Here’s a couple tough statistics to swallow: volunteer turnover rates hover at around 30%, and 1 out of every 3 volunteers will leave their position sooner than anticipated. Since it’s difficult to find volunteers in the first place, that means it’s doubly important to spend time and effort keeping the volunteers you have. Recruitment is only the beginning!
Volunteers give their precious time freely, so it’s important that you add plenty of value to that time spent with your organization. Keep your volunteers happy with our ABCs of volunteer retention!
A. Align with your volunteers.
The first step in retaining your volunteers is getting to know them. If you only see each volunteer as an extra set of helping hands, you’ll miss out on information that could be beneficial to your organization and their volunteer experience.
For example, let’s say you’ve assigned a fundraising task to your newest volunteer without even asking about their skills and interests. That volunteer might just be a talented artist who’d be happy to design your latest batch of posters!
Send out surveys to get to know your new volunteers, and maintain detailed volunteer records to ensure that you’re providing opportunities that are well suited to each individual.
B. Build a volunteer community.
Motivation comes from working on things we care about. It also comes from working with people we care about. - Sheryl Sandberg
‘Peer pressure’ comes with an inherently negative connotation—but it doesn’t have to. Because your volunteers will feel more motivated and connected to your organization if they’re connected to your staff and their fellow volunteers. The peer pressure to do good can be inspiring!
An easy way to build these connections right off the bat is to establish a mentor/mentee program among experienced and new volunteers. It takes time to make friends and feel comfortable in a new environment, and providing a mentor for each volunteer will make them feel welcome and included from day one.
C. Create a volunteer program that’s accessible.
In your survey for new volunteers, be sure to ask about any accommodations they may need. These accommodations may be in regards to a disability, or a new volunteer’s schedule may require volunteer tasks that allow for more flexible hours.
Check out our last blog, 4 Steps to Nonprofit Volunteer Recruitment Success, for more on micro-volunteering and online volunteering. Both are great options for making your program more accessible and appealing to potential volunteers.
D. Don’t forget to bring the fun!
We’ve talked about the importance of matching volunteer tasks to each individual’s unique skills and interests. What happens if you’re just looking for volunteers to, say, phonebank?
While you should always be looking to expand the volunteering tasks and opportunities you offer, you may find yourself in a position of needing help with work that is more menial. Does that mean those volunteers can’t be provided with a healthy dose of fun? Absolutely not!
This is where providing a joyful atmosphere and community is most important. No matter what task they are working on, volunteers should feel welcome and celebrated when they are spending time with your organization.
Volunteers can’t have any fun when they’re stressed! Provide thorough training on each task, and include information about who to turn to should they run into trouble.
Make efforts to connect with your volunteers outside of their work with your organization. Hold events for volunteers to have fun and build a sense of community. You might host an in-house trivia night, or leave the nest to go on a group outing!
E. Encourage feedback… And listen!
Send surveys for volunteer feedback at regular intervals. You should ask about their levels of satisfaction and include open-ended comment sections for any ideas about program improvement. Read the comments, and listen. If you want to improve volunteer retention, listen to your volunteers.
You should also make an effort to connect with any community member who has stopped volunteering with your nonprofit. Many people step away from volunteering when life gets in the way. That’s to be expected, and happens with every organization!
However, If that volunteer stepped away because they were unhappy with your program, that’s a different story. Take their comments to heart and consider their feedback moving forward.
F. Finish (and start!) with gratitude.
Your nonprofit wouldn’t run without volunteers, so make sure you’re giving adequate thanks! Even if a volunteer is there because they’re required to be, they’ve chosen to complete those hours with your organization. Make sure volunteers don’t leave without hearing a sincere, “Thank you for being here.”
You might consider recognizing volunteer efforts with a “Volunteer of the Month” shoutout on social media or in your newsletter. Make volunteers feel seen by acknowledging birthdays, and go the extra mile with handwritten thank you notes. (No, an email is not the same!)
Don’t give your financial donors more recognition than your volunteers. Both forms of donation, time and money, are necessary for the survival of your nonprofit. If you’d invite financial donors to an event, you should invite your volunteers.
It’s entirely natural to focus on growth for your nonprofit. You may be looking to tackle more projects, raise more money, or recruit more volunteers. While you’re pushing for more, though, don’t forget to protect what you already have: your people!
Make the effort to care for your volunteers, and watch your volunteer program flourish! After you’ve taken care of your team, take care of your finances with an accounting team you trust. Contact KYN today to set your nonprofit up for financial stability and success.