Most volunteer managers can agree, retaining regular volunteers can be a daunting task at times. It is important to not get discouraged when you are constantly seeing more new faces than familiar faces. Remember, one hundred percent retention of volunteers is an unrealistic goal.
You may be asking yourself, “how can I ever retain one volunteer if the odds are against me?’ Check out the tips below to help ensure a more active volunteer group within your organization or at your service projects!
- Opportunities for evaluation: Evaluation can be informal. Just read your volunteer’s body language and verbal cues to see how they are feeling about the project. If their cues seem more negative than positive, ask them to come talk. You can ask them questions such as, “what do you like most about your job?” or “what can we do to make your time more fulfilling?”
- Vacations and leaves of absence: To ensure volunteer enthusiasm and interest, offer regular volunteers the option of promotion for good performance. If your volunteer is feeling overwhelmed by personal obligations, allow them a leave of absence or vacation until they are able to serve again. Keep in touch with them to let them know that you care about their well-being.
- In-service training: Training can be a great reward for dedicated volunteers to learn valuable skills for not only their volunteer work, but also their personal life. If your organization has a conference coming up or an opportunity to meet with a professional trainer in the field, reward them with the opportunity.
- Staff meetings: Allow volunteers to attend staff meetings within your organization in order to give them a voice in projects. If that is not possible, coordinate volunteer team meetings so that they can share opinions.
- Presentations: Invite volunteers involved in an interesting project to share their work at a staff meeting.
- Advocacy opportunities: Invite your volunteers to advocate with governmental agencies, their opinion may mean more because they are not paid to give it.
- Volunteer advisory council: Form a volunteer council to help develop policies and share project ideas. The council should have the chance to meet with your organization’s board members, too.
- Expense reimbursement: Reimburse your volunteers for their out of pocket expenses such as gas or clothing. Making a small budget for reimbursement will pay off in the long run.
- Benefits: Treat your volunteers like your staff members. Volunteers need food and drink, a safe working environment, and excess insurance if they are driving frequently.
- Personnel file: Keep record of your volunteers’ involvement so that you can right a reference later or be reminded of good performance. This file will help you keep track of your dedicated volunteers.
- Interesting tasks: Vary the work given to volunteers to ensure fulfillment and prevent boredom.
- Respecting volunteers: No volunteer is “just a volunteer.” Remember, volunteers are unpaid staff members; they should be treated with the same respect as paid staff members.
- Volunteer socialization: Create opportunities such as picnics or ice cream socials for volunteers to network and celebrate successes together.
- Staff appreciation: Recognize and thank staff members that work well with volunteers. If staff feel appreciated, they are more likely to connect and interact with volunteers.
It is important to provide inclusive projects for both your volunteers and your staff members to guarantee retention. When volunteers feel their work is both meaningful and fulfilling, they are more likely to return.
How does your organization better retain its volunteers? We would love to hear your retention policies in the comments section below!