This blog was originally posted April 17, 2012.
A few months ago I sat in on a workshops helping organizations market their volunteer opportunities to recruit new volunteers, as well as retain their current volunteers. One of my key takeaways was the need to conduct satisfaction interviews with your current volunteers – see if they’re happy in their role, happy with the way the organization works, and ask if there are any areas they’d like to expand into within the organization.
One of my volunteer activities is managing a completely volunteer-run online magazine, Sound and Noise, so I decided to apply that learning to my own organization. It had never occurred to me to actually ask our volunteers whether they were happy with their experience, which is strange because the reason I began managing the magazine was that I was dissatisfied with my own experience.
While the prospect of sitting down with our volunteers and asking for feedback on how I was doing seemed daunting, I was surprised at how easy the process ended up being. The Editor and I sat down to decide what questions we wanted to start with. I was a little wary, as the four questions we came up with seemed so basic. I wasn’t sure if we would get the feedback we wanted (or needed!) from our questions, but I decided to give it a shot.
We decided to ask:
- General check in – what do you want to do more of? What do you want to do less of? Are there any particular skills you’d like to improve by being involved with Sound and Noise?
- If you weren’t a writer, would you read Sound and Noise? Why or why not? What would make you a regular reader?
- Do you find our writing workshops helpful? How do you feel about the quality of writing on the magazine?
- How is the writing and editing process? How can we improve it?
I was blown away by the responses I got.
Once I bought our volunteers a coffee and sat down to chat with them, they completely opened up about everything that is right – and wrong – with the magazine. But more than that, they were more than willing to give me concrete suggestions for things I should keep the same and ways I could improve their experience. I went into my meetings expecting to hear general comments such as, “I like the atmosphere” or, “I want to improve my articles,” but I ended up hearing things like:
- You should highlight the events you think we should review.
- The workshops are great, but can we do more workshops about concept pieces?
- I’m interested in helping out with the editorial process.
On top of all the great suggestions I got directly from the people who see “the other side” of the work I do, I got the sense that the volunteers were happy they were able to contribute in a different way to the magazine. In turn, asking for feedback makes it more likely that they’ll continue on as volunteers, and maybe take on greater roles within the magazine.
What about you? Have you ever conducted a satisfaction interview with your volunteers? What types of questions did you ask and what feedback did you get?