Top Five Tips to Keep Nonprofit Volunteers Coming Back
Many nonprofit organizations know how challenging it can be to keep nonprofit volunteers coming back after more than a couple shifts. Nonprofit organizations know and understand the importance of volunteers. In short, volunteers allow you to get more done for less (or even nothing), get the community involved in activities and plans that make a difference, and also increase the visibility and popularity of your organization.
However, one problem that many nonprofit organizations run into with volunteers is retaining them after they have worked for a few days. Many nonprofits spend countless paid staff hours recruiting and looking for nonprofit volunteers to work, only to have the volunteers quit after a few sessions.
To get the most out of the volunteers in your nonprofit organization, you have to figure out what got them interested in the first place, and how you can keep them for the long haul. Here are our top five tips:
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1. Figure Out and Tap Into the Nonprofit Volunteers' Motives
Many directors of nonprofit organizations fail to realize that most volunteers give their time because they have good hearts and are trying to do something good for the community. Also, many nonprofit volunteers have other reasons for giving their time and efforts. Perhaps they are new to the area and want to make more friends, or they are looking for a new outlook on life. Whatever it is, if you put them at a menial task all day where they are isolated, they are less likely to come back.
Have a general questionnaire that has areas such as "what are you looking to get from this experience" where the volunteers are free to write down as much as they want. If your nonprofit volunteers feel that they are getting something back in return for their free work, they will be more likely to come back.
2. Explain Your Expectations to the Nonprofit Volunteers at the Outset
You should take the time to explain in detail what is expected of every volunteer before they are expected to perform the tasks you set them. Many nonprofit organizations give their volunteers a "manual" that explains what duties will be expected of them. This manual could include material that explains:
- What kinds of hours the volunteer is expected to put in including contact numbers in case the volunteer will be late or sick,
- The organization's commitment to making the volunteer's time both beneficial to the community as well as the volunteer himself, and
- The basic policies of the office that covers both volunteers and regular staff, such as personal calls and the use of the office's equipment.
Lastly, you should always be ready to praise the good work of volunteers for good work and provide advice for how other volunteers can do better. As with most jobs, a worker always feel better for knowing that he or she performed a job well. In addition, by phrasing advice in a constructive way, a volunteer will be more likely to take the advice to heart instead of getting offended and not coming back.
3. Make Sure that Volunteering is not Burdensome
You should be mindful of a volunteer's time when creating volunteer schedules. For instance, many nonprofits have found that the best source for weekday volunteers comes from freelance workers that do not always have projects running. However, if a freelancer is free on a Wednesday afternoon one week, it does not mean that he will be free that same time next week.
It is a good idea to get a general commitment of hours from every volunteer that you have. However, you need to be very flexible when it comes time to make the volunteer's schedule. Remember, you are asking a lot from them, a little flexibility is not too much to give in return.
4. Make it Fun!
This is not to say that you need to greet all nonprofit volunteers with a treat bag filled with goodies each day, but you should keep in mind that some tasks will be more fun than others. As an example, photocopying a 200 page trapped kitten manual is less fun than going out and using the manual when it comes time to rescue the trapped kittens.
However, you have to balance the "fun" activities with the amount of experience that each volunteer brings. Be sure that no volunteer is asked to do more than he or she can handle.
5. Show the Love
No matter what field your nonprofit organization works in, you can be sure that every volunteer that you have wants to know that he or she is making a difference. To ensure that your nonprofit volunteers keep coming back, be sure to:
- Thank them for doing a good job,
- Hold volunteer appreciation events at regular intervals (ex. a monthly volunteer luncheon, where you can also talk about upcoming volunteer opportunities),
- Invite good volunteers to other events that your organization holds (happy hours, holiday parties…etc), and
- Give out awards to outstanding volunteers at these events. For example, give out an award to the volunteer that gave the most hours in the year.
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