Volunteers, the lifeblood of 85% of nonprofit organizations in the US, are becoming a rare species.

In fact, “regular” volunteers can be so hard to discover that SoftwareAdvice did a survey to see what might get a volunteer to keep coming back. The results offer a few practical reminders about how to keep volunteers engaged.

In this post, we’ll explore what the survey’s findings mean for your organization.

Be Flexible

27% of volunteers said they would return if offered flexible volunteering schedules. Aside from dropping in when they have some free time, a significant number cited the importance of being able to choose their own roles.

volunteers repeat volunteerism scheduling

The importance of volunteer engagement cannot be understated. To keep volunteers engaged – and coming back – several organizations reported that introducing volunteer scheduling software (in which volunteers could self-register for events) can be an effective strategy. Volunteers appreciate the flexibility of browsing and self-registering for events.

Let Volunteers Know Their Work Counts

24% of the sample group said that they would come back if they could make an impact. We all want to know that our hard work counts, especially when we’re using personal time to make a difference.

Aside from your volunteers hearing from beneficiaries, offering a heartfelt thank-you or other incentives encourages them to become repeat volunteers.

Add Value

One often-neglected motivator for volunteers is career incentives. Any work-related experience that might benefit their careers is an extremely desirable bonus for 23% of respondents, and it also raises your reputation as an organization.

Offering roles that focus on specific skills, continuing education credits, or a reference letter are great opportunities for volunteers to show future employers or educational institutions.

Commit to the Cause

The most loyal volunteers care about your cause. Focus on effectively communicating your cause, and you will inspire your volunteers to come back again. Demonstrate your commitment by sharing inspirational stories and focusing on the impact in your community. Make sure the spotlight is not always on your organization – but instead on the people you serve.

Create a Community

Many volunteers simply enjoy the experience of meeting new people, making new friends, and learning new things. 29% of respondents identified casual volunteer meet-ups and events to be the most appealing part of volunteerism.

volunteer drop in meet ups

Foster and grow this sense of community, creating a dedicated and close-knit group of volunteers – the sort where everyone knows everyone else’s name. Throw parties to celebrate their achievements, hold training sessions and meet-ups, and highlight their successes both as individuals and as a group.

Finding volunteers is one challenge. Getting them to come back is another one. By focusing on volunteer engagement, your nonprofit can drastically increase the likelihood that people will keep coming back.

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