Retaining volunteers

Retaining volunteers is the other side of recruitment. Attention to keeping volunteers will save you time in the long run and show that you value your volunteers.

An organisation that values its volunteers tends to attract more volunteers. In turn, this will benefit your organisation by creating a sustainable volunteer program.

Tips to reduce volunteer turnover

  • Make sure volunteers feel like they are contributing to the organisation and are part of the big picture
  • Think creatively about how you can design interesting and rewarding roles around tasks that will make your volunteers want to stay
  • Use the skills and interests of the volunteer
  • Make volunteers feel welcome. Most people want to feel part of something; volunteers are no exception. Volunteers should be involved in the decision-making and their achievements should be recognised. If volunteers feel marginalised, they are less likely to want to continue volunteering with your organisation
  • If you ask volunteers for their opinion or recommendations, use their ideas! Don't make them feel like their voices are not heard
  • Make volunteers feel part of the organisation; don't keep them waiting in the foyer like a visitor
  • Make sure the volunteer feels wanted and has something to do. If a volunteer turns up and has nothing to do, they will feel like they are not valued as a member of the team or respected. It is therefore important to always have a list of back-up activities
  • Improve support and supervision; make sure there is a named supervisor that volunteers can go to if they have a problem
  • Build team spirit, provide team uniforms (if appropriate), name tags and conduct team-building exercises
  • Make sure volunteers have the training they need and feel comfortable in their role
  • Monitor volunteer expectations and motivations to see if they have changed from when they first signed up
  • Ask volunteers if they want to do more tasks, different tasks or have more responsibility

Long term volunteering isn't for everyone

It is important to recognise that some volunteers are not in it for the long haul. Corporate and episodic volunteers often get involved on a short-term basis to complete a specific project or to learn new skills.

Other volunteers may find their values, interests and expectations may change over time and may not continually align with what your organisation is trying to achieve. It is important to keep up the communication with your volunteers so you know how they are faring and if their motivations and expectations have changed.

Exit interviews

If a volunteer indicated they are no longer able or willing to volunteer, don't just let them walk out the door. Thank the volunteer for their help and ask them for suggestions for improving the volunteer program, what worked and what didn’t.

Exiting volunteers are a tremendous source of information and inspiration.

Tools and resources