Be an internal advocate for your volunteers

Internal advocacy is an important aspect of supporting a thriving volunteer program. Learn how staff and volunteers can enhance their advocacy efforts within an organization to positively impact their experiences.

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How is volunteering perceived within your organization or program? How are you advocating internally for your volunteers? While we often focus on external outreach, recruitment and retention of volunteers, internal advocacy for volunteer management can get overlooked. Internal advocacy involves staff efforts to champion and raise awareness of the volunteer management needs of your program within your organization. This can include support for volunteer management efforts, resources and recognition of the importance of volunteering from colleagues and the organization.

The Minnesota Alliance for Volunteer Advancement’s report on post-pandemic volunteer trends and engagement states that improving internal advocacy is key for organizations. Staff can enhance their internal advocacy both within their volunteer programs and their organizational structure through the following:

  • Educate colleagues on the value of volunteers and organizational policies on volunteer management. Even in programs with a large volunteer base, like 4-H, there may be colleagues or other staff members that may not fully understand the impact that volunteers can have on the organization or what the organization’s policies and procedures surrounding volunteer management entail. Internal advocates can bring awareness by sharing success stories, statistics or testimonials on the impact of volunteers within your program. By improving the knowledge of volunteer management policies and procedures for all staff, staff are more likely to prioritize volunteer management practices across the organization.
  • Leverage resources and support. Understanding and communicating the needs of the volunteer program is crucial to obtaining the resources and support needed for volunteer management. By effectively communicating these needs, staff can utilize the resources and support within the organization and help identify additional resources that may be available within the community. Advocating for and utilizing available professional development opportunities for both volunteers and staff will strengthen knowledge and implementation of volunteer management practices.
  • Collaborate across departments. Volunteer management is not confined to one single department or program. It involves collaboration and coordination across all departments and units within an organization, from external programming to internal operations. By establishing open communication across departments, staff can promote a culture of collaboration that recognizes and includes volunteers at all levels.
  • Empower and recognize volunteers as advocates. Staff members themselves are not the only ones who can be an internal advocate. Program volunteers play a crucial role as advocates themselves within the program. Staff should empower volunteers to become ambassadors for the program, encouraging them to share their experiences, insights and feedback with staff. Volunteers that understand program culture, policies and procedures can serve as a bridge to other volunteers and foster a culture of open communication and collaboration between staff and volunteers.

Internal advocacy is essential in creating a thriving volunteer program that makes a positive impact within communities. By sharing the needs of the volunteers and program, collaborating with others and increasing awareness and understanding across the organization, staff and volunteers can make a positive impact on engagement, retention and satisfaction among volunteers. For more information about volunteering with Michigan State University Extension 4-H programs, please visit our website for 4-H volunteering and mentoring.

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