Recruitment is Great, but Retention is Key.
The life source of many nonprofit organizations is their pool of volunteers. These individuals give their time and energy to fulfill day-to-day operations and special tasks needed to run the organization. While nonprofits often invest a lot of time into getting individuals to volunteer, they often fail in keeping those individuals.
Six Steps to Keeping Volunteers
Ideally, in recruiting the volunteer, you asked for their reason(s) for volunteering with your organization. Tune in to the volunteer’s response, as it often indicates their areas of interest. Recognize their interests and place them in volunteer positions that will highlight those interests. A volunteer interested in her role is a volunteer happy in her role.
An orientation is important to allow volunteers to feel as though they are a part of the organization. An effective orientation is organized, informative, and welcoming. It should cover the agency’s history, mission, programs, and population served. Staff should be introduced and an overview of the volunteer program should be given. Explain the important role volunteers play in fulfilling your organization’s mission and the community’s needs. Finally, include a tour of the facility and point out locations of office equipment and supplies if these are relevant to the volunteer’s position.
Volunteers should be given clear directions for the tasks required of the position. Training programs have the potential to both clearly explain to volunteers what is expected of them and allow volunteers to get to know one another. Remember that everyone learns differently, so use many different training techniques.2
Volunteers should understand to whom they can turn to with a question or for feedback. Provide contact information and facilitate introductions.
Incorporate evaluations both of the volunteer and by the volunteer.3 Use the evaluations to improve your volunteer program.
Provide on-going recognition both verbally and concretely. Consider giving out volunteer awards or hosting an annual volunteer appreciation dinner.3
- Serve Nebraska, www.serve.nebraska.gov/pdf/resources, accessed November 19, 2012.
- NDT Resource Center, “Understanding Different Learning Styles,” http://www.ndt-ed.org/TeachingResources/ClassroomTips/Learning_Styles.htm, accessed November 23, 2012.
- CASA, Volunteer Evaluation Form, weblink, accessed November 24, 2012.
- Salvation Army Indiana, Volunteer Appreciation Dinner, http://corps.salvationarmyindiana.org/fortwayne/volunteer-2/appreciation-dinner-awards/, accessed November 24, 2012.
- Guidestar, “Volunteers, Part I: What Makes Them Stay?” http://www.guidestar.org/rxa/news/articles/2007/volunteers-part-1-what-makes-them-stay.aspx, accessed November 24, 2012.
- Urban Institute, “Volunteer Management Practices and Retention of Volunteers,” http://www.urban.org/uploadedPDF/411005_VolunteerManagement.pdf, accessed November 23, 2012.
- Do Something.org, “Action Tips: Volunteer Retention,” http://www.dosomething.org/u/tips/actions-tips-volunteer-retention, accessed November 21, 2012.