5 Tips for Keeping Volunteers

With committed volunteers, your organisation can focus its time and energy on accomplishing its essential mission/purpose. And you can build a more cohesive, collaborative community of people who know their responsibilities, role, and value. 

Authored by: iClick2Learn Team

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5 Tips for Keeping Volunteers

Recruiting volunteers for your organisation is one thing, but how do you keep them coming back? A high volunteer turnover can be discouraging for your organisation’s leaders, staff, and other volunteers. It can also cause you to waste valuable time and effort training people who don’t last.

Luckily, there are some proven strategies for keeping volunteers active and engaged. Your organization can focus its time and energy on accomplishing its essential mission/purpose when committed volunteers are in place. And you can build a more cohesive, collaborative community of people who know their responsibilities, role, and value. 

1. Make it Easy

It would be unfortunate if someone had a genuine desire to volunteer but found the process too complicated. Your organisation can help potential volunteers find opportunities that work for them by getting creative with roles and schedules.

Say someone works 9-5. They have a sincere desire to help but cannot work a full shift. Is there some way you might be able to accommodate them? Or say another person has a very flexible schedule but weekends are out of the question. Can you find something for them on weekdays or evenings? 

Also, consider whether there are at-home volunteer opportunities within your organisation. You can access a whole new volunteer pool with remote opportunities. Or, do you have microvolunteering available? These are tasks and jobs that can be done in just a few hours, perfect for someone with scheduling limitations.

2. Offer Induction Training

Orientation and training are essential for new volunteers. No matter how motivated you are, entering new environments and meeting new people can be challenging under the best of circumstances. Add confusion or disorganisation to that equation, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

Volunteer training has many benefits:

  • Help new volunteers get to know your organisation, its members, and their place in it
  • Cover important details like what is expected, what is allowed, what is valued, and what is being accomplished
  • Teach or develop skills that are valuable both inside and outside your organisation–even skills that help volunteers secure employment
  • Show that your organisation is professional, committed, organised, and serious about investing in its members and accomplishing its goals
  • Help volunteers understand if this is the right opportunity for them

Training can be a very exciting and insightful time for volunteers. You can also use training as an occasion to promote your organisation’s culture, reminding people how they’ll be working for the greater good and supporting their own mental health.

3. Set Clear Expectations and Boundaries

When you explain your organisation’s work and how the volunteer fits in, they can feel empowered by that knowledge. Without a clear understanding of their responsibilities and function, volunteers can feel directionless or lost in the crowd.

Specifically, it can be helpful to explain:

  • Policies around things like phone/computer use and personal use of office supplies
  • Their expected hours and how they should communicate tardiness or absence
  • How remote volunteering works, if allowed
  • Exactly how your organisation and its volunteers make a positive contribution to your community
  • What tasks are included in their position and what jobs they might graduate to in the future
  • Who they can speak to regarding concerns, complaints, or requests

4. Communication, Communication, Communication

When you enter a new organisation, it can be challenging to know when and how to speak up. From the start, your organisation can impress upon new volunteers that their thoughts, opinions, and needs are important. When you create a culture that encourages open communication, volunteers will be more likely to speak up, engage, and connect.

A volunteer who doesn’t feel like their voice or opinion matters is probably one that won’t last long. The best way to make people feel like they matter is to ask them questions, include them in conversations, and listen when they express themselves. This leads to a culture of cooperation, collaboration, and appreciation that everyone can enjoy. 

5. Acknowledge Volunteer Contributions

Communicate with your volunteers about the impact they’re having on your organisation. By acknowledging their time and hard work, you can help your volunteers feel refreshed and newly inspired to continue with the mission. You can also mark important milestones and pause to celebrate successes. 

Acknowledging volunteer contributions:

  • Makes people feel valued and appreciated
  • Helps people understand the positive impact of your organisation
  • Increases the likelihood that volunteers will reach out to family and friends and encourage them to join
  • Leads to long-term volunteer relationships

When people feel appreciated, they become more inspired to give back to your organisation and continue with their contributions. And a supportive culture spreads, encouraging appreciation among and for their fellow volunteers. 

5 Tips for Keeping Volunteers: Conclusion

Satisfied volunteers are incredibly valuable to a not-for-profit organisation. They’re more likely to stay long-term, recruit additional volunteers, and accomplish great work on the way to achieving your mission/purpose.

Check out our Managing Volunteers Checklist for a more detailed look at what steps you can take to retain volunteers. Don’t forget to collect input and feedback from current volunteers who have a uniquely valuable perspective on the matter. Their insight will prove invaluable as you build a team that’s more cohesive and satisfied than ever.

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