Retain Volunteers by Engaging Them.
Chances are your nonprofit has big dreams of making a difference in as many lives as possible. In order to achieve those dreams, your organization may rely heavily on the assistance of volunteers to dominate goals and carry out your mission. The relationship that your nonprofit has with your volunteers should be at the top of the importance scale for the sustainability of your organization. What is your nonprofit doing to keep volunteers motivated, fulfilled, and engaged? How is your organization retaining volunteers? If your organization does not have a strategy for volunteer engagement then it is time (like right now) to start today. Here are 8 great ways to engage and retain volunteers.
Did you know? Volunteers provided 7.8 billion hours of service last year.
Retain Volunteers Tip #1: Be Realistic About Your Volunteer Expectation’s and Set Actionable Goals For Them
If you’re nonprofit really wants to engage and retain volunteers you need to start with the basics. Providing volunteers with realistic expectations and actionable goals will help them to be successful in providing service and allow them to have the greatest impact. Volunteers should always understand what your organization is asking for them. Here are a few questions to ask yourself when creating actionable goals for your volunteers:
- 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 of all of your volunteer opportunities aligned?
- Are the goals provided to the volunteer in their comfort zone?
- Do volunteers understand which tasks are a priority?
Retain Volunteers Tip #2: 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. Creating a successful volunteer training program takes time and optimization along the way. Never think of your training program as a set it in stone and forget about it component of the business strategy. Training is one of the most important variables if your nonprofit wants to be sustainable. Training is key for the development, motivation, and retention of your organization’s volunteers.
Here are a few questions that you may want to ask when creating a volunteer training program:
- What will your nonprofit gain from the creation and execution of the proposed training program?
- What do you want to teach volunteers? How does this align with your organization’s mission?
- How will your organization train your volunteers? What steps will need to be taken?
- Who on your team will facilitate the program? Are they the right person for the job?
- What is your organizations budget for the overall development of the program?
- What training materials will your organization be able to provide based on budget?
- What are the logistics and plan associated with each training session?
Did you know? 62.6 million people volunteered in 2015 in the United States alone.
Retain Volunteers Tip #3: Be Humanistic with Your Volunteers and Get to Know Them Personally
No one wants to engage with an organization that is dry and doesn’t communicate with them in a humanistic way. Acting this way does not help your ability to retain volunteers either. BE HUMAN WITH YOUR VOLUNTEERS! Volunteers clearly want to build a relationship with your organization or else they wouldn’t have devoted their time to providing a service. Many volunteers also want to build friendships and get to know others who feel strongly about your nonprofit’s mission. Create an atmosphere that promotes the building of these friendships. Here are a few additional tips to engage and retain volunteers by getting to know them on a personal level:
- Ask volunteers about their hobbies and develop an interest in what they are interested in
- Ask volunteers to provide their feedback about each role they fill
- Connect with your volunteers on social media
- Write your volunteer thank you notes by hand (more personal!)
- Introduce your volunteers to other volunteers or staff that share their interests
- Host volunteer networking events
Retain Volunteers Tip #4: Respect Your Volunteers Values and Their Time
Respect should be the foundation of every action and every interaction you have with your nonprofits volunteers. To truly respect people, we need to understand their values and what personal gains they hope to achieve from providing their volunteer service. You’re nonprofit also needs to respect your volunteers time and make the greatest use of their time commitment. There is plenty of ways that your volunteers could have used the time they have devoted to your organization. Keep them engaged every minute of their experience so they feel as though the commitment was worth the sacrifice.
Consider the following respect factors:
- Value the opinions of each and every volunteer
- Listen to what your volunteers are saying at all times
- Be sensitive to your volunteer’s feelings and emotions
- Avoid and minimize the risk of gossip at your volunteer events
- Be aware of your volunteer’s comfort zone and don’t pressure them into crossing it
- Never create a stereotype for anyone inside or outside of your organization
- Take the time to learn something from your volunteers
- Understand that relationships are the most important component of your nonprofit
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
- Consider volunteer commutes when scheduling meetings (are they necessary)
- Always provide volunteers with accurate opportunity details and directions
- Focus on effective communication strategies (see chart below)
Retain Volunteers Tip #5: Recognize Your Volunteers and Their Achievements Towards Your Nonprofits Mission
Everyone likes to be recognized for their achievements and your nonprofit’s volunteers are no different. Recognition can promote a sense of gratitude and keep your volunteers coming back for years to come. There are many ways that your nonprofit can recognize volunteers. Here are just a few strategies:
- 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
- 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.
Retain Volunteers Tip #6: Be Social and Get Your Volunteers Involved
Social media is a great tool for nonprofits to utilize to increase engagement with their volunteers. Get your volunteers involved in sharing your nonprofits culture, mission, goals, and values with their direct connections. Developing a strategic social media strategy can have a direct impact on your nonprofits ability to fill upcoming opportunities and retain existing volunteers and donors. Here are a few strategies for engaging volunteers on social media:
- Promote your current volunteer achievements and organizational goals
- Focus your nonprofit social content around storytelling
- Entice others to serve with strong CTA’s
- Thank your volunteers for helping reach milestones and goals
- Ask your volunteers to share your content
Retain Volunteers Tip #7: Be Accessible for Volunteers at All Times
Accessibility is often overlooked as a means of increasing engagement with your volunteers. Issues that volunteers may encounter in fulfilling their commitment with your nonprofit need to be addressed quickly and efficiently. The best way to solve any issues that may arise is to be accessible to your volunteers at all times. Accessibility comes in many shapes and sizes. Here are a few strategies for increasing the accessibility of your nonprofit:
- Make accommodations for volunteers who have physical or mental disabilities
- Provide volunteers with several methods of contact
- Provide new volunteers with a designated shadow if they need immediate assistance
- Create a support group on your organization’s website or social media profiles
Retain Volunteers Tip #8: Think Outside the Box
There are plenty of additional ways to promote engagement and retain volunteers that have not been identified in our blog post. Think about new ways to communicate, enhance the experience, and reward your volunteers and improved engagement will come naturally to your organization. We are interested in hearing what your organization is doing to enhance engagement with your volunteers! Tell us in the comment section below.