Volunteers: How to Keep them Coming Back

June 22, 2016

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

Volunteers have immense value to nonprofits. They save money, generate revenue, provide expert service, and help organizations connect with their greater community. They can serve as recruiters of future supporters and raise awareness for your organization. Volunteers are almost twice as likely to donate to a cause than non-volunteers. And it’s no small thing that 85% of all charitable nonprofits have no paid staff and are run exclusively by volunteers.

Finding dedicated, skilled volunteers is usually a difficult task. Volunteering takes a lot of time and plenty of training, and there are many organizations competing for quality volunteer work. Therefore, if you have valuable volunteers doing work for your organization, it’s best to keep them happy and coming back.

Retaining volunteers year-to-year is tricky. According to Volunteering in America, “more than one-third of those who volunteer one year don’t donate their time the next year – at any nonprofit.”

So what can you do to preserve these critical relationships? Read below for some pointers:

1. Provide a Meaningful Experience

Don’t always delegate volunteers to menial tasks, let them engage with your cause and the mission that your organization stands for. This can be as simple as giving them outlets to participate as part of a volunteer community and providing channels for regular internal communication, such as a segmented volunteer email list. You can also give your volunteers the chance to make guest blog posts for your organization, where they can showcase their experiences with your organization and express why they care about your cause. Another way to foster volunteer engagement and make them feel valued is by inviting them to exclusive workshops and networking experiences. If appropriate, find ways to engage your volunteers in person with your constituent groups—and short of this, see how you can personally connect your volunteers to their target communities through video and reports.

2. Give Your Volunteers Special Thanks

This goes without saying, but there are many ways to say thank you and truly show your appreciation. In addition to sending blanket follow up emails and letters thanking your volunteers, make them feel good by giving public shout outs on social media and your blog. Specifically mention and tag your volunteers if they are on social media. You should also send individualized follow ups to volunteers, noting memorable instances in which they really stepped up to the plate. This will make your volunteers feel noticed and valued on a personal level.

Throwing parties for your volunteers, giving out special swag and distributing rewards or recognition to top volunteers are also impactful ways of showing your gratitude and honor.

3. Share the Impact of Volunteer Work

Regularly inform your community about the impact of your volunteers. Tell stories on your newsletter, blog, website, and social media with visual assets to clearly illustrate your narratives. Videos are particularly effective storytelling devices which you can use to show volunteers and the rest of your supporter base the improved conditions of the communities they have positively impacted.

4. Ask for Feedback

Getting feedback is incredibly valuable for improving your volunteer program and showing your volunteers that you care about their experiences with your organization. If a volunteer does invest the time to give you thoughtful feedback, be sure to reply to them to let them know you appreciate their input and hear what they have to say. If you decide to implement changes to your program based on feedback, let your volunteers know so that they feel they have a real voice in the workings of your organization.
How does your organization keep volunteers coming back? Are you a volunteer with positive experiences working for a nonprofit? Leave a comment and tell us about it.

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