“I quit!”

When a volunteer says these two words, you know drama is poised to ensue. Volunteers step away from organizations for a multitude of reasons. When they leave due to reasons within the nonprofit, however, the organization is likely headed for trouble.

How can you avoid the gossip mill from sabotaging the organization and causing other volunteers to hit the road?

Follow these tips to minimize the prospect of having unhappy volunteers.

Over Communicate

No one likes to feel that he is the last to know. When new people or policies come to the organization, do not allow information to “leak” prematurely. When change is coming, everyone can feel on edge.

If volunteers feel that others are privy to information before they are, they can feel upset or left out. Assure that new information is shared in an open, all-inclusive way to everyone at the same time.

Praise, Praise, Praise

Many times volunteer unhappiness stems from a concern that their precious time and resources are going unappreciated. Make it a priority to praise and thank volunteers for their time and talents.

Set a weekly goal to write a thank you card to someone in the organization for a recent contribution. When you take the time to create a thoughtful, hand-written note, you will be surprised how much the volunteer appreciates it.

Don’t Hide the Numbers

Let’s face it, sometimes your programs succeed – and sometimes they fail. While numbers are not the most important piece of data in the overall snapshot of your organization, they must not be ignored.

Whether the statistics are the number of participants, amount of money collected, or hours worked, share the data in an open format with the volunteers. Make your volunteers a part of the discussion to improve the turnout for the next event.

No Teacher’s Pet

It’s natural for certain personalities to click, while others may not be on the same page. Your organization is a melting pot of diverse personalities working toward the same goal. As hard as it may be, it is essential that you do not show favoritism.

If you are always calling the same people into your office to get their opinions or always giving certain volunteers first dibs on opportunities, you are setting yourself up for discontent. Make it a point that all your volunteers are asked for their opinions and provided the same access to volunteer opportunities. If you have hundreds or thousands of volunteers, try sending an occasional survey that solicits their feedback.

Keep Your Volunteers Happy

As an organization that depends on volunteers, some turnover is expected. However, by paying attention to a few key principles, you can limit your turnover. These principles include communicating important information to everyone in a timely manner, regularly praising your volunteers, being open and honest regarding your data, and ensuring that your volunteers have equal access to volunteer opportunities.

By practicing these simple tips on a regular basis, you should be well on your way to a happier volunteer staff.   

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