The idea behind this strategy is to leverage the small pockets of time — a few hours or a few minutes — that people may have to volunteer. That would allow them to use their unique skills to assist their constituents, share their knowledge, advocate on social media or even research a bigger problem. As the American Bar Association explained in 2016, micro-volunteering can help scale volunteer opportunities to larger audiences.
“If your bar association has, say, 5,000 members, and you’re only plugging 100 to 150 of them into meaningful volunteer service — and two-thirds of your non-volunteers would accept a convenient opportunity — then that’s a sizeable pool of talent and energy that you may be leaving untapped,” writes Marilyn Cavicchia, editor of the ABA publication Bar Leader.
Build Digital Infrastructure That Maximizes Your Volunteers
It’s one thing to know what volunteering opportunities are available — it’s another to build the infrastructure that can connect the perfect opportunity to the perfect volunteer.
A good place to start, as sgEngage contributor Annie Lewallen notes, is to tackle the problem from a different angle rather than applying a ready-made solution.
“Organizations get accustomed to the events/actions they typically run in person,” Lewallen writes. “This new environment is an opportunity to rethink solutions to strategic problems and create innovative virtual events that inspire supporters to do more.”
One place to look for that tailored fit might involve taking a data-minded approach to managing volunteer resources. For example, if you have a willing volunteer with specialized skills, such as a doctor or engineer, it doesn’t make sense to put them on a general task if their expertise can be maximized based on location and need.
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This is a perfect use case for a customer relationship management platform such as Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics, which can help nonprofits connect the dots so that they use their specialized volunteers in the most effective ways possible. It can help with fundraising as well.
Maximize In-Person Volunteer Experiences with Technology
Of course, not every volunteer experience will lend itself to a digital-only setting. For example, if the volunteer effort requires physical cleanup or travel, there’s only so much that a virtual connection can do.
But that doesn’t mean technology can’t play a role. Building a base of managed cloud services — using an office suite such as Google Workspace or a custom-built application designed through a no-code programming tool — can help nonprofits leverage tools like Chromebooks onsite so that they are working with minimal technology on the ground but still benefit from a broad infrastructure.
This kind of cloud-first approach helps a nonprofit like Team Rubicon maximize its capabilities even in the challenging environment of a disaster, such as in the aftermath of a hurricane or tornado.
Adding sophistication to the volunteer management process, whether ahead of time or in the thick of it, can help nonprofits uncover new opportunities and maximize them down the line. And when it’s not clear whether that opportunity will be through a mobile app or onsite, that’s a major advantage.