extend to every element of your volunteer opportunities, from your sign-up process to the volunteer experience itself. By making an effort to get to know volunteers as individuals, you can design inclusive, accessible opportunities that allow everyone to get involved.
Remember, dedicated volunteer management software can help your organization stay organized and keep track of important volunteer information. Keep this in mind as you strategize your improvements to your volunteer sign-up process.
Author: Cassandra Smallman, Head of Marketing at InitLive
Cassandra is a passionate content creator dedicated to fostering positive impact through thought leadership in both the Nonprofit sector and live events industry. You can find her work at www.initlive.com.