Volunteers are essential to the ongoing life of most organizations. Not only do they help us accomplish our mission, they provide enthusiasm, activism, and champion our cause. A dedicated volunteer force strengthens an organization and builds a strong, thriving community.
“If our hopes of building a better and safer world are to become more than wishful thinking, we will need the engagement of volunteers more than ever.” — Kofi Annan
In 2018, 30% of Americans over the age of 16 volunteered for an organization, providing an estimated $167 million in economic value. Unfortunately, many organizations have a hard time recruiting and retaining volunteers. What are some ways you can increase volunteer retention?
Say, “Thank you”. It may sound simple, but these two words are so important. Take time to thank your volunteers when they arrive, while they are working, and as they go home. Let them know they are appreciated. Show them they are valued and are truly making a difference.
Honor their time. I can not tell you how many times I have showed up to volunteer and spent 30 minutes to an hour trying to figure out what needed to be done. Volunteers have given precious personal time to help your organization. Honor them by beginning on time, having a plan, providing the necessary tools, and executing the plan. When you are unprepared, it makes volunteers feel like you don’t value their time and they will soon lose their zeal to participate.
Ask for feedback. Volunteers carry unique skill sets and expertise. They also have a genuine interest in your cause or they wouldn’t volunteer to help. If we listen, we can learn from our volunteers and gain a unique perspective into our organization. Ask them what they like about your organization or what areas they could identify for improvement. Do they have a specific skill set that provides value or perspective? Respecting volunteers’ thoughts and opinions goes a long way in building rapport and retention.
Show appreciation. Treat your volunteers to coffee or bagels. Get to know them by name. Learn about their family and interests. Showing genuine care and concern builds lasting relationships and connections.
Celebrate volunteers. Everyone likes to be celebrated. Find a special time to publicly recognize your volunteers with an extra “thank you.” This could be at an annual fundraiser, a special event, or a volunteer awards ceremony. Whatever the occasion, celebrate volunteers! Make it fun and exciting to be a volunteer with your organization!
With a little extra thought and consideration, you can increase your volunteer base and maximize the impact of your organization. In the meantime, you may make some new friends and strengthen relationships!