Tips for engaging pro bono and skills-based volunteers in your organization.
Too often we put the cart before the horse, or in this case, the volunteer before the project. When
engaging skills-based volunteers, a little work ahead of time can make a big difference in the success of
the project and the experiences of both paid and volunteer staff.
What do People Think?: Not everyone may be
as excited, or the see the potential, for skillsbased volunteering in your organization.
Determine what key stakeholders think or
“believe” about skilled volunteers. Identify
“champions” and consider what information
might be persuasive to others – case studies,
pilot programs, etc.
Think Big: How could the impact of staff
members, programs or the organization be
expanded by engaging pro bono and skilled
volunteers? What could you, your program or
your organization accomplish if you weren’t
limited to the time and talent of paid staff?
Engage your champions in these conversations.
Start Small: Change can be scary. What projects
best align with the needs of your organization?
What has the strongest champions, or the
fewest barriers? Consider starting with a pilot
program. It’s easier to build on a smaller
successful project than to try to regroup after a
larger project has failed.
Know What Success Looks Like: A skills-based
volunteer will bring expertise and experience,
but only your organization knows what it
needs, and what will work for you. Have goals
and outcomes in mind before looking for a
volunteer to join you organization.
Be Picky: Consider whether a volunteer will be
a good fit with the culture of your organization,
not just if they have the skills and experience to
do the work. Ask for professional references
and examples of their work. Share your
screening process with stakeholders to address
Get on the Same Page: Create an agreement
letter or memorandum of understanding once
you’ve identified the outcomes and
deliverables for your project. Include a timeline,
key deadlines, and evaluation points in the
agreement letter. Make sure everyone – paid
and volunteer staff – knows their
responsibilities and who to go to with
Don’t Check Out: Volunteer engagement
professionals are experienced in motivating and
working with volunteers, but don’t assume that
others in your organization have the same
skills. Facilitate interactions between paid staff
and skills based volunteers. Ensure that
everyone is communicating and that deadlines
are being met.
Talk About It!: Share updates, successes and
even challenges within your organization and
with your community.
Engaging pro bono and skills-based volunteers can be challenging. Too often we encounter challenges
around available resources, staff time and attitudes, and human resources management, but engaging
skills-based volunteers can dramatically increase the impact of your organization. Make a plan, and get
started! Find more resources at learn.volunteermatch.org