Retaining volunteers

How to Retain Volunteers?

The relationship that a nonprofit has with its volunteers should be at the top of the importance scale for the sustainability of the organization.

  • What are you doing to keep volunteers motivated, fulfilled, and engaged? 

  • How is your organization retaining volunteers? 

Avoid these pitfalls…

  • Volunteers’ skills and expectations do not match the job. 
  • Volunteers not feeling appreciated. 
  • Volunteers feeling disconnected from the mission. 
  • Volunteers feeling isolated from the other members. 
  • Volunteer’s whose whole experience is chaotic. 


Tip #1:  Be Realistic About Your Volunteer Expectation’s and Set Actionable Goals For Them

  • Do volunteers understand the mission and values of your nonprofit organization?
  • Do volunteers understand the goals and objectives of their chosen opportunity?
  • Are the goals provided to the volunteer SMART? (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Bound)
  • Are the goals provided to the volunteer in their comfort zone?
  • Do volunteers understand which tasks are a priority?

Tip #2: Keep Volunteer Retention In Mind From The Start

Get to know your new volunteers and their motivation for getting involved. Here are some questions you can ask: 

  • How did you hear about us?
  • What motivated you to get involved? What type of projects are you interested in?
  • What resources do you need from us?
  • Introduce your volunteers to other volunteers or staff that share their interests
  • Host volunteer networking events
  • Do you have any special or technical skills?
  • Ask volunteers to provide their feedback about each role they fill

  • Listen to what your volunteers are saying at all times
  • Be aware of your volunteer’s comfort zone and don’t pressure them into crossing it
  • Understand that relationships are the most important component of your nonprofit

Tip #3: Respect your Volunteer’s Values and Time

Here are a few factors to consider to make the most out of your volunteer’s time:

  • Understand your volunteers time boundaries and other commitments
  • Be available and responsive to all of your volunteer’s requests and needs
  • Make the process of volunteering easy for people (registering should be quick)
  • Provide volunteers with SMART goals and process to avoid confusion and wasted time
  • Always provide volunteers with accurate opportunity details and directions

Tip #4: Recognize Your Volunteers and Their Achievements Towards Your Nonprofits Mission

  • Set up a rewards system for volunteers that offers prizes based on performance
  • Host volunteer recognition events that reward your top performers
  • Provide your volunteers with food when they work (made by the same volunteers or donated)
  • Feature your volunteer stories on your blog and digital channels
  • Provide your volunteers with a verbal thank you (they go a long way)
  • Send your volunteers thank you notes after the completion of an opportunity
  • Keep your volunteers up to date with the overall success of your nonprofit.

Tip #5: Be Social and Get Your Volunteers Involved

Tip #6: Invest Time and Create Strategy for Your Volunteer Training Program

The success and engagement of your volunteers start with your organization being able to provide adequate training.  Training is key for the development, motivation, and retention of your organization’s volunteers.

  • What do you want to teach volunteers? How does this align with your organization’s mission?
  • Who will do the training? When? Where? What are the logistics?


20 extra ways to retain volunteers

  • 1. Create good and pleasant working conditions for the volunteers
  • 2. Make the new volunteers feel involved in the team (recognition of their time and energy)
  • 3. Build good relationships with the new volunteers to make them want to come back
  • 4.Transparency and good communication in the association, in the global team and between the teams
  • 5. Define the tasks in advance and be clear about what needs to be done
  • 6.Give roles according to the needs of the association and the skills of the volunteer
  • 7.Trust the volunteers and don’t intervene in their job (except if really necessary)
  • 8. Ask the volunteers what they would like to do (according to their skills)
  • 9. Appreciate what is done, show that you are grateful, and congratulate for the good positive results- We never thank enough !
  • 10. Support the volunteers in difficult situations
  • 11. Organise regular team-building activities
  • 12.Delegate tasks to the new volunteers so that they feel they are trusted and they can learn by doing
  • 13.Make the volunteers know their team so that they know whom to talk to for different questions, issues or needs
  • 14. Pay attention to keep the positive spirit and values in the team relationships, working conditions, actions and activities
  • 15. Create a newsletter for the team of volunteers with information about events, vacancies, help needed, projects, etc.
  • 16. Start and perpetuate traditions like a summer picnic, volunteer night, season start party, Christmas drink, etc
  • 17. Organise a national mini-camp to strengthen the bonds in the national team
  • 18. Be careful of the language differences and make sure everyone feels addressed to and included
  • 19.Offer the volunteers to be trained in national and national training according to the needs of the association and their affinities
  • 20. Debrief several times a year about what has been done and what could be improved - Strategic Day
  • 21. Have someone dedicated to well-being of volunteers, whom they can call and talk to if they feel something is not okay for them or if they have questions
  • 22.The respect and the well-being of your volunteers should be your top priority
  • 23. Your volunteers dedicate their time for a good cause but also to have fun so keep the energy up and stay positive!

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