How to boost volunteer efficiency through data management

Two things are essential to a nonprofit’s success: effective data management and volunteerism. From donation amounts to volunteer hours, your daily operations yield numerous data points that can strategically guide your nonprofit’s decisions. 

But did you know that you can use your data to boost volunteer efficiency? When managed wisely, data can enhance the volunteer experience with your nonprofit and encourage productivity. 

Whether they’re operating your fundraising event software, advocating for your organization, or doing the grunt work to fulfill your nonprofit’s mission, your volunteers will want to do their absolute best when you use data management to guide their involvement. Let’s look at three ways your nonprofit can use its data to boost volunteer efficiency.

Increase volunteer efficiency by offering fulfilling roles

There’s a saying that people who love their jobs never work, and the same can be said about your volunteers! When their tasks align with their schedules, interests, and skills, they’ll be more invested in their work and excited to volunteer.

For example, let’s say Amy and Bekah volunteer at the animal shelter. During their involvement with your organization, you might learn more about their:

  • Availability: It’s common sense that you won’t have a lot of support if your volunteers aren’t available. Use your volunteer data to estimate a peak time to request help. For example, if Amy and Bekah are college students, avoid planning volunteer events for holiday weekends, when they might be traveling or visiting family.
  • Preferences: Matching volunteers with jobs they’re interested in will make their involvement more fulfilling. If Amy and Bekah consistently sign up for volunteer shifts to feed the shelter animals, you might assume that they enjoy feeding the animals and offer similar opportunities in the future. 
  • Skills: Are Amy and Bekah in veterinary school? Or, do they have special training to help them deal with difficult animals? Allowing volunteers to leverage their expertise gives them a sense of authority. When they’re trusted with a task because of their unique skills, volunteers will be more likely to take the role seriously and do it efficiently.

As volunteers continue their involvement, you might also learn about their social networks and invite their friends to get involved. After all, volunteering is more fun and memorable when you do it with a friend! 

Snowball’s guide to text-to-give fundraising recommends encouraging volunteers to create peer-to-peer or pledge pages in your mobile giving fundraiser. That way, they’ll have the satisfaction of contributing to your cause while getting to share the experience with their friends and family members.

A volunteer database can store all this important information (and more) about your volunteers, which can guide the opportunities you present to them. By leveraging this data, you’ll enhance the volunteer experience and ultimately motivate them to be more efficient. 

Show your appreciation

Employee appreciation statistics show that 69% of employees will perform better at work if they receive timely appreciation and recognition. Data management can help your nonprofit deliver this appreciation when you track each individual’s activity.

For example, if Amy walks dogs and Bekah feeds cats, they’ll need to be thanked in different ways. Recording Amy’s and Bekah’s involvement will give your nonprofit the context needed to thank them each personally and specifically. To meaningfully share your appreciation, you might celebrate them with:

  • Letters: By nature, handwritten letters are highly personal because they take a long time to write out and must be specifically addressed to the recipient. This form of appreciation shows volunteers that you put special effort into thanking them.
  • Emails: According to eCardWidget’s guide to retaining volunteers, “a pillar of appreciation strategies is timeliness.” Emails are effective channels for appreciation messages because of their immediacy—after a volunteer’s work, send an email to thank them. Include specific mentions of their contributions to keep it personal.
  • Appreciation events: Host an event to highlight your volunteers’ important work. You could further extend your celebration by making it last a week and plan several events to show your appreciation.
  • Gifts: A tangible sign of gratitude can be a thoughtful way to commemorate the volunteer’s efforts. 

If you want to make the message even more personal, share the volunteer’s specific impact on your nonprofit’s fundraising progress, community impact, and overall success. For example, you might tell Amy that her dedication to dog walking over the past few months has helped relieve the dogs’ stress before prospective adopters meet them. Amy will realize her work influences adoptions and will strive to make each walk a great experience for the dog when she knows the importance of her role.

Expand your volunteer base

Your volunteers will work most efficiently when they’re equipped with the right resources. The best tool you can give your volunteers is the support of a robust team—you’ll give them a community to lean on for help!

Let’s say Amy becomes sick and must cancel her dog walking shift at the animal shelter. Your organization should cultivate a community of supportive volunteers who will happily step in for Amy!

To build your team, you’ll need to expand your support network. Use data collected from prospect research to identify potential volunteers for recruitment, including: 

  • Philanthropic indicators: Although your nonprofit is unique, there are likely others that support similar causes. Someone who contributes to similar organizations might be passionate about your cause and could be a prospective volunteer! For example, if someone donates to the ASPCA, they may be passionate about animal welfare and willing to volunteer at your animal shelter.
  • Personal information: In addition to support history, you might find that certain prospects have personal connections to your cause. For instance, perhaps Amy rescued her pet from an animal shelter. After her positive experience with animal rescue, she wanted to volunteer with your organization and help other animals in need.
  • Previous donations: Anyone who has previously donated to your cause is potentially willing to get involved in nonmonetary ways, as well. Pull donor data from your fundraising event software and online donation portals to identify frequent past donors. Previous donations signal an affinity for your cause, which can be the gateway you need to invite donors to join your volunteer team!

As you craft your nonprofit’s volunteer recruitment strategies, think of resources outside of your own database that can help you expand your reach. For example, the animal shelter might post flyers in veterinarian offices around the county about volunteer opportunities. Lean on your community partners and existing support system to put your data management to work and grow your volunteer base.

A final note about data management

The only way your data collection will be beneficial in the long run is by keeping it clean and organized. As you manage donor data, remember to be thorough, specific, and up-to-date as much as possible. Eventually, you’ll see patterns that allow you to connect with volunteers and encourage more efficient work. 

Photo Lindsey Schad
Lindsey Schad
Head of Communication Team

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