Your BFF on the job looks a little different from the one back at home

Some people think of planning and groan.  It seems like busy-work and disconnected from the actual business of managing a nonprofit.  The truth is that planning is a volunteer manager’s best friend.  A simple, well written recruitment or marketing plan is one of the most valuable tools around for managing your work effectively.

What does a plan actually look like?

Volunteer Manager's BFFIf you run an online search for marketing plans or strategic plans, you will find dozens of different options for plans — it’s a bit overwhelming.  We are going to simplify things by using a format that ties everything back to your goals.  You may even download the sample template to use for your own program.

Writing any kind of plan is easy if you have the right information.  It’s really a matter of applying the information that  you have gathered, things like number of inquiries or number of applicants, and connecting that data to your goals and objectives.

For volunteer managers, the “right data” includes the two things that were mentioned in previous posts: tracking referral sources and tracking percentages for recruitment.

Writing it up

Let’s start at the top and walk through each section.  We will use hypothetical numbers from the last blog post for our measures:

  • In the upper left, state your ultimate goal – why are you recruiting volunteers in the first place? How does this enhance your program’s mission? Let’s say you work for a mentoring program. Your goal might be to ensure that every youth in the program has a volunteer mentor.
  • Now write your measure of success.  If there are 200 youth, then let’s say your measure is to train 200 new volunteer mentors.
  • Now you are going to write out, step-by-step, the smaller objectives that will get you to your ultimate goal. Start with the type of data that we discussed in the last blog post: # of inquiries, # who apply, # trained.  Notice that all of these objectives are measurable.
  • Then we fill in:
    • The activities that help us to meet these objectives.
    • Smaller measures to help track our success with each activity
    • A time frame to assessing our program
    • A point person responsible for completion

It may take some time and fiddling to come up with measures that are realistic and add up to meet your overall measure of success.  The process of thinking through the plan — what works, what doesn’t, what you need to pursue further — is where this tool really begins to inform your work.

Plans within plans

This particular plan summarizes the entire recruitment cycle from inquiry to trained volunteer. It may be just as useful to create a plan that only focuses on just one of the objectives.  You could create a marketing plan by just focusing on the activities that generate your inquiries, for example.  Or you could create a plan that maps out the different volunteer roles within your program and ties their use back to your program’s mission.

The point is to use the plan.  Keep it on your bulletin board.  Refer to it on a regular basis. Revise it when circumstances change.  Let it guide you.

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Treat volunteer recruitment plans like your BFF and you will see great results,