NPO Management

Volunteer Retention Ideas You Can Start Implementing Today

July 29, 2022

Don’t let volunteer turnover get in the way of achieving your mission

There’s a good chance that you have already struggled with one of the most common issues facing nonprofit organizations: volunteer retention.

And it’s a common issue for a reason. The nonprofit sector values maximizing donor dollars so that nearly every penny goes toward the cause. This is inherently a good thing. However, the lack of funds available to adequately recruit, train, and manage volunteers can make retention a challenge. Many volunteers are forced to sacrifice their time and energy to do good in the world, as opposed to making a living for themselves because the resources to support them are not available.

The good news is that there are many ways to honor the resources of the volunteers in your nonprofit organization that will encourage them to keep coming back to actively support your cause. Let’s take a look at some volunteer retention strategies and best practices!

Get their buy-in

Retaining volunteers starts at the very beginning of their involvement in your organization. Once you begin to intake new volunteers, you will want to give them a proper orientation to your organization, your mission, and the impact that your new volunteer will have in the lives of those they are helping. By spending time teaching your volunteers more about your organization, they will feel more connected to the cause. After all, their buy-in to the cause is not given, it is earned.

Recognize their strengths and skills

A for-profit company probably wouldn’t hire someone with no experience in construction to build its new office. Why shouldn’t the same concept apply to your nonprofit? With each new volunteer that joins your organization, take some time to get to know them and what they are good at and where their interests lie. Do they have experience in fundraising, marketing, education, or other areas? By taking this time to understand your new volunteers, you will be able to find a role for them in which they can excel and maximize their impact.

Spend time training and educating them

Consider investing in your volunteers as you want them to invest in your cause, and evaluating how you train volunteers. By taking the time to properly train and educate new volunteers, you are not only preparing them for the role they will have in your organization today, but you are also empowering them to be more independent. When volunteers feel that they can make a difference by using their own skills and creativity, rather than always relying on directions from others, they will feel capable, autonomous, and ready to face new challenges. 

Give them room to grow

Opportunities for advancement aren’t just for the workplace! Having a well-structured path for volunteers to grow within your organization will enable them to envision volunteering there for the long term. Volunteers want to feel like they are making a difference, and having a clear trajectory towards having a key role in the organization will make them feel like they are part of a movement that is bigger than themselves.

Reward them for their dedication

Last but not least, you should try to recognize your volunteers – especially those that come back again and again to support your cause. Volunteer recognition gifts don’t have to take the form of physical gifts, and they certainly do not have to cost an arm and a leg. Here are a few volunteer recognition ideas that you can take back to your organization:

  • Handwritten thank you letter: Writing a thank you letter to your volunteers that expresses your appreciation for their help can go a long way. Be sure to include some of the tangible benefits of their time and resource contributions.
  • Shout-outs: If your organization has social media accounts and/or a newsletter, you can share the contributions of your volunteers with your network by giving individuals shoutouts. Publicly recognizing your volunteers will make them feel valued not only by you, but also by the entire community that supports your organization.
  • Volunteer luncheon: Recognize your volunteers by holding an annual luncheon event for them. During the event, you can also opt to give out awards to recognize significant contributions, such as most hours volunteered, most growth within the organization, greatest lifetime achievement, and other categories.
  • Honorariums: If you have room in your organization’s budget, you can also choose to give your volunteers small honorarium gifts to thank them for their service. Gift cards, gift baskets, and personalized items branded with your organization’s logo/messaging are all great ideas of small gifts that will make volunteers feel appreciated.