5 Ways To Retain Good Volunteers

Volunteers are really the life-blood of any nonprofit and must be managed accordingly.  It’s always a difficult balancing act when working with non-paid workers who really want to make a difference, but are not actually obligated or contracted to specifically deliver results. You want them to feel valued and appreciated, yet you need to steer them towards most effectively helping your organization.  With that in mind, here are 5 considerations on how to manage volunteers;

1) Group Volunteers Socially

Many volunteers get involved not only to support your cause, but also to meet other people.  If you can facilitate this by pairing them up with others who are their same approximate age, or have common interests, then they will be far more likely to come back again to help. Senior volunteers can often be your best volunteers.  They are frequently looking for increased social connections, especially those who are isolated or with disabilities.  Offering to pick them up and bring them to the office to do a “social mailout” or similar is something that they would love. Happy volunteers make happy non-profits!

2) Give Them Privileges

One of the most flattering things I was asked to do as a volunteer was to meet a national Canadian celebrity, David Suzuki and lead him in a bike parade. These “perks” can be incredibly rewarding for volunteers, and will give them countless stories to tell their friends (and maybe even a great “selfie”!).  This also empowers volunteers to be important ambassadors of your cause.

3) Set Finite & Achievable Goals

Too often volunteers can get asked to do too much.They are donating their most valuable asset, their time, and should not have that abused or taken for granted.  Not only must tasks be achievable, but they should have an end-date where recognition can then be given for completion of an event or project.  Many volunteers leave after a period of repeated “asks”, onerous projects that drag on too long and little or no recognition for their work.

4) Ask For Input and Take It

Volunteers can be a wealth of information on how an event should be run, how to save money or what the hot-buttons are for top donors. They are your eyes and ears, and so be sure to ask them for input on a regular basis.  This is also very empowering for volunteers. You may also want to consider having them run a meeting or workshop to share their ideas, if appropriate for that person.

5) Recognize Their Skill Sets

Too often volunteers will be asked to do something that they don’t want to do, or aren’t actually suited for.  If you have an out-going person that does not like to knock on doors asking for money, ask them what they would prefer to do and what their strengths are.  Some people may prefer data-entry jobs which they will plow away on for hours, while others don’t know how to turn on a computer. Be sure to probe a volunteer for their strengths, what they are passionate about and how they would like to work with your cause.

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