Originally published in the September 2017 issue of NonProfit PRO. Click here to read the full issue.

Turnover is costly, even in the nonprofit sector. Although most volunteers are not paid, extensive training may go into preparing the volunteer to perform their duties. Nonprofits also invest money in recruiting volunteers either by inbound or outbound marketing strategies.

The cost of losing a volunteer does typically equate to a dollar amount. According to the Corporation for Community Service, the value of volunteerism over the last year is worth in the neighborhood of $193 million. The same study found that the average volunteer equates to $24.00 an hour. These numbers make a very good case for the importance of volunteer retention.

What is your nonprofit doing to keep volunteers active in your organization for the long term? Are you creating a culture around your organization? It is estimated that over half of the organizations in the nonprofit sector do not have a formal strategy for recruitment. Chances are, most do not have a plan for retention either. If your nonprofit organization falls into this category, it is time to start planning now. Here are a few ways that your nonprofit can overcome volunteer turnover in 2017.

Did you know? Volunteers donate an average of 52 hours of time per year.

Refine Recruitment Strategies to Overcome Volunteer Turnover

The first step in addressing your nonprofits low retention rates should be to analyze your current recruitment process. See if you can identify pitfalls in the way your organization currently finds volunteers and address those first. If your organization does not have a recruitment process in place, then it is time to create one. Keep in mind that the ultimate goal of your recruitment strategy should be to find the most qualified volunteer for a specific role in your organization. Here are a few tips to consider

• Because volunteers are not paid financially does not mean you shouldn’t find the most qualified volunteer for the job.

• Keep on recruiting and do not stop. Opportunities will open up, and it is important to have a volunteer pool for your organization.

• Understand your ideal volunteer. What motivates them? What value are they
expecting to receive from their volunteer experience?

• Test multiple recruitment avenues (outbound vs. inbound).

• Create an internal process for effectively screening volunteers (background checks are less expensive than you may think).

• Do not stop testing and analyzing the effectiveness of your recruitment efforts.

• Match your volunteer’s skill level with a specific organizational task.

Overcome Volunteer Turnover by Increasing Engagement

Creating volunteer engagement is all the buzz this year in terms of effective retention strategies. The question is: What does engagement really mean? Personally, I like to think of increasing engagement as the process of making your nonprofit organization more attractive for prospects and current volunteers. So, how can your organization do this?

• Be realistic about your volunteer expectations and set actionable goals for them.

• Invest time and create a strategy for volunteer training.

• Be humanistic with your volunteers and get to know them on a personal level.

• Respect your volunteer’s values and their time (remember time has value).

• Recognize your volunteers and their achievements.

• Connect with your volunteers on social media and ask them to share.

• Be accessible to your volunteers at all times.

• Follow-up with volunteers in regards to their experience.

Track Your Nonprofit’s Volunteer Data to Overcome Turnover

Understanding the way your volunteers are interacting with your nonprofit goes beyond making judgments. In order to improve volunteer retention rates, your organization needs to have a deep understanding of volunteers and their interaction patterns. Volunteer management data can help your nonprofit to truly understand important aspects of your volunteer relationship. Investing in a volunteer management solution can help your nonprofit:

• Communicate effectively with your database of contacts.

• Make the communication process streamlined (email, text, group alerts).

• Provide instant access to volunteer data from anywhere.

• Integrate with your nonprofit’s CRM solution for better insights.

• Integrate with Google Analytics to understand volunteer motivators and run more successful campaigns.

Turnover is a huge problem in both the for-profit and nonprofit industry. If the average volunteer dedicates 52 hours per year, and the average estimated hourly value of a volunteer is $24.00 then your nonprofit could be losing over $1200 per year for each volunteer who stops providing their time. Focusing your efforts on refining recruitment strategies, creating volunteer engagement and tracking your volunteer data can make a big difference in your volunteer retention rates.
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