How to Retain Volunteers

Volunteers are people who selflessly give their time and effort without wishing to be paid. Volunteers provide an invaluable service to any organization. You need to be proactive in supporting your volunteers in order to retain their assistance. Here are some tips to encourage your volunteers to keep assisting you.


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    Understand Why People Volunteer
    • Volunteers are unpaid for their efforts, but that doesn't mean they volunteer expecting nothing in return at all.
    • People give up their time to volunteer for many important reasons. Often the main motivator is a social one - they may wish to meet new people or to make new friends. Many are hoping to learn new skills. No matter what the motivator, your volunteers hope it's something they may enjoy, and they want to feel good about what they are doing with their time. If your volunteers' experiences are mainly negative, they will not be keen to continue.
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    Get to Know Your Volunteers
    • Talk to them about why they volunteer for you and ask them if they've had any issues that have made the experience less rewarding. You may have volunteers who have been assisting you for many years. They may have some valuable ideas about how their volunteering role can be improved.
    • Be open to any feedback you receive and always genuinely thank people who take the time to give feedback.
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    How's the Morale?
    • Often volunteering can seem thankless, but if your volunteers efforts continually go unnoticed - or worse still, they receive constant criticism from other volunteers - they are more likely to quit.
    • Contact new and experienced volunteers alike and sincerely thank them for their efforts. Seek feedback on how they are enjoying the role. Are there any issues standing in the way of your volunteers getting their job done? Are there any problems between volunteers you can assist to smooth over?
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    Contact any volunteers who have decided to stop assisting you
    • Often the best feedback you can get is from former volunteers who decided to leave. Don't be surprised if they tell you that no-one contacted them to say goodbye or thank them - you may be the first person who has asked them why they finished up.
    • Asking former volunteers: "Why did you leave?" is a reasonable question, but a better question could be: "Can you tell me about the aspects of volunteering for us that perhaps, you didn't enjoy? If there was anything we could improve on, or change, what would you recommend?" Who knows - if things have changed and this volunteer feels 'heard', they may even agree to start assisting again.
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    Make sure you understand what your volunteers do day-to-day
    • Do you attend meetings with them? Do you understand what their responsibilities are? Is it something you could do yourself? If you can, make time to spend a couple of hours or even a day, working with your volunteers so that you can see the role through their eyes. This will give you invaluable insight into what your volunteers do for you.
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    Show your appreciation to volunteers
    • One of the most valuable things you can give anyone volunteering for you is your time. Always smile and personally thank them whenever you see them.
    • Think about writing personalized thank you notes and recognising extra effort.
    • You could also think about hosting a special volunteer breakfast or dinner, asking for nominations for "Volunteer of the Month" based on exceptional service and dedication.
    • Think about a monthly raffle based on the hours of service your volunteers work - they get 5 tickets for the draw for every 5 hours they volunteer, 10 tickets for 10 hours, and so on. The prize doesn't have to be expensive, but it is a nice way to recognise extra effort.


  • There can sometimes be tension or miscommunication between well-meaning volunteers who perceive that some help more than others. It's important to set a tone of kind respect and good faith amongst your volunteers. Ideally, everyone should be free to contribute in the best way they can, with the time they have, without criticism from others.


  • Planning special events for volunteers is time consuming and requires money. If you have a tighter budget, you may need to be more creative in how you show your appreciation to your volunteers.

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Categories: Volunteer and Community Service