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Engaging skills based volunteers


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Engaging skills based volunteers in your organization can be both exciting and scary.

Use these quick tips to prepare your organization for success and to create a good experience for both paid and volunteer staff!

Published in: Education

Engaging skills based volunteers

  1. 1. 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 any concerns. 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 questions. 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