Non-profits, churches and schools all receive a significant boost in productivity through the work of volunteers. Volunteers are the life blood of many organizations. Yet, volunteer turnover effects them all. This leaves organizations in an constant pursuit for new volunteers that need to be trained, coached, launched into positions, and overseen. The pressure to be in the constant hunt for new volunteers can be lessened when you increase your ability to retain the volunteers you already have. Before you can go and recruit more leaders you have to make sure leaders aren’t slipping out on you because of your volunteer culture. Fix the culture first so that volunteers can flourish in your organization. Through working as a volunteer, leading volunteers and helping problem solve with other organizations here are a few ways to retain the volunteers you have currently.
Value your Volunteers
Volunteer retention can be as simple as showing that you value them. You care about them as the individuals they are and not just for the tasks they do and how they advance your organizations agenda. Look volunteers in the eye and say you appreciate them and tell them how you see them engaging in the organizations mission. Volunteers often leave because they are overworked and under appreciated. Buy them coffee before they show up, send out thank you notes, and budget for volunteer retention ideas. Show that you care about your volunteers and they will stick around.
Clearly defined roles and expectations
Make sure your volunteers know their role and the expectations of them. Volunteers get frustrated when they signed up for one job and end up being overwhelmed with tasks they didn’t sign up for. Volunteer frustration often comes from unclear expectations and not knowing what a win looks like for them. They may not see how their effort helps in the long run. As an organization, take time, especially during the recruitment and training phases, to coach volunteers on expectations, defining their roles and what a win looks like for them. Your volunteers will knock it out of the park when they know what pitch to swing at.
Whenever you can generate a sense of ownership in your volunteer team your organizations culture begins to shift. Listen to your volunteers and their suggestions. They are the eyes, ears, hands and feet of your team. They see the problems in your systems and procedures that you may overlook. Ask for volunteer feedback and empower your volunteers to come up with solutions. When volunteers are asked for their thoughts and suggestions it helps them to feel part of the team. Creating a culture of safety, mutual respect and ownership goes a long way in retaining your volunteers.
Stay organized and ahead of the game
Get your stuff together! You cannot expect a team of volunteers to work well in the midst of chaos and dysfunction that you create. Take a moment to get yourself organized, create better systems and stop living in the moment. When you are going by the moment a lot of your time is putting out small fires that arise. When you have a great volunteer culture you have coached and empowered volunteers to put out the fires for you in a way that drives the mission of your organization. This allows you to stay ahead of the game, think big picture, and be innovative.
A revolving door of volunteers prevents momentum in your organization. Look at the volunteers you have right now. How are you celebrating them? How are you allowing them to feel part of the team? How are you getting yourself organized to better lead others? If you are struggling with volunteer retention and recruitment it is time to evaluate and improve your team.