How to: Volunteer Retention for a Lifetime

Engage volunteers on social media

Experience volunteer retention for a lifetime with these cutting-edge methods for 2015.

Finding and recruiting a skilled volunteer is a pretty significant investment of time and effort. Once you do acquire that rockstar volunteer, keep them engaged and appreciated! A volunteer who believes in the cause and loves the work they do is a volunteer for life.

BE INSPIRING.  You’re most likely to lose a new volunteer during the initial stages of recruitment and training. Start off your relationship with your new volunteer by:

  • Keeping “new training” short, sweet, and fun; not an all-day affair. Keep it simple. See the Oregon Humane Society and Mercy Corps’ awesome on-boarding experiences.
  • Giving new recruits a single task that they can start and finish on-site to feel successful right off the bat.
  • Making your cause the focus of your messaging to volunteers. Show them how their work will directly support the mission with inspiring video, photos, or case studies of past volunteer activities.

TRAIN, TRAIN, and then TRAIN AGAIN.  Clearly outline the expectations for volunteers at the start so they know what they’re getting into. In your training, outline:

  • What time commitment is required of volunteers?

Remember to offer flexibility in scheduling and show them that the channel of communication with you is always wide open.

  • What will they be doing and when?

Assign the right tasks to the right people. Give volunteers specific jobs where they can apply their skills and accomplish what they set out to do. And make sure to provide all the tools and resources they need to be successful at their task!

  • How does the organization support volunteers?

Show them they can talk to you and welcome volunteers to give input or share ideas.

TIP: Compile all of this information into a New Volunteer Orientation Packet.Tweet Volunteers

AND TRAIN SOME MORE.  Do training often and in bite-sized pieces, to keep it fresh and interesting. Since you’re meeting with your volunteers more often, and for less time, do a quick update on your organization’s mission. Share your latest victories to keep volunteers inspired by the cause and to reinforce the importance of their work. Infographic perhaps so they can easily share it on social media?

Always help volunteers with development they need to be successful in their volunteer positions.

APPRECIATE YOUR VOLUNTEERS.  Your organization’s successes are also volunteer successes. Thank volunteers whenever possible and show your appreciation for what they do. It keeps volunteers inspired and energized to remember why they began volunteering in the first place. How has their work since they began volunteering furthered your organization’s mission?

TIP: To celebrate, host social gatherings among volunteers – many volunteers join organizations to meet others so help facilitate introductions by hosting Happy Hours or dinners.

CHECK-IN.  Are volunteers happy with the jobs they’re doing, or do they want to try something new? Does the time commitment and schedule still work for them?

LISTEN.  Don’t just talk, listen. Find out what volunteers are missing in their volunteer experience. Listen to their ideas and what your organization can do better. Volunteers are your eyes and ears on the ground.

TIP: Create a forum platform for volunteers, whether it’s a Facebook or LinkedIn group or a shared Google document.

Make volunteering fun with these ideas:

  1. Boost morale with a volunteer appreciation party or awards ceremony.
  2. Energize volunteers with a volunteer-only event, or invite an inspiring speaker (local celebrity?).
  3. Give volunteers perks throughout the year to show them how much you appreciate them.

And remember to bring back volunteers to the why: why they chose your cause, and why they believe in it!

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