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Quickly Onboarding New Volunteers

As we are all nonprofits, we most likely utilize volunteers from time to time for various support, assistance, and community organizing tasks. The assumption here is that you already have a New Volunteer Policy and Onboarding Procedure in place. If not, that’s another conversation.

I have some deep knowledge of working with and managing volunteers and the onboarding process can be long–taking weeks in cases that involve background checks. So, in today’s rapid-fire-everyone’s-an-activist-and-wants-to-be-involved-from-the-word-go environment, it can be limiting to stick to that rigid procedure.

My advice is to brainstorm ways to get these new volunteers engaged (see the last installment “Tips for Engaging Volunteers Right Now”). Will they need to go through the entire Volunteer Orientation and Onboarding Procedure? If they are to be a social media ambassador, probably not. However, if they are coming into the office and will be working with sensitive information (i.e., patient/client info, patients/clients, donor records, working around minors, etc.), you’ll want to stick with your existing policies that include HIPAA training and a background check.

In the event that your new volunteers can get right to work, let’s look at some ways to streamline your onboarding process.

You’ve gotten their name and email on a sign up list. Now what?

  1. Email them (see “Tips for Engaging Volunteers”) to get their phone number.

  2. Look at their social media pages! So simple. You can find out if they are who they say they are in a hot minute.

  3. Call them. Explain that you are excited to have their support and would like to ask a few simple questions, that are sending over some documents to help them acclimate, and you are interested in hearing why they want to volunteer  and how they envisioned helping. In those documents, be sure to include a list of volunteer activities, some quick tips and highlights of volunteering with your agency (address, a brief history and services or a link to a video of your ED’s welcome message), contact info for the agency, what to do if they witness discrimination (etc.), reliable news sources, and any other info that you feel useful. End by telling them you hope to see them at the next volunteer activity (and have one ready to go!).

Done. You’ve quickly vetted and interviewed a new volunteer! It takes, maybe, a half hour. Bonus, you may have made a nervous newbie feel more comfortable and welcome, thus more likely to show up at your next volunteer adventure.

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