Top benefits for association leaders to connect with their volunteer members

One of the simplest ways to boost volunteer engagement and retention at your association is to have leadership create meaningful connections with volunteers. When volunteers feel appreciated, they’re more likely to invest in your association, saving your staff precious time and resources. As you develop your volunteer program, members become association ambassadors, helping to build public trust in your organization.  

Read on to learn why association leadership should take the extra step of investing in volunteers and for a “how-to” on improving volunteer engagement in your program.  

Why association leadership should make face time with volunteers
At some level, all volunteers desire to be recognized for their efforts. According to the Michigan 4-H Recognition Handbook, when volunteers are acknowledged, it gives them a chance for reflection, self-assessment, and a boost in self-esteem and motivation. Additionally, it encourages volunteer engagement and retention at your association.  

For the following reasons, leaders should maximize all opportunities to meaningfully recognize their volunteers: 

Volunteers save your association time and resources. Volunteers donate their time, freeing your staff to take care of more crucial tasks. The Urban Institute estimates volunteers worked 8.8 billion hours, valuing approximately $195 billion. If you have a vibrant volunteer program, just imagine the value for your association! 

Volunteers donate. Did you know that volunteers not only donate their time but their money, too? According to Fidelity Charitable, 70% of active donors also volunteered, some working 50 hours at an organization. The survey results found half of the volunteers donated money to the organization because they also volunteered.  

Thanking volunteers accelerates recruitment. When leaders go out of their way to recognize volunteers for their efforts at member town halls or in social media posts, other association members will notice. Publicly acknowledging your volunteer program is a great method to attract new volunteers and increase the recruitment of highly skilled members 

Attracting and developing a diverse and inclusive volunteer base will strengthen your program by providing a broad perspective of viewpoints and philosophies. Not only will your volunteer program benefit from an emphasis on DEI initiatives, but you’ll also positively impact your association and community.  

Acknowledging volunteers maximizes retention. When leadership gives volunteers face time, it can dramatically increase program retention. Volunteers who feel appreciated are more likely to continue serving at your association. Never assume a volunteer knows you appreciate their efforts. Even if they’ve volunteered at your organization for ten years, go out of your way to make them feel valued.  

TECH TIP: Utilize Nimble AMS data reporting functions to track volunteer milestones like how many years a volunteer has served, how many hours they’ve volunteered, and how many events they’ve worked so you can honor their efforts. ​

Volunteers bring association awareness. When you publicly recognize your volunteers it builds association awareness, further developing trust in your organization. When non-members learn their industry colleagues are routinely acknowledged by your association, their interest in your organization will grow. They’re also more likely to attend non-member events and consider joining your association. 

How​ to boost volunteer engagement through volunteer face time
Some volunteers may desire the opportunity to engage with leadership during events or conferences. Others may prefer the chance to connect over coffee or during their volunteer hours. Try to provide regular opportunities for volunteers to air their suggestions and concerns. When you focus on celebrating volunteer efforts and personal successes, you’ll build relationships with the volunteer base, maximizing volunteer engagement.  

Follow these additional tips to boost volunteer face time and you’ll see the positive effects of volunteer engagement at your association: 

Spotlight volunteer efforts. Try highlighting volunteer successes in member town halls and special events. Celebrate volunteer milestones and any personal successes your volunteers achieve. Host an annual thank-you party for volunteers and acknowledge the work they’ve done for the association. Open the event to all members and allow volunteers to share their experiences and accomplishments. Have leaders give volunteers awards and express gratitude for their ongoing commitment to the organization.  

Highlighting volunteer successes or presenting volunteer awards is a fantastic way to both increase volunteer engagement and recruitment efforts.  

Design a volunteer perk program. To prove you appreciate your volunteers and accelerate volunteer engagement, try developing a volunteer perk program. Giving your volunteers personal and professional benefits for donating their time will show you appreciate their work. Likewise, it will boost your association’s reputation. 

Consider offering the following rewards: 

  • Let qualified volunteers speak at webinars or conferences 
  • Permit volunteers to promote their employer if relevant to the association’s mission 
  • Allow volunteers to share updates at member town halls 
  • Encourage qualified volunteers to teach continuing education sessions 
  • Reimburse travel expenses, parking, or pay volunteers for their services 
  • Offer mentor/mentee programs 

Send thank you cards. One of the easiest ways to tell a volunteer you appreciate their work is to mail them a thank you card. Try sending a handwritten note with personalized details on why you value a volunteer’s service. Or if time is of the essence, follow up with an email campaign with customized greetings where you thank multiple volunteers for their work 

TECH TIP: Automate your volunteer thank you process with Nimble Create, by ​building personalized and branded email campaigns. Streamline with Nimble AMS to deliver customized notes of appreciation to your volunteer base minutes after your volunteer event ends.

Support your volunteers through an online community. Select someone in leadership to be the go-to volunteer support person. Next, create a virtual member community to connect with volunteers outside of service hours. An online community is a fantastic way to boost volunteer engagement. If your association already has one, try creating a subgroup or different channel for volunteers. Ensure your designated volunteer support person manages the virtual volunteer space and creates some basic content to get the discussion going.  

TECH TIP: Activate Nimble Communities to virtually engage your volunteers, connecting them with other members, and providing a safe space for them to air their suggestions and concerns.

Create a volunteer appreciation video. Show your volunteers you care by making a memorable thank you video. By no means does the video need to be professional quality—instead, focus on expressing your gratitude, speaking from your heart on why you value your volunteer’s service. Be sure to specifically mention volunteers by name and explain their crucial work in your association.  

Consider adding pictures or video segments of volunteers at work to further highlight their efforts. Once you’ve finished creating the thank you video, share it on social media, in member emails, in online member communities, and at your volunteer thank you event. Try creating volunteer appreciation videos quarterly, to regularly emphasize the work of your volunteers.  

Learn more

To learn more tips on how to elevate your volunteer program read our guide, How to recruit more volunteers at your association

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