Volunteer Onboarding Checklist: Before, During & After Arrival
If your nonprofit has a volunteer program, the goal of your volunteer management should be to welcome your newcomers from the moment they join.
After you have worked so hard to find new volunteers who are eager to contribute to your organization, the first step is to put your volunteer management software to good use and welcome them into the community. Even better news, you can apply the same checklist for your members, donors, and board members.
In this article, we’ll go over:
- Why are Welcoming new Volunteers Important?
- Checklist For Successful Onboarding: Before, During & After Arrival
- Trello for Onboarding
- The "Buddy" System
Our team at Springly has a great onboarding process for each new team member. When I joined, I felt immediately part of the team. You can create this friendly environment for your new volunteers too!
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Why is Welcoming New Volunteers Important?
Volunteer recruitment takes a lot of time and resources, so it’s great when you do find new volunteers. After all, volunteers contribute to nonprofit organizations with their time and expertise, which help lower staffing and budget demands. This alone is a huge contribution to nonprofits!
If you remember your first day of school as a new student, you probably remember everything feeling a bit stressful and uncertain. You can minimize this feeling of fear for your new volunteers by staying organized and by creating a warm and friendly environment where each newcomer quickly feels comfortable.
Volunteers can become very loyal as a result of feeling included and appreciated, so let’s talk about some ways you can help ease the transition for new volunteers at your organization!
Checklist For Successful Volunteer Onboarding: Before, During & After Arrival
There are 3 phases of volunteer onboarding for your nonprofit: before, during, and after the volunteering commitment period.
To illustrate this, we will take a look at how Springly welcomes new team members! Maybe it’ll inspire you to use some of our methods and it may even guide you towards a new way of thinking.
Before the Volunteer Arrives
Let's say you have new volunteers signed up to help your nonprofit this month, season, or year. The first thing to do is to dig into your CRM and communicate all logistical details that they need to know before arriving at your organization’s doorstep!
You need to send them information regarding expectations and requirements. For example, whether they need to bring any documents for you to update your organization’s records, when their first session would be, or the date and time of their orientation. If you are leading an orientation meeting, send advance notice for them to save the date.
Each nonprofit has a specific working style and mission and you can use this to help your volunteers understand your nonprofit quickly.
Make these points very clear to your volunteers:
Role of volunteers within nonprofit
Volunteering responsibilities and objectives (to welcome event attendees at the door)
Perks of volunteering (access to special events, newsletter, or swag)
If you send information in advance, the volunteers will know you value them, and that your nonprofit is well-organized. Volunteers need plenty of management too, so your organization of these details will be a sign to them of what to expect during their volunteering commitment.
You should also update your current team about the new incoming volunteers. You can send out an email to introduce new volunteers as well as some information that you collect about them, such as why they signed up to volunteer or a fun fact. This will encourage your team to introduce themselves and may even be a good opportunity for some fun challenges or a quiz!
Communicate all logistical details like: start date, arrival time, office location, wifi codes, dress code.
Communicate physical items they may need to bring: personal identification, computer, mouse, charger, water bottle, etc.
Send any documents that need to be signed: contracts, waivers, or confidentiality agreements.
Technical tools: open up email access, share-points, shared calendars, collaborative tools (i.e. google drive), or password generators.
Send a written copy of their responsibilities, objectives, and any perks they may have.
Any information you can easily send about your mission: PDFs, marketing materials, website links.
During the Volunteering Commitment
When they arrive, you can share some key information to help them understand your organization better:
History of your nonprofit
Mission and values
The team and roles in the organization
Knowing this information will help them understand where to direct any questions.
To keep new volunteers engaged with your nonprofit:
Invite volunteers to public or team-wide meetings, in case they’d like to be informed and learn more about the organization
Share the values of your organization with them, so they know how to further those values in their volunteering work
While you’re managing the awesome volunteers in your nonprofit, keep in mind that you should also consider what would make volunteering fun for your community. Being social and having fun helps build meaningful connections. It is a big perk of volunteering for causes!
Share the history, mission, and values of your nonprofit either in written or oral form
Share your organizational structure and the different roles and responsibilities of each team member
Create a team-wide event (i.e. breakfast) to help your new volunteer learn more about your nonprofit's culture
Follow up on their objectives, monthly or quarterly
After the Volunteering Commitment
Once your volunteers have finished their volunteer work or commitment, you can ask for feedback on the volunteering program as part of your volunteer tracking process. If it’s your first year of managing volunteers, you may need help understanding how to improve for your second year or indeed the next phase.
Onboarding new volunteers does not have to be your job! You can organize overlapping volunteering schedules with outgoing volunteers who are ending their volunteering commitments.
The outgoing volunteers can help you train and onboard new ones by answering questions and supervising tasks.
Sonia is excited to welcome her newcomers and get feedback from outgoing volunteers
Ask for feedback either written or oral
Ask for any photos taken during their commitment period (if you have their legal permission to use them, of course!)
Ask for a referral to their networks for more volunteers
Write a recommendation letter
Endorse them on LinkedIn
Trello for Volunteer Onboarding
There are plenty of free digital tools for nonprofits to take advantage of. Volunteer onboarding doesn’t have to be stressful!
At Springly, we use Trello to manage onboarding for new team members. It’s an excellent collaborative tool that tracks action items and can integrate with Springly’s online software.
This tool allows you to organize action items according to various topics and also by person. You can prioritize each one by adding color labels and deadlines.
Volunteers going through the onboarding process can drag completed items to the "Done" column. It's very satisfying to do, which will encourage volunteers to complete their onboarding!
There are plenty of advantages to using Trello for volunteer onboarding:
New volunteers can read documents, complete worksheets, or do training tasks in their own time
Volunteer leaders can keep an eye on their progress and step in to help if necessary
You can reuse and improve the onboarding Trello “boards” from one year to the next, or use them to create a gold standard template
After the volunteers are done with reading and learning about their roles and responsibilities, and all about your organization, you should be ready to leverage your new group of experts to help guide your nonprofit towards achieving its goal!
A “Buddy” System for Your Volunteers
A "buddy" system is an important part of any effective onboarding process, which is why we have one at Springly. Each new team member has a buddy who facilitates welcome events and onboarding.
When I first arrived, my buddy was in charge of organizing a welcome breakfast to introduce me to the other volunteers. She took me out to lunch, and checked in after my first week to ask how my onboarding was going.
Often, these types of check-ins turn into coffee breaks which fit right into your volunteering schedule and become a part of your weekly rituals. Although it has been a couple months, I still keep in regular contact with my buddy. Even when I leave the team, I will treasure everyone who made me feel so welcome. This is the type of memory you want to create for your volunteers!
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Volunteers are very important to nonprofits because of the energy and passion they bring. If you welcome volunteers so that they feel supported and appreciated, they'll be happy they signed up and will produce some excellent results for you.
The first step to having happy volunteers is to make volunteering onboarding as smooth and easy as possible for them!
✋ What is volunteer onboarding?
Volunteer onboarding is all about welcoming your volunteers and getting them acquainted with their new role. You should aim to equip them with all the skills and knowledge necessary to be a successful volunteer in your organization. Find out more.
🤔 Why do I need to onboard new volunteers?
Volunteers are a huge part of any nonprofit's success, so investing in your volunteers is investing in your organization. If you don't make your new recruits feel welcome and at home, all that time and money spent on getting them there could be wasted. Find out more.
🗺️ What should be included in a volunteer orientation?
In your volunteer orientation, you should: Communicate responsibilities, perks, and goals to your new volunteer; play games or host a breakfast to get your new recruit acquainted with your team; and conduct regular check ups or feedback sessions, being sure to act on concerns as they arise. Find out more.