When applied well, volunteer engagement can solve some of the greatest challenges that nonprofits...
3 Ways to Streamline Volunteer Onboarding with Waivers
Volunteer onboarding is the process of welcoming supporters who are new to your volunteering program and training them in the specific role they will fulfill. It goes beyond the basic “orientation” activities that give a surface-level overview of your organization and the volunteering role. And by the end of the process, your organization should have a strong understanding of the volunteer’s strengths, interests, and motivations for getting involved.
Because onboarding is so important to welcoming volunteers and finding the roles that they are passionate about, it’s crucial that your nonprofit makes it as organized as possible. To simplify onboarding while still gathering data about your volunteers, conveying important information, and training them to perform well in their roles, consider using digital waivers. In this guide, we’ll walk through how a waiver can streamline the process for you:
- Simplify data collection.
- Complete training exercises in advance.
- Maintain a focus on recognition.
The information gathered about volunteers during this stage can have a significant impact on their overall experience with your nonprofit. Let’s get started by exploring how you can gain valuable insights about your volunteers through waivers.
1. Simplify data collection.
During onboarding, your nonprofit should aim to uncover each volunteer’s unique reason for volunteering as well as which opportunities they’ll excel in. For example, if you learn that they enjoy interacting with people and prefer more fast-paced and engaging opportunities, you suggest they volunteer at your next auction fundraiser. To reduce the number of forms volunteers need to complete during onboarding, you can incorporate these questions into your waiver.
With the right digital waiver software, you can streamline data from the waivers into your existing technology by integrating the two solutions. Make sure to look for software that is highly customizable as well. For example, Smartwaiver’s guide to waiver software providers highlights the importance of choosing a solution that allows you to add custom fields and flag questions that require a certain response.
In these custom fields, you can then request information from volunteers like their:
- Personal details and contact information
- Past experience
- Relevant skills
- Availability and commitment level
- Background and/or professional references
- Volunteer preferences
- Language proficiency
Once you’ve gathered this data, make sure to leverage the insights uncovered in the data. Here are a few of the ways you can use your findings:
- Give volunteers roles they enjoy. Asking questions about past experience, availability, commitment level, and preferences can help you find the role that is the perfect fit for each volunteer. When volunteers enjoy the work they do, your nonprofit is more likely to retain them long-term. If a volunteer envisions themselves caring for your animal shelter’s kittens once a week, for example, you can schedule for those opportunities rather than for a task that wouldn’t be as fulfilling.
- Fortify your vetting process. By asking for examples of past experience and references from other organizations or leaders, you can make your vetting process much more thorough during onboarding. This ensures each volunteer you recruit and pass through onboarding is a good match for your nonprofit.
- Understand volunteers’ motivations. When you request information about past philanthropic participation, you’ll get a fuller understanding of which cases inspire support from your volunteers. This additional insight into your supporters’ passions can be used to personalize your communications with them, ultimately enhancing your relationship.
Keep in mind that when you use digital documents to gather this information, they’ll also be much easier to store. Your staff won’t need to spend time organizing and filing lots of paperwork, and you’ll save money on ink and paper. Additionally, if you ever need to locate a waiver, all you need to do is search the volunteer’s name.
2. Complete training exercises in advance.
Training is an essential part of the onboarding process. Training sessions and exercises give volunteers the skills and knowledge they need to successfully (and safely) perform their roles.
Let’s say your new volunteer’s first event is coming up: a charity race. As they complete the waiver ahead of time, they also review the training videos featured in the video. Each video quickly shows them how to manage the check-in table, what to do if someone needs first aid, and the tasks they’ll be responsible for if they are assigned to the snack and water station. By completing training before the race, they are equipped to perform almost any volunteer task without much additional guidance from your staff.
Like in this example, your nonprofit can embed required training materials in the document so volunteers can review them while completing the waiver. This is another way to consolidate and streamline different parts of the onboarding process (and your overall volunteer management practices), adding a level of convenience to your volunteer training.
3. Maintain a focus on recognition.
When you acknowledge the work your volunteers do, you can motivate them to complete onboarding, get them excited about volunteering, and even boost retention. Frequently recognizing volunteers’ accomplishments and dedication throughout onboarding with small gifts or thank-you notes shows that you value the time they are dedicating to your organization.
Using the data gathered in your waivers, your nonprofit can personalize the ways it shows volunteers gratitude. eCardWidget’s guide to volunteer appreciation highlights four types of volunteer appreciation: personalized appreciation, gifts and perks, events, and professional growth opportunities. Here’s how your organization can use data gathered from waivers to personalize each type:
- Personalized appreciation. Recognize a volunteer’s milestone of one year of service by referring back to the date a volunteer signed their initial waiver during onboarding.
- Gifts and perks. A volunteer mentions in the “preferences” field of your waiver that they have a passion for boosting literacy in children, so you offer them a gift card to a bookstore.
- Events. You have a group of retiree volunteers who work together in the mornings, so you put together a coffee and donuts event to thank them for their support.
- Professional growth opportunities. You see that a volunteer completed their onboarding waiver two years ago and indicated a high commitment level, so you offer them the opportunity to be one of your volunteer leaders.
In 2021, only 23% of Americans over 16 years of age formally volunteered with a nonprofit organization. To make long-lasting relationships with those who choose to volunteer with your organization and create a positive environment that motivates new members to join, focus on consistently showing recognition and gratitude to your members.
Waivers assist nonprofits in getting to know their volunteers on a deeper level and in a more streamlined way. In turn, this makes the onboarding process run more smoothly for volunteers by limiting the number of times they need to fill out a document or input the same information. By doing the work of learning about your volunteers’ preferences, proficiencies, and passions during onboarding, you can simplify volunteer management for your organization down the line (and boost volunteer satisfaction and retention!).
About the Author: Logan Lewis
Logan Lewis is the Content Coordinator at Smartwaiver, the leading digital waiver service trusted by thousands of organizations around the world.