REQUIRED Volunteer Information on Your Web Site
If your organization or department involves volunteers, or wants to, there are certain things your organization or department must have on its web site - no excuses! To not have this information says that your organization or department takes volunteers for granted, does not value volunteers beyond money saved in salaries, or is not really ready to involve volunteers.
Here is what absolutely should be on your web site regarding volunteers, to make your web site as volunteer-friendly as it can be and to show how much your organization values volunteers:
- the word volunteers and volunteering MUST appear on the home page of your web site, within the permanent text of the page. If someone goes to the home page and uses the text find function on a web browser and types in volunteer, they should find that word on your web site (and it should link to further information!). That means having the word in a pull-down menu or a graphic is NOT enough!
- the link support us or get involved on your home page or any other pages should not go to a page that is focused only on donating money. Instead, that link should go to a page that talks about the RANGE of ways someone could support your organization or cause, which includes cash donations, in-kind donations and volunteering. That page can then link to a page only about cash donations, a section or page only about volunteering, etc. If you don't do this, if you the support us or get involved link goes to a page only about donating money, then you are saying that donors of time and expertise are not as valuable to your organization as donors of cash.
- a page or a section of your web site that is dedicated to information about volunteering at your organization. This page or section should include:
One thing your web site should NOT include: any statement that ever implies your organization saves money with volunteers (no dollar value for volunteer hours), involves volunteers so they don't have to pay staff, etc. Be careful of any statement like, "We couldn't exist without volunteers!" unless it includes narrative that shows volunteers are not involved in order to not have to pay staff.
- photos, or links to photos, of your volunteers in action (NO CLIP ART)
- a mission statement about why your organization involves volunteers, why your organization reserves certain assignments for volunteers, why your organization believes volunteers (as opposed to paid employees or paid consultants) are the best people for certain tasks, etc.
- detailed information on how to apply to be a volunteer
- your volunteer application to fill out and submit online, or to download to fill out and send back to your organization as an attachment to email (or even to print out and send via postal mail)
- exactly what the steps are after person applies to volunteer (how long can applicants expect to wait to be contacted by the organization once they've submitted an application? do applicants have to attend an online or onsite orientation/training? do applicants have to undergo a criminal background check, and do applicants have to pay for that themselves? are applicants required to join an online discussion group?)
- a summary of the kinds of tasks volunteers can do (would you welcome a volunteer to assist in helping your organization with social media? with onsite computer and networking needs? to serve on your board of directors? to staff the receptionist desk and answer phones? to mentor young people? to transport items from one location to another? to work from home or a remote location translating text from one language to another, designing logos, tagging photos, moderating an online discussion group or engaging in any other virtual volunteering activities? to assist your professional staff, like your HR manager, your marketing manager, etc.?)
- full disclosure about any fees a volunteer is expected to pay, if these are one-time or annual, and information on what these fees pay for.
Those are just the basics, the minimum an organization that involves volunteers, or wants to, should have on its web site! An organization should also consider having on its web site:
- links to your available volunteer assignments on VolunteerMatch, AllforGood.org, the UN's Online Volunteering Service, or whatever you use to recruit onsite or online volunteers.
- any volunteering activities you have specifically for individual teen volunteers under 18, family volunteers, groups of adult volunteers, groups of teen volunteers under 18, groups of volunteers under 14 (or even younger), senior volunteers, professionals, etc.
- the complete volunteer policies and procedures, so a potential volunteer knows exactly what he or she is getting into (and current volunteers can have them for easy reference anytime)
- links to a photo sharing site like Flickr, where volunteers can upload photos of themselves in action to a group you create there, or tag their photos with certain keywords so anyone searching regarding your organization can find them
- testimonials from volunteers about their experience
- testimonials from employees and clients about their experience with your volunteers
- a short recruitment video (or link to such on YouTube that shows what volunteers do at your organization and why they are so awesome
- blog entries from volunteers (or links to such)
- links to or live feeds from any social media your organization uses with regard to volunteers (a dedicated Facebook profile, a dedicated Twitter feed, etc.)
- online material that clearly recognizes and thanks volunteers for their contributions
Return to my volunteer-related resources
- Mission statements for your volunteer engagement
(Saying WHY your organization or department involves volunteers!)
In addition to carefully crafting the way you talk about the value of volunteers, your organization should also consider creating a mission statement for your organization's volunteer engagement, to guide employees in how they think about volunteers, to guide current volunteers in thinking about their role and value at the organization, and to show potential volunteers the kind of culture they can expect at your organization regarding volunteers.
- Using the Internet to Honor Volunteers (and Recognizing Online Volunteers)
Recognition of a volunteer, no matter where he or she performs service, is the act of acknowledging a person's contribution to a nonprofit/civil society organization and those it serves. Recognition contributes to volunteers staying committed to an organization, and gets the attention of potential volunteers -- and donors -- as well. In addition, organizations should also incorporate use of the Internet to recognize the efforts of ALL volunteers, both those who perform most of their service from home, work, school or other remote computers, and those who perform their service onsite, face-to-face. With cyberspace, incuding social media, it's never been easier to show volunteers -- and the world -- that volunteer contributions play a key part in an organization's successes.
- Internet discussion groups for volunteers
Many agencies use email-based or web-based discussion groups, bulletin boards, online social networking or even "old-fashioned" newsgroups (USENET) to communicate regularly with their volunteers. This resource chronicles the benefits of such groups, and offers tips for set up, management and growth.
- Using Real-Time Communications With Volunteers
A growing number of organizations are using real-time communications -- including video conferencing, online phone calls, chats and instant messaging -- to hold online meetings with volunteers, to allow volunteers to interact with staff, clients, or each other, or to involve volunteers in a live, online, real-time event. This resource provides more information on real-time communications with volunteers -- what the various tools are, how agencies are using them to interact with volunteers, and tips to encourage and maintain participation in synchronous communications.
- Screening Volunteers for Attitude
When an organization involves volunteers in high-responsibility, long-term roles, volunteer turnover can be a program killer. Screening is vital to finding the right people for high-responsibility, long-term volunteer roles, particularly those where the volunteer will work with clients and the general public, and to screen out people who may be better in shorter-term assignments or assignments where they would not work with clients or the general public, or who would not be appropriate in any role at the organization.
- Do you know who will be a great volunteer just by the "vibe"?
- Recruiting Local Volunteers To Increase Diversity Among the Ranks
Having plenty of volunteers usually isn't enough to say a volunteering program is successful. Another indicator of success is if your volunteers represent a variety of ages, education-levels, economic levels and other demographics, or are a reflection of your local community. Most organizations don't want volunteers to be a homogeneous group; they want to reach a variety of people as volunteers (and donors and other supporters, for that matter). This resource will help you think about how to recruit for diversity, or to reach a specific demographic.
- Virtual Volunteering Myths
Common misconceptions about virtual volunteering versus the reality of the practice.
- Research on online volunteering
All of the academic research and journal articles about online volunteering and online community engagement.
- Online culture
What is it like to work with people -- volunteers, donors, remote staff -- you seldom or never see onsite, face-to-face?
Can you build trust among a remote group online? Can a person learn to work with others online successfully, or does one have to have an instinct for it? Does the Internet take the human element out of volunteering and community? Does online civil society exist? This is a portal into all of my resources related to working with and supporting others online.
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