It’s no secret that volunteers are the backbone of any nonprofit organization or program. Volunteers offer their time, effort, knowledge, and skills to help reach goals and fulfill the organization’s mission. As a program or organization leader, you can learn how to retain volunteers who bring experience and dependable skills for even greater success. With increased effort to engage your volunteers and proper training, you can discover what keeps them coming back to your cause.
Even if your retention rates are satisfactory, you can always find ways to improve your volunteers’ experience. Consider these tips for retaining volunteers and equip these individuals with adequate resources and flexibility to increase their satisfaction.
Why Volunteer Retention Is Important
Recruiting and training volunteers requires time and resources. High volunteer turnover can make it challenging for your organization to seamlessly continue its work and make a difference. An Indiana University survey found that over two-thirds of respondents felt their organization had a problem with volunteer retention. Neglecting existing volunteers to constantly bring in new ones can also take time away from maintaining efficiency and meeting operational goals.
While recruiting new volunteers is a great way to grow your organization and find skilled, dependable people, many of them may not continue to stay with your organization for years. Long-term, committed volunteers may be more reliable and committed to your cause, so it’s important to retain existing individuals and keep them connected with your program.
Volunteer retention is also an essential part of a volunteer management strategy. A well-organized volunteer program should value volunteers when recruiting and supervising them and recognizing their hard work. Every volunteer might have different reasons and motivations for doing what they do, but each individual wants to feel like they are contributing to a goal and making the world a better place. Keeping your volunteers engaged is a valuable component of a higher retention rate.
Retaining a core group of volunteers is important because you can rely on them to maintain your organizational operations, even during parts of the year when you may receive fewer or more volunteers. For example, depending on your program, you might start to see growing numbers of volunteers during the summer but significantly less during the holidays. With a dedicated group of retained volunteers, you can feel confident that these fluctuations won’t hinder your performance.
10 Tips to Retain Volunteers
Volunteers provide the invaluable service that makes your organization successful. Retaining loyal, hardworking volunteers is key to reaching your goals and fulfilling your organization’s mission. Here are some useful ways to retain volunteers.
1. Create a Better Experience
Consider what volunteers like to see when they offer their services to an organization. Collect information from your volunteers and initiate discussions with them to create a better experience for everyone in your organization. Think about what inspires and motivates them to join your program, and show that you care about their interests and value their time. When you keep volunteer retention in mind from the start, such as when writing a volunteer job description, you may have a better chance of making a good impression on new volunteers.
Some volunteers might join your mission to explore career opportunities, gain experience and job training, or simply to help their community. Regardless, it’s important to understand what volunteers expect to get from their experience. You can help them build new skills and reach personal goals while maintaining operational efficiency and fulfilling your mission.
2. Provide Proper Training and Resources
Volunteers who feel ill-prepared to work might feel unhappy in their roles. Be intentional when designing your training program, as volunteer training can affect turnover rates. During training, consider that your volunteers have different demographics, interests, personal lives, education levels, and motivations. Use this to your advantage and implement ways for your volunteers to work in teams or build social skills for better training outcomes. Effective training builds volunteer knowledge and influences their intentions to stay with your organization.
Provide resources such as informational handbooks, packets, and orientations to help familiarize volunteers with your program and connect them with your vision. It’s also important to ensure volunteer responsibilities and expectations are clear from the beginning to avoid confusion and reduce turnover rates. If volunteers show up to begin their task and it is significantly different from what they were told, they will most likely not want to return.
Creating a better, personalized experience means you ensure each volunteer understands their roles and positions to properly prepare them to join your mission.
3. Make an Effort
Try new ways to make a fun, comfortable environment for your volunteers. Ensure you are a positive representative of your program and fuel the passion of your volunteers as often as you can. Additionally, try to go out of your way to show respect for your volunteers and learn about them and their personal lives. Research shows volunteer retention rates and well-being are positively associated with feelings of respect in an organization.
This means your efforts are highly valued. You and your team can boost volunteers’ confidence and retention rates through small acts that make them want to stick around. Ask questions about them and remember details about their lives. Share stories of success and describe the results and impacts your organization’s volunteers have had on the community. These efforts can make volunteers feel encouraged to come back.
4. Fuel Their Motivation
Motivating existing volunteers is another important aspect of retaining them. Individuals who feel motivated may also perform better. Volunteer management plays a huge role in volunteers’ intention to continue with their service. As a program leader, director, or team leader, you can implement social engagement and celebrate successes and milestones to fuel motivation.
You can also implement transparency in your organization to boost motivation. Sharing statistics, percentages, numbers, and other helpful data can help keep your volunteers in the loop of your program’s success. When they see the results and growth in which they played a huge part, they may want to keep coming back to reach that sense of fulfillment.
5. Provide Flexibility
Volunteers sacrifice time out of their busy lives to help your cause. Offer flexibility and give volunteers room to grow and advance in your organization or program. Talk about their schedule preferences and try to find ways to offer opportunities for long-time volunteers. Enabling them to attend to other events and responsibilities in their lives will help them feel more valued and listened to, which can lead to better retention rates.
Some volunteers may also be serving their community to fill requirements for school or boost their resumes. Try to offer them recommendations, training, and opportunities to develop in their service. You can use custom volunteer management software to input volunteer contact information, availability, and scheduling preferences to keep your program organized, reward consistent volunteers, and ensure flexibility.
6. Show Appreciation
There is no such thing as too much appreciation. While many program and organization leaders know to thank their volunteers, they may not realize the impact of showing true appreciation. Your volunteers dedicate their free time to making your organization run smoothly and helping a common cause. Acknowledging their work goes a long way. Personally thanking your volunteers, sending them a card or email, and offering public recognition or rewards are some other ways you can express your gratitude.
A reward system or volunteer-of-the-month program can also make the environment more exciting and recognize individuals who go above and beyond to contribute to your program. Giving out personalized awards can also show your appreciation. The same Indiana University survey found that volunteers who received an award had a lower turnover rate. This information could mean volunteer appreciation is more valued than you think.
7. Value Communication
Communication is a critical asset to your organization at all levels. Be sure to follow up with volunteers and stay in touch with them. Try to articulate to every volunteer that their presence impacts your program. Start conversations with them daily or weekly to connect and create an understanding. Just as with appreciation, communication can always be improved and expressed to show you respect your volunteers.
Ensure your volunteers feel comfortable coming to you to address any concerns or ask for help on a project. When you show that you value communication, your volunteers will likely reciprocate, leading to an improved experience for all.
8. Utilize Personal Skills and Strengths
Volunteers may feel more important and useful when you assign them specific tasks and responsibilities that align with their skills and strengths. You can collect details about your volunteers’ interests and capabilities to better place them in engaging positions throughout your organization. When you match up these skills and strengths, volunteers may feel more helpful and make greater contributions to your team.
Volunteers may also be happier and more likely to stay in your program or organization if they feel their interests and preferences are taken into account.
9. Listen to Volunteers’ Needs
No volunteer would enjoy working for an organization that doesn’t care about their needs. Try to find ways to implement feedback in your organization to show that you value your volunteers’ ideas and opinions. You could do this with in-person conversation, online feedback, suggestion boxes, or other means of engaging volunteers’ comments and uplifting their voices.
Every individual deserves to have their needs heard, especially when they donate their time and energy for a worthy cause. Talk to your volunteers and see what kind of changes they might like to see or how you can improve your training and resources to better suit them.
10. Track Your Volunteer Data
Improving your volunteer retention rate is simplified with management software that can handle many needs at once. For example, with a complete online tool for managing volunteers, you can access:
- Volunteer applications
- Document storage
- Volunteer scheduling
- Volunteer database
- Volunteer reporting
- Text and email features
These features can make it easy for you to spot potential loyal volunteers and learn the backgrounds and interests of existing ones. This software will also make it easier for you to communicate with volunteers, helping you keep in touch and making them feel like valued members of your program. Having easy, instant access to necessary documents, screening, reports, and other data can give you the information you need to make better decisions for your organization.
You can improve your program structure and see better retention rates when you have sufficient volunteer information at your fingertips.
Boost Volunteer Retention Rates With Volgistics
Consider your volunteers’ experiences and needs to help boost retention. Your improved volunteer retention rates are essential for maintaining consistency and efficiency and meeting your operational goals. You can easily manage volunteer information with Volgistics. We provide customizable, scalable software that helps you with volunteer engagement, communication, compliance, and security. This cloud-based system will help you save time and energy while reducing costs.
We know how important volunteers are to your organization. Enhance their experience with a volunteer portal and kiosk that offers them easy interaction and flexibility. Contact us today for unlimited support with our system. We also invite you to visit our website and schedule a free demo to see how you can benefit from our comprehensive volunteer management software.