Increase Impact by Moving from Program to Strategy

Volunteer engagement can increase an organization’s capacity well beyond what staff alone can achieve. By embracing volunteer engagement as a core strategy,  organizations increase their impact significantly. Before making the case to a funder to invest in volunteer engagement, it’s important to model strategic engagement  within your organization. Shifting from volunteers as a program to, an organization-wide strategy takes time.  However, by starting with just a few of the steps below, you will be able to authentically demonstrate the benefits to your organization. You are then ready to invite funders to invest in future opportunities to further build your capacity through volunteer engagement.

When organizations view volunteer engagement as a strategy, they engage volunteers across all branches and all levels of their organizational chart. On a daily basis, they do all of the following.


Involve Volunteers across the Organization

  • Think strategically about how to involve volunteers at all levels of the organization.
  • Develop volunteer roles in response to real organizational needs.
  • Have a volunteer pool that reflects the diversity of the community they serve.
  • Engage volunteers in roles that leverage their skills and treat them asvaluable members of work teams.


Commit to Volunteer Engagement

  • Articulate value of volunteer engagement in the organization’s strategic plan.
  • Have/prepare organizational leaders who actively support and model strategic volunteer engagement.
  • Dedicate budgetary resources to support volunteer involvement.
  • Have a staff professional dedicated to volunteer engagement.
  • Have volunteer engagement policies and procedures that are comprehensive, clear, and consistently applied.


Train Staff and Volunteers Effectively

  • Effectively trainand orient volunteers about their work and the agency.
  • Provide training in the skills of volunteer supervision/partnership to all staff members who engage and support volunteers.


Measure and Communicate Volunteer Impact

  • Measure and communicate the overall impact of volunteer involvement.
  • Include volunteer empowerment as a performance measure or accountability indicator for staff.
  • Recognize volunteers in personally meaningful ways.
  • Evaluate how partnering with volunteers impacts your mission currently.


Which of the above steps are you already doing? Where can you further your engagement efforts?

Be prepared to discuss your strengths and needs with potential funders.

Share The Funder’s Guide to Investing in Volunteer Engagement with donors and grantmakers to help educate them about the critical importance of utilizing the limitless resource of volunteer skills and talents.

For a comprehensive self-assessment of strategic volunteer engagement, click here.

Once you have completed the self-assessment, use your results to develop a plan to enhance your practices in volunteer engagement and support volunteers more effectively. You can also use the results to prepare responses to questions from funders about your engagement strategies and infrastructure. Click here for a list of questions that funders might ask in an application or site visit.