Volunteer Retention Strategies That Work: 7 Ways to Inspire Them to Come Back Again
There are many ways to support a nonprofit that don’t involve monetary donations. One of the best ways? Volunteering.
For most nonprofits, volunteers are the backbone of the mission. They’re the ones who give up their time because they believe wholeheartedly in the cause.
But similar to staff turnover, volunteer turnover eats away at valuable time and effort in making more impact.
That’s why volunteer retention strategies are so important to make a lasting effect.
We’re bringing 7 ideas on how to inspire volunteers so they come back to your organization again and again!
1. Go Out of Your Way to Build Strong Relationships with Volunteers
First on the list of volunteer retention strategies is none other than building strong relationships.
Your volunteers aren’t actually volunteers. They’re human beings.
And human beings want to feel acknowledged, respected, and appreciated for who they are and what they do.
Those that donate their time are no different. So, as much as you can, sit down with them. Get to know them. Maybe your organization creates a luncheon where you sit together and forge a relationship.
Maybe you have a plan in place to check in on them via email, text, or phone call – even when they’re not volunteering. And do so without intending for it to make them want to come back in.
Simply do it because they’re human. And you’re working on the relationship with them!
It will go a long way in creating strong volunteers who genuinely do want to come back to your organization.
2. Prioritize an Excellent First Volunteer Experience
Those first impressions matter. And we know that it takes a lot of effort for volunteer recruitment strategies in the first place.
So to retain the volunteers you did recruit, you want to make sure that their experience is nothing short of amazing!
Audit the volunteer experience, especially the first one. Are there ways you can optimize it? Can you offer a “volunteer welcome party,” where team members gather together and welcome them to the organization? It’s a great way to introduce everyone to one another. And it shows your organization’s appreciation for volunteers right away.
What about an onboarding experience? Are there ways you can incorporate technology to make the training smoother? It can also include key information about the nonprofit and their role in it, depending on the volunteer opportunity they’re participating in.
Can you offer a tour of the facility? Maybe you could even offer a small “welcome” gift bag!
It’s all a matter of what works best for your nonprofit. But prioritizing that first volunteer experience is one of the best retention strategies out there.
If you’re curious about how you can build better relationships with volunteers (that boosts retention!) through virtual training, check out this training video at CharityHowTo! (It’s free!)
3. Nail Your Nonprofit Communications Strategy
Having a detailed nonprofit communications strategy is so helpful in streamlining your volunteer experience.
Without one many volunteers might feel frustrated because they don’t know what to do, where to go, or who to even ask.
But when you have one in place, you create a smoother experience. And when their experience is smooth, they’ll have lasting impressions! That will keep them coming back over time.
4. Take Their Interests and Skills Into Account
As you get to know them, make sure you ask them about the things they’re interested in. Ask them about their skills they’ve learned throughout the years.
And then keep your eyes open for opportunities to allow them to use those skills or interests for your organization!
Let’s say, for example, one of your volunteers is a copywriter in their 9-5. They come in on the weekends to walk dogs at your nonprofit animal rescue. Your organization has been having some trouble engaging supporters and followers on the website and on social media. So, maybe instead of walking dogs one weekend, you ask your volunteer if they’d be interested in writing creative bios for the adoptable pets!
That’s a great way to utilize their passions and skills in a way that can benefit your organization. And it often makes them feel as though they’re really playing a part in making an impact!
5. Keep Volunteers Inspired with Rewards and Achievements
Part of retention comes down to figuring out how to keep volunteers inspired and motivated. When you can actively engage and involve your volunteers, they’re more likely to come back!
Are there any fun ways to reward their efforts? Is there a fun, friendly competition you could introduce to inspire volunteers? Many volunteer management software have this feature built in, so you can create a competition easily!
Or maybe they just need some recognition in things like your nonprofit email newsletters or your social media posts! Offering a possibility at a “volunteer showcase” can be rewarding enough!
6. Include a Survey to Boost Volunteer Retention
Finding out more information about your volunteers is an excellent way to figure out what drove them to donate their time in the first place.
Create a survey to send to them after their first or second shift!
In it, be sure to ask them:
- How did they hear about the organization?
- What specifically made them want to get involved?
- How do they want to be contacted?
- What they’d like to see in the organization’s volunteer program?
Make sure you analyze and use this information to create an even better program. That’s one of the best volunteer recruitment and retention strategies you can use!
7. Always Show Your Gratitude
Just about every time (if not every time), you should show your gratitude through an extra touch.
Now, saying thank you is a given. As they end their shift, be sure to thank them on their way out!
But going the extra mile can do so much. Send an email to them after they finish their volunteer shift. Tell them how grateful your organization is for them!
You can go even further by adding in small tokens of gratitude and appreciation. Maybe it’s a little gift for them. Even something as simple as a handwritten thank you note mailed to their home is such a touching gesture!
These volunteer retention strategies make sure your efforts of recruiting volunteers aren’t doubled. Whether you prioritize in-person volunteering or virtual volunteerism, try implementing a few of these methods!
And don’t forget you can snag a seat in the free webinar on how to build connections with volunteers through virtual training!