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What the NFL Can Teach Nonprofits About Volunteer Management

A record 123.4 million people watched the Kansas City Chiefs take on the San Francisco 49ers in February, making it the most-watched telecast in history. An event of this size is a significant production with hundreds of moving parts, and behind its success is a team of more than 7,000 volunteers.

Volunteers are the backbone of many nonprofits and fill various roles, from special event support to hands-on work at your program sites. Volunteers make up a third of the nonprofit workforce. However recruiting and managing volunteers can be tedious, especially for smaller organizations.

Rosterfy is an end-to-end volunteer management and reporting tool that helps organizations — including the National Football League (NFL) — onboard, engage, and track their volunteers. We recently spoke to Albert Vasquez, Head of Sales and Operations for Rosterfy North America, about the challenges of managing volunteers. He also shared tips for turning your volunteers into loyal advocates and donors. 


Challenges of Volunteer Management 

Many aspects of volunteer management depend on manual processes. For instance, onboarding volunteers can be incredibly taxing, often involving paperwork, training, and background checks.

The overall management of volunteers is also challenging. Ensuring volunteers get the proper training is critical, especially if working with children. Managers must then make sure the volunteers are actually fulfilling their commitment. They need to know who’s serving, where and when, what they’re doing, and whether they have everything they need. On top of it all, volunteer managers often have to field calls from on-the-ground coordinators to cover these details and other issues, such as volunteers missing a shift.  

A well-run volunteer program also relies on data. How many volunteers did the nonprofit have last month, quarter, or year? How many hours did volunteers work? Which corporations are sending volunteers? Using different sources like Excel spreadsheets to capture this information can take days to gather the data and form usable insights. By contrast, modern tools like GivingDNA can track volunteer details and pull the data into a single, easy-to-read report. 

The level of friction in a volunteer program can be a big indicator of whether a volunteer will return. But if you can provide a smooth experience, you stand a better chance of growing a volunteer base that’s primed to support your cause in other ways. 


Turning Volunteers Into Donors 

The data you track about your volunteers can uncover certain qualities that might make a volunteer more likely to become a donor. For instance, the number of hours they volunteer and the number of events they support are clear signs of interest in your organization and mission.

Beyond that, also track what your volunteers do for a living and where they work. If you notice a large number of volunteers from a local bank, go talk with the business about its corporate giving program. Perhaps it will issue a giving challenge with a matching gift for its employees.

Also, look at the other ways the volunteer engages with your organization. Most nonprofits use an omnichannel approach that includes their website, email, social media, direct mail, and other means to reach donors and prospects. Volunteering is one of these communication channels, but how else are volunteers interacting with your cause?

To answer this question, ensure your volunteer management platform talks to your fundraising management tool and customer relationship management (CRM) system. One platform, Allyra, enables volunteers to set goals and raise money so you can further steward both the volunteers and their peer donors. Regardless of the tech tools you use, they should feed into each other so you can gain a complete picture of your volunteers and their relationship to your organization.  


Managing Volunteers on the World’s Biggest Stages 

Organizations like the NFL and FIFA depend on thousands of volunteers. You’ll see greeters stationed at airports, hotels, and the venue. There’s also a significant amount of setup and cleanup work to be done before and after the event, not to mention all the support needed while the event is taking place.

But vetting an army of volunteers is a tall task. For instance, nearly 14,000 people applied to volunteer for the NFL’s recent Big Game. With a tool like Rosterfy, organizations can create custom registration forms that help them screen candidates and recruit those with the specific skills and credentials they need. The software can also hold training programs and learning modules to get volunteers up to speed.

Organizations that host high-profile events prioritize communication with their volunteers before, during, and after the event. This is a key lesson for nonprofits: Find a volunteer platform that lets you communicate directly with volunteers. To further streamline volunteer management, look for a tool that volunteers can use to check in for their shifts and keep up with their time.

Also, your volunteer platform should serve as a comprehensive database of pre-vetted support. So, the next time your organization needs help, it can simply send a message to its previous volunteers. This makes it easy to sustain a robust volunteer community.

For instance, organizers for the Formula 1 Las Vegas Grand Prix, held in November 2023, used Rosterfy to recruit, onboard, and engage volunteers. The city could then reach out to this network for assistance as the NFL prepared for its event.


Deliver a Steller Volunteer Experience 

With the right tools, it’s easy to manage volunteer programs of all shapes and sizes. Key features like automating the onboarding, training, and scheduling processes help nonprofits find the help they need quickly. Look for a platform that’s highly configurable, so it looks like a custom build for your organization. For instance, Rosterfy offers templates for a quick and easy setup.  

Volunteers are the heart and soul of your organization, but their service is just one way they can engage with your mission. Look for the many other ways in which they respond to your outreach to develop a comprehensive digital marketing strategy

If you deliver an enjoyable end-to-end experience, you can count on your volunteers to continue supporting your cause with their time and dollars for years to come.

This blog post is based on a podcast interview with Albert Vasquez. Listen to the full episode of the Go Beyond Fundraising podcast now.