7 Tips and Tricks to Connect with Summer Volunteers

Summer is a season of warmth, growth, and an abundance of opportunities to do more good in our communities. It’s also a time when a new segment of nonprofit supporters opts to dedicate their time to social good.

As nonprofit professionals like yourself gear up for the summer months, recruiting this volunteer group becomes paramount. After all, connecting with your volunteers is a crucial component of volunteer engagement⁠—as well as maintaining an overall effective volunteer management strategy.

In this guide, we’ll explore seven actionable tips and tricks that will help your team foster meaningful connections with summer volunteers. In the end, the goal is that their time and contributions leave a lasting impression.

Seven Ways to Create Meaningful Summer Volunteer Connections

  1. Understand and communicate the value of summer volunteers
  2. Highlight impactful short-term volunteer opportunities
  3. Establish partnerships with schools and other organizations
  4. Foster a sense of community with ongoing volunteer team-building activities
  5. Encourage summer volunteers to look into their employers’ “Dollars for Doers” grants
  6. Prioritize volunteer appreciation
  7. Solicit feedback from summer volunteers to improve your program for next year

Whether you’re running a summer camp, organizing a fundraising event, or managing a community service project, harnessing the power of your summer volunteers is essential. And we’re here to help you achieve that goal.

Let’s get started!

1. Understand and communicate the value of summer volunteers.

When it comes to connecting with summer volunteers, it all starts with understanding the value they bring. To do so, ask yourself (and your team) this: why are these volunteers essential for our organization’s success this season?

More specifically, define their impact on your cause. Clearly outline the ways in which they’ll contribute to your organization’s goals⁠—whether that’s reducing program costs, increasing your mission’s reach, supporting fundraising initiatives, providing unique and valuable expertise, etc.

Once you recognize the ways in which your summer volunteers will further your mission, you’ll be able to communicate their value outwardly as well. This will be essential not only for engaging such volunteers once they’re a part of your team, but it can also aid in recruitment in the first place!

2. Highlight impactful short-term volunteer opportunities.

Summer volunteer programs face unique challenges in that it’s important to identify valuable short-term volunteer opportunities. After all, individuals want to feel impactful in their roles to support your organization, so they’ll likely prefer tasks they feel can make a real difference in the limited summer months.

In order to build a devoted summer volunteer base this year, consider prioritizing specific, focused projects that deliver immediate results. A few examples might include:

Seasonal programming ⁠— Any sort of mission-related programming that’s already contained in the summer months is a great choice for summer volunteers. For example, hosting a summer camp, participating in a summer literacy program, or organizing a summer sports league.

Nonprofit events ⁠— If you’re planning an upcoming event (such as a run/walk/ride, gala, or auction) this summer, short-term volunteers can fit in perfectly! Most events are complete in a single day, anyway, and summer is a big event-hosting season—making it an excellent way to engage season volunteers.

Fundraising support ⁠— While fundraising is generally an all-year-round initiative, you might choose a particular campaign with which to focus your summer volunteer efforts (for example, a Giving Day or peer-to-peer fundraiser). Plus, fundraising can offer instant gratification in terms of volunteer impact when dollars immediately begin flowing into your nonprofit.

Short-term projects ⁠— Projects that are limited in scope and can be completed in a few days, weeks, or months, such as home repairs and renovations, community garden maintenance, and environmental clean-ups, are also ideal for summer volunteer programming.

3. Establish partnerships with schools and other organizations.

When aiming to recruit dedicated individuals to take part in your summer volunteer program, reaching out to local schools and other organizations in your area can provide excellent opportunities for collaboration.

While many schools are out for the summer, they can still provide an excellent opportunity for connecting with new volunteers. After all, many high schools and colleges have volunteer hour requirements for their students, making them a prime resource for summer volunteers.

Some companies will even be looking for new ways to engage their staff through volunteerism as a team-building activity in the summer months. So if you haven’t considered corporate philanthropy partnerships as a way to source volunteer groups, you might want to look into it!

4. Foster a sense of community with ongoing volunteer team-building activities.

People volunteer with nonprofit causes for a variety of reasons, but one of the most popular motivations is a desire to engage with a community. Thus, optimize your summer volunteer program by doing just that.

When you foster a welcoming and inclusive environment where summer volunteers feel like valued members of your organization, you can help establish a sense of community that benefits everybody involved.

So how exactly can you do so? Facilitate team-building activities and provide opportunities for social connections within group experiences. Encourage volunteers to get to know one another⁠—they already have a lot in common by working with your organization!

5. Encourage summer volunteers to look into their employers’ “Dollars for Doers” grants.

Summer volunteers already support your organization in a myriad of ways. But when you have a chance to turn volunteer hours into grant funding for your mission, you don’t want to overlook the opportunity! And that’s where volunteer grants come in.

Offered by tons of companies to the charitable causes their employees volunteer with, these grants are a fantastic way to amplify the impact of volunteers’ efforts and secure additional funding for your organization. And generally, all you have to do is inform volunteers about the opportunity and encourage them to complete the request process for their employers. (And if you utilize a tool like Double the Donation’s volunteer grant database, you can easily provide them with direct links to their companies’ submission forms.)

Once they’ve navigated to the appropriate form, the volunteer typically fills out a brief questionnaire, offering information about your nonprofit and their hours devoted to the cause. The employer then reviews the request and provides a grant to your organization⁠.

From there, you can invest the funds back into your volunteer program or put it toward other mission-focused initiatives⁠—talk about a win-win!

6. Prioritize volunteer appreciation.

Don’t forget to regularly acknowledge and appreciate the efforts of your summer volunteers, either. Celebrate key milestones, recognize exceptional performance, and express gratitude for volunteers’ dedication to your mission.

This can be done in a multitude of ways but might include:

  • Personalized thank-you notes (such as a physical letter, email, or text message)
  • Public recognition (on social media, in newsletters, at events)
  • Small tokens of appreciation (e.g., free branded merchandise)

Not to mention, regularly updating volunteers on the impact of their support through the program can reinforce your appreciation for the fact that they’re making a tangible difference for your cause. Consider sharing success stories, statistics, and testimonials to demonstrate purpose and highlight your gratitude.

7. Solicit feedback from summer volunteers to improve your program for next year!

Your summer volunteer program is a valuable opportunity not just for your organization and the communities you serve but also for the individuals who generously dedicate their time and energy to your cause. To ensure continuous improvement and provide an exceptional experience year after year, it’s essential to encourage feedback from summer volunteers actively.

This might include…

  • Providing an accessible way to provide feedback (such as an anonymous suggestion box)
  • Sending an online volunteer survey at the end of the program
  • Conducting exit interviews to facilitate in-depth conversations
  • Hosting regular check-in opportunities throughout the season

After hearing from your team of volunteers, evaluate your program’s effectiveness. Consider analyzing key metrics, such as volunteer retention rates, hours contributed, and volunteer satisfaction levels. Then, use this data to identify areas where improvements can be made.

Just remember⁠, if you’re going to encourage feedback, it’s important to review provided suggestions and implement changes as necessary. Let volunteers know that their input is taken seriously and incorporated into your continuously developing strategy. Think of it this way: feedback is a gift that can help you build a stronger and more impactful summer volunteer program year after year.

Summer volunteers make up a crucial part of many organizations’ operational strategies. And when utilized to their fullest potential, these volunteers’ impact can last long beyond the turn of the season.

So bring your volunteer program to new heights! By implementing the above tried-and-true practices in your engagement strategy, you can more effectively connect with volunteers as they drive forward your mission with their own dedication to the cause.

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Photo Brandy Strand
Brandy Strand
Nonprofit Partnerships Account Executive

No guilt trips, no sad stories. Just a chance to do something good.