Encourage Repeat Volunteerism with Inexpensive Incentives

Attracting volunteers to your nonprofit organization can be a tough task, but getting them to stick around can prove to be even more difficult. Between the stresses and pressures of busy modern life, many volunteers are disinclined to commit to more than one session. Repeat volunteers are an important factor in a nonprofit’s growth and success, but people often need a little more encouragement to continue with multiple volunteer sessions. Software Advice, a research firm that develops comparisons and reviews of various software programs – including volunteer management software – recently released a study of over 3000 U.S. adults in which they inquired about motivation and incentives for repeat volunteerism.


Like any employee or staff member, some volunteers respond well to incentives. Convenient scheduling was the highest-rated incentive in the study, followed by proof of work’s impact and professional development. Social/networking events and discounts at local businesses did not rate as highly.

It’s no surprise that volunteers would value convenient scheduling. Being able to drop in any time, select jobs ahead of time, or sign up and attend orientation online all make it easier for people to fit volunteering into their day-to-day lives. Likewise, knowing that you have made a difference in someone’s life can be a powerful motivating factor.

Many volunteers are more interested in multiple sessions if they can combine volunteering with career development – for example, receiving work training, academic credit, or a reference letter in exchange for their time.

Curiously enough, discounts at local businesses and social events like volunteer appreciation parties and galas were the least likely incentives for repeat volunteerism. Hosting parties, giving away gala tickets, and providing gift cards or coupons to your volunteers may be an unnecessary expense that your organization can do without.

This study shows that you don’t necessarily need to spend money to keep your volunteers engaged. Short and flexible work shifts, testimonials from beneficiaries, and letters of recommendation can all be effective methods of retaining your volunteer base without eating away at your budget.