Not only do nonprofit organizations need volunteers, they also need a way to nurture those relationships. 

In the same way that your donors may be diverse, volunteers can have different motivations, skills and availability. The more volunteers you have on your roster, the more necessary it is to have systems in place to manage them and their attributes. 

Not doing so may result in miscommunications, a lack of engagement, and even the possibility of alienating volunteers.

Tracking volunteers is easier with software. Some nonprofit CRM (constituent relationship management) software applications have the capability to track volunteers along with donors, board members, and sponsors. For organizations with more intense volunteer programs, dedicated volunteer management software may be necessary.

Either way, you’ll want to be sure to set up a robust volunteer profile in whatever system you use. Ideally, your volunteer profile organizes data about your volunteers in a consistent way that makes sense for your organization’s goals.

So what kind of data should you track on your volunteer profiles, and why does it matter? Let’s dig in with a few examples:

Anatomy of a Volunteer Profile

Building a profile of all your volunteers in a consistent way gives you the ability to better communicate with them, offer them relevant volunteer opportunities, and thank them appropriately. 

Here are just a few data points that you should collect and track for all volunteers:

  • Name (formal and preferred)
  • Contact information
  • Demographic information (age, gender identity, etc.)
  • Employment information
  • Availability
  • Waivers, permission and releases
  • Emergency contact
  • Relationship and parental information
  • Skills and passions
  • Social media links
  • Why they support you
  • Event participation
  • Hours volunteered
  • Feedback collected
  • Email and social media engagement
  • Donations

It’s not enough to just fill in this information once and forget about it. Your software should collect and update information on an ongoing basis.

Once you have comprehensive information about your volunteers, you can begin to put that data to work.

Use Volunteer Profiles to Customize Outreach

Personalized messaging is a very effective way to maintain good relationships with your volunteers. You can do that with the data you collect on your volunteer profiles. Here are some ways to use volunteer profile data to curate custom campaigns:

  • Volunteer Segmentation: Grouping volunteers who have common characteristics into segments can pay dividends. For example, you might want to use different messaging for volunteers who haven’t engaged with your organization for several months than you would with those who are committing hours every week. This is easily accomplished with volunteer management tools.
  • Email Analytics: You’ll know which type of messages are effective using the analytics within the volunteer management system. Open rates tell you which subject lines are the most interesting and click rates show which designs and information are more influential. These and other analyses will inform your marketing strategy to gain and maintain active volunteers.
  • Gather Donations: Volunteers are twice as likely to donate to the organizations that they work with and give 10x more than non-volunteers. Yet, there is sometimes hesitancy to ask volunteers to donate. Knowing who your volunteers are will help you make a contextualized appeal that is much more likely to result in a donation.

Continually updating your data means you’ll be able to get more personalized with each campaign you send. Even social media interactions provide valuable information about your volunteer market. Among other things, you can see which channels you should invest more time into depending on how much engagement you get.

Use Volunteer Profiles to Nurture Meaningful Relationships

It’s important that nonprofit organizations interact with their volunteers beyond just asking them for their free time. With volunteer management software, you can collect data on your volunteers’ interests to help build a more personal connection with them. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Participation: Collect information on which activities your volunteers have participated in and are likely to commit to in the future. You can use this data to send personalized thank you letters including information such as the cumulative number of support hours they’ve committed since they joined your volunteer network.
  • Feedback: If you’re collecting and saving volunteer feedback on your volunteer profiles, you can honor that feedback by improving their experience, or keep doing what’s working.
  • Connections: There’s a decent chance that the companies your volunteers work at might have some overlap with your civic service. Collecting employer information will help you decide which corporations you should approach for sponsorships, whether it be in funds, equipment use, or even more volunteers.
  • Access: Taking action on data relies on the ability for your whole team to access it. Check if your vendor allows admins easy access to volunteer information through a mobile app.

Though this isn’t a comprehensive list, this information will help you curate custom messaging for each volunteer, allowing you to create a more personalized bond between them and your organization. Your volunteers are unique individuals, and when you get to know them on an individual level, you can effectively pair them with the most appropriate volunteer opportunities.

Getting Started: Gathering Relevant Data

There’s a direct correlation between how effective your volunteer profiles are and the data quality your volunteer management software collects. Of course you’ll need to gather volunteer names and contact information. However, there are other data points that can help you recognize and maximize on trends in your sector.

Here are a couple of things you should consider when setting up your CRM:

  • Volunteer Life Cycle: Keep track of how long each person has been volunteering with your organization. Those who return to volunteer multiple times per year are probably committed to the cause you serve.
  • Number of Volunteer Hours: Use this data to identify those who commit a significant amount of hours to your organization. What is significant to one nonprofit might not be the case to another. However, knowing this information can help you win grants, show others that your organization has real support, give you better understanding of the actual cost of your efforts, and to help you secure more volunteers.

Knowing how long and how many hours people volunteer with your organization helps you plan ahead. Your volunteer management software can keep notes on who the recurring volunteers are. This data can be interpreted to identify trends such as volunteer seasons and growth potential.

While this may seem like a lot of work, the benefits far outweigh the investment. If your software streamlines the data collection process, you’ll find yourself spending less time manually tracking information on paper and spreadsheets, and more time giving your volunteers a great experience.

About the Author:
Geng Wang
As CEO of Civic Champs, I lead our team of passionate change leaders to create technology solutions to create a seamless and rewarding volunteering experience for both volunteers and service organizations.