We know it can be hard to give feedback to a volunteer who's working for free. But volunteers want their work to be useful for you, and feedback is an important part of any collaborative relationship. 

1. Set your volunteer up for success from the start

Since your volunteer is coming from the outside, they'll need adequate background information on your organization and needs in order to complete your project. Spending a little time upfront contextualizing your volunteer may reduce the number of questions they need to ask along the way, and increase the likelihood that they'll come up with a deliverable you will love. Make sure you have these items ready to send when your project starts:

  • Background materials about your organization that explain your mission and programming
  • Existing materials (spreadsheets, documents, etc) related to the project your volunteer will be completing
  • Examples of similar deliverables that you like (e.g., if your volunteer will be designing you a logo, send them examples of logos you like, and explain why)

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2. Always be constructive

Before you point out something you don't like in your volunteer's work, think about what you don't like, why you don't like it, and how you might want them to change it. This will help you communicate specific, objective feedback that doesn't feel personal. Here's an example:

  • "I noticed the formatting in this document is inconsistent, and I want to make sure we appear professional to prospective funders when we're sharing it with them. Would you be able to standardize the formatting with common margins, fonts, and sizes?"

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3. Don't forget to point out the positive

If you're especially impressed by something your volunteer creates or says - let them know! This will boost your volunteer's confidence, help build your relationship with them, and make it easier to deliver any constructive feedback. Try to be as specific as possible in your positive feedback, as well. 

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4. Express your gratitude

Don't forget that your volunteer is donating their time to you, 100% pro-bono - so always remember to thank them for their time. This can be as simple as adding a line at the bottom of every email, or as elaborate as sending a care package with merchandise representing your organization. 

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Want some advice on giving feedback, specific to your situation? Our Nonprofit Advisors can help.

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