4 Ways to Retain Volunteers

Recruitment is often top of mind for volunteer schedulers and managers, but one overlooked way to prevent ongoing recruitment is to retain the volunteers your organization already has. This can seem like a challenge when time and resources are already spread thin in your organization. If you focus on a few core areas, retaining volunteers doesn't have to be a burden. Consider some of the following best practices to retain your current volunteers.

1. Use volunteer talents

Let volunteers shine by doing what they're good at! Take time to find out what skills or areas each volunteer enjoys. Then, assign them roles that let them do what they love. Have an extrovert? Make sure they get to volunteer around people. Does someone like organizing? Consider making them your next volunteer scheduler or let them help with operations.

If you're not sure how to learn your volunteer preferences, use a group communication tool that will allow you to get feedback or onboard new volunteers with a registration form. Keep this information handy for current and future assignments, as volunteers may have interests that go beyond opportunities your organization currently offers.

2. Schedule check-ins

Be sure to communicate with your volunteers regularly. Although it can seem like a lot of work, having intentional check-ins is far easier than constantly recruiting and training new volunteers.

Start by determining how often you want to meet. This may depend on the number of volunteers you manage. If the number is large, consider splitting up the meetings with other staff or volunteer leaders.

Next, create a regular schedule for checking in. If you want these to be formal conversations, be sure to send an invite by email so the volunteer can add it to his or her schedule. If you just want to have a quick, informal chat, set a reminder on your calendar to touch base with the volunteer.

3. Respect volunteer commitments

It'd be great if volunteers could make their volunteer role priority number one, but they have lives outside of the hours they choose to give. Respect their commitments to family and work obligations.

Unfortunately, this might mean being more understanding of last-minute sub requests, but allow your volunteers to enjoy a judgment-free zone when they have to shift their time away from your organization to attend to other commitments. By giving volunteers the freedom and flexibility to prioritize their jobs or families, you can create an environment that is not only supportive, but also sustainable.

4. Keep the work focused

While it's easy to pile the requests on to the faithful few, it's also a recipe for disaster when it comes to retaining volunteers. Keep your requests focused to create a company culture that is sustainable in the long term.

Start by ensuring you have a clear description for each volunteer role. If these haven't been created, you can start by quickly connecting with your volunteers to learn more about the scope of their work. Draft quick paragraphs or bullet lists for each role and have your volunteers review them to make sure the descriptions accurately reflect their work. Then, use this as a guide when creating requests.

It's too easy to fall into a habit of asking an agreeable, hard-working volunteer to do more and more, but you risk causing burnout. Likely, when a volunteer is agreeable, they may not feel comfortable mentioning that they're overburdened, so you may only learn of it after it's too late. Be proactive by delegating appropriately so your volunteers can enjoy a healthy volunteer commitment and you can have the support of long-term volunteers.

One of the best ways to respect volunteers' time and ensure they're not overscheduled is to honor their availability. If you're looking for a scheduling system that can do that automatically, try Volunteers Scheduler Pro free for 15 days.

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