by Marie Palacios

Recently a new program director reached out to ask, “What can I give to our organization’s volunteers” to encourage them to come back?”

She explained that many of their volunteer needs were met through local schools, institutions, or community partners that “required” a minimum number of volunteer engagement hours. More often than not, once those volunteers complied with those minimum requirements they never returned.

She immediately began brainstorming volunteer incentives such as gift cards, plaques, and other tangible items that might entice volunteers to return.

While most volunteers agree it is nice to receive the random token of appreciation, gift cards are not what your ideal volunteers really want or need.

Community members volunteer where they feel they can best use their skills to make a difference in the area they are passionate about.

The following volunteer management tips will help as you RECRUIT and RETAIN quality volunteers:

1. Develop an intentional volunteer management system that establishes policies and procedures to recruit, screen, train, supervise, track, and acknowledge volunteers. (Stay tuned to next week’s blog for a volunteer management system checklist!)

2. Get to know each of your volunteers at an individual level. Be sure to ask key questions:

a. How did you learn about our organization?
b. When did you begin to engage with us for the first time?
c. What about our mission most inspires you?
d. What skills or passions would you like to apply to your volunteer work with us?
e. What is your background/experience as it relates to ________?
f. What is your current availability?
g. What is your preferred method of communication? (phone call, text, email, social media)
h. What do you hope to give to our organization as a volunteer?
i. What do you hope to gain from our organization as a volunteer?
j. Do you know anyone else who shares your passion for our mission that you believe might be a good fit as a volunteer?

3. Honor your volunteer’s time and skills. – There is nothing more depressing than to arrive at your dream volunteer job, ready to change the world, only to find that there is nothing to do. Most volunteers report that they are more likely to quit because they aren’t given enough meaningful work…NOT because they have been given too much!

Volunteers are doing you a favor, and while it will cost your organization valuable time and energy to develop systems to properly train and supervise volunteers, this truly is the only way to retain high-quality volunteers.

When volunteers arrive, your organization’s appointed “volunteer manager” or appointed representative should know exactly what needs to be done and how to engage the volunteer in the process.

If you are blessed with a volunteer, who loves to clean or has indicated willingness to serve in that way, by all means…give them a cleaning bucket and let them go to town! However, if your volunteer has indicated a specific area of interest or limitations that prevent them from specific tasks, it is important to honor their wishes.

Avoid assigning “busy work” at all costs! This is the fastest way to lose great volunteers.

4. Be willing to solicit and receive feedback from your volunteers. – People want and need to be heard. At the end of the day, your volunteers might provide some great…and some not so great ideas. Regardless, it is important to establish clear times and ways that volunteers can express opinions about your organization’s programs, procedures, and their own experiences.

5. Clearly, express the impact of your volunteer’s work.

a. Their time saves your organization money. It isn’t enough to say, “we depend on volunteers to keep this organization running.” Consider something like: “Did you know that every hour you contribute as a volunteer is valued at $24.69 at the federal level and $___ here in our state?” This year you contributed 102 hours which saved our organization $2,519 dollars in salaries.

Click Here to find the value of a volunteer hour in your state.

b. Share specific impact data as it relates to the programs the volunteer has supported. They need to know how many people were served and hear the testimonies of lives changed as a result of your mission! Stories and statistics motivate volunteers to do even more!

6. Empower your volunteers. – Finally, it is important to find ways that your volunteers can use their skills, resources, and connections to support your organization both inside and outside of their volunteer hours!

Most volunteers don’t enjoy being micromanaged and will thrive with a little independence.

To keep volunteers from going rogue, sit down with them and explore the many ways they use their creativity and contacts with minimal supervision. If they understand your mission, your message, and your priorities, it is that much easier to keep volunteers on track without standing over their shoulder!

Volunteers who have proven themselves capable could and SHOULD be empowered to serve as ambassadors for your organizations, bring in new resources, and help supervise other volunteers.

Do you have any tips for recruiting and retaining great volunteers? If so, be sure to share them with us on Funding for Good’s Facebook page.

Get our free Grant Readiness Checklist

Prepare for your proposal writing journey!

The Grant Readiness Checklist is on it's way to your inbox now!