Retaining Volunteers

We’ve all heard and used the quote, “Many hands make light work.” If you’ve ever taken on a volunteer project, you know how true these words are. The struggle we all face is how to get and KEEP all of the hands. We all have so much going on in our lives everyday, and there are a plethora of volunteer opportunities coming at us from every direction: school, work, church, community…Facebook. Every time we turn around we’re being asked to donate our time, money and talents to another cause. So keeping this in mind, how do you differentiate yourself and actually retain your volunteers? Appreciation.

We are simple creatures really. We all want to continue to do things that make us feel good. So while we may gain an intrinsic satisfaction from volunteering for a good cause, that feeling can be short lived if we do not receive the confirmation that what we are doing is worthy of appreciation. This especially rings true for those volunteers that may not be your volunteer leaders or even volunteer on a consistent basis. These are the volunteers that we often don’t spend enough effort appreciating. These are the volunteers that are “trying out” your organization. They’re the ones that are being pulled in a million directions, and see your organization as worthy enough for some of their time, but not sure if it’s worth the larger commitment. So, if you’re going to organize a volunteer appreciation effort, include all volunteers, regardless of the amount of time dedicated.

So where does that leave your volunteer leaders and those reliable volunteers that certainly deserve praise? Not in charge of the volunteer appreciation effort. This may seem so obvious, but do not expect your volunteer leaders to be in charge of the volunteer appreciation efforts. Leaving your volunteer leaders feeling like unpaid full-time employees is not a great way to retain those vital members of your organization. I’m sure you can think of at least a thousand ways in which your volunteer leaders make your organization run better, reach more people and impact the community. So make sure they “feel the love”, and you’ll be more likely to be able to appreciate them next year, instead of begging other volunteers to take their place because they left to volunteer at another organization that showed them more “love”.

Long story short, volunteers are the heart of your organization. They are your biggest champions and the direct source of your word of mouth marketing. Volunteers keep your organization running efficiently and effectively with minimal to no financial investment. Instead, make the investment in love. Don’t just tell your volunteers you appreciate them, show them by making the time to do something special for them and share your gratitude for all of their great work with others. Be the organization that others WANT to volunteer for.

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