It takes a lot of time and effort to recruit and train the perfect volunteer team. But once you’ve got them in place, what’s the plan for making them stay? This seems to be the biggest challenge for those in recurring need of volunteers. We see it all the time at numerous events. There are so many wonderful people willing to help serve other through volunteering. Whether it is serving meals to guests, cleaning up after them. or any of the other jobs that can be found, it seems there is always someone ready to step in and get it done.
Remember that these people are doing this because they want to, not because they have to. That being said, the best way to keep them coming back is by ensuring they like the environment they are working in. Nothing spoils a job, or any form of work, like doing something you don’t like around people you don’t like. Make sure EVERYONE feels appreciated and is given the freedom to work as they can. While volunteers need direction and training as much as any other staff, they also have more freedom to do as they please. Work with them to find a role they would best be suited for. Likewise, if you know two volunteers don’t work well together, then separate them. This may sound childish, but it is important to keep everyone happy, and that includes who they are around all day. Get to know how they are doing in their role as the event progresses. Flexibility is important, as some may need to jump from task to task.
Once you have set a good working environment, it is time to follow up with appreciation. Letting people know how important their work is gives them that warm, tingly feeling that only comes from serving others. This is the key ingredient in volunteer retainment. As an organization that focuses on humanitarian efforts, we operate under Galatians 5:13 and work to “serve one another in love.” Here’s a couple of things you could do to show your volunteers some love:
- Hold an appreciation banquet. This could be done at the church or a restaurant. Just don’t make the volunteers serve the food.
- Include a slideshow. Putting in a little extra effort to compile pictures of all the great work the volunteers have done will go a long way. And it can remind them of the good times they had, with a sprinkle of inspiration to come back and do it all again.
- Volunteer T-shirt. Most events have T-shirts they give to guests, but why not make one specifically for your volunteers? It’s the perfect gift.
- “Thank you” cards. After the event is over, a kindly-worded card helps volunteers to know that you haven’t already forgotten about them and all the help they provided. Plus, sending a card provides an avenue to invite them back in the future.
The volunteer challenge isn’t just about recruiting that perfect team, but getting them to come back next year.
1 Peter 4:10 “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”