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Learn tips and hints to use a variety of electronic and technical equipment to enhance work with volunteers.

~February 2014~

Volunteer Customer Relations Management Plan

woman at computer


It is increasingly important for volunteer programs to move into communication with volunteers via social media.  Businesses have Communication Relations Management (CRM) strategies.  The January 2014 issue of Volunteer Today provided some CRM methods to be used in a volunteer setting. CRM techniques do not work if there is no communication plan is in place, however.  Haphazardly sending Tweets and creating a Facebook page just for volunteers is not a plan. 

Having a Volunteer Communication Relationship Management (CRM) plan is an essential to be effective with social media.  So, what is a CRM plan?    It outlines the strategies for staff and volunteers to communicate with volunteers.  It should also outline an image for the volunteer program that volunteers, staff, and clients/patrons can rely on and is consistent.

The Nordstrom’s Department Store is known for its customer service. An apocryphal story is that a man asked a sales person to take back a defective a tire.  The clerk took the tire and gave the man a voucher for the cost of the tire.  Nordstrom’s has never sold tires.  Urban myth or not it speaks to public perceptions about the level of customer service at Nordstrom’s  stores.  That is a reliable and consistent message.sign CRM

Volunteer Communication Relations Management plan defines volunteer and staff conduct.  The strategies outlined need to be easy to understand. 

The plan is a comprehensive view of how all communication occurs in the volunteer program.

 Here are some tips to help in planning for communication relationships within and without, as it relates to volunteers.

Steps in the Plan



Volunteer Centricity

  • Embed “customer service” into the entire plan.  Define it in the broadest manner to cover all volunteers, even the episodic.
  • Engage volunteers  and staff in the planning process.


Create a comprehensive view of your “customer”

  • Begin by defining a 360° view of the “customers.” (volunteers).
  • Make everything transparent; minutes of meetings, financial reports, and the progress of all projects.



Gather and Distribute Data

  • Constantly provide information to volunteers (a tweet at end of month to tell how many visitors were served, food provided, etc.).  People volunteer to help.  Tell them how they are helping and not at an annual meeting.  Keep up a steady barrage of data, but planned, so it is consistent and predictable.
  • Organize distribution lists (there is software for those with huge volunteer programs).  Arrange them in constituencies.
  • A plan includes all current “customer” contact.  The idea of a plan is to see what exists now in the way of social media and where you might wish to be in two years.




  • Surprise and impress volunteers with inventive means of communication.
  • Make the plan in phases. Never try to do every thing as once.
  • Select the right contact methods for the right group of volunteers.




  • Have a profile of volunteers—easier to target social media to use if you can describe volunteer—demographics and psychographics.
  • Create a CRM process to respond IMMEDIATELY to emails or phone calls.  Great job for home bound volunteers.  (This is the most often cited reason why someone does not volunteer.  “I called and no one called me back.”)
  • Follow-up! Follow-up! Follow-up!

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