Volunteers are the backbone of many nonprofit organizations. Volunteers help nonprofits support families, improve schools, provide services to those in need, and better their community and their world. Approximately 25% of U.S. citizens volunteer, demonstrating that volunteering is an important activity for many Americans.
There are many benefits of volunteering:
Resources are conserved, enhancing the organization’s ability to provide necessary services.
Volunteers gain professional experience, references, and networking opportunities.
Various communities, groups, and individuals can be brought together under a single goal.
Studies show that volunteers experience improved health and well-being compared to individuals who do not volunteer regularly.
While recruiting volunteers isn’t exactly easy, many nonprofits find that retaining and engaging existing volunteers can be an even greater challenge. Below are five strategies nonprofits can implement within their organization to help keep volunteers happy and committed.
Strategies To Improve Volunteer Engagement
Focus On Their Skills
Volunteers generally want to perform detailed, meaningful tasks with clear results. Match volunteers with tasks that suit their skills, or in areas that they’ve expressed enjoyment. Start conversations, listen to your volunteers and get to know them. For first-time volunteers, a simple questionnaire can help you gather information that will allow you to direct their energies appropriately.
Say Thank You
It might be easy to forget, but a simple “thank you” can work wonders. Volunteers appreciate an acknowledgement of their service. Keep track of their hours and the work that has been performed, so you can be specific on why you are recognizing a particular volunteer. A heartfelt note of thanks or a small token of appreciation (cupcakes, anyone?) can provide a motivational boost without impacting your budget. There are countless ways to thank your volunteers, so make an effort to sit down with your staff and brainstorm ideas.
Embrace Human Nature
Volunteers are some of the most wonderful, caring, generous people you’ll ever meet…but they’re also human. Appeal to their “selfish” side with additional benefits like leadership opportunities, job references, or letters of recommendation. Some people begin volunteering as a way to advance their careers. Help them find ways to build or boost their resumes and contribute to the organization at the same time.
Share & Inspire
People are more motivated to work hard and commit if they have passion for what they’re doing. Inspire your volunteers by sharing success stories of real people that your organization has helped and real situations that you’ve tackled. Be specific! Encourage your volunteers and remind them how great it feels to make a difference in the world.
Volunteers are more effective (and more likely to stick around) when they are well-trained and have a strong support system. Make sure you have a clear onboarding process to enhance the volunteer experience from the very beginning. If you don’t already have a volunteer coordinator, consider creating that role or designating specific volunteer-related responsibilities to existing staff members. To retain volunteers over the long run, it’s crucial to give them the support that they need.