Five Volunteer Retention Mistakes to Avoid
Posted Thursday, April 10th, 2014 by Verified Volunteers Staff
Image courtesy of Ambro/freedigitalphotos.net
We know that volunteers bring immeasurable value to the organizations they serve by donating their time and skill-sets. According to IndependentSector.org, each hour volunteered in 2012 was worth $22.14. Since volunteers are so valuable, it’s essential to do everything in your power to maintain a positive and engaged relationship with each one that takes part in your program. This will help you increase volunteer retention. With better retention, you will enjoy lower costs for recruitment and training, which means more funds, can be allocated to other aspects of your program. But is your organization standing in its own way when it comes to retaining volunteers?
Five Volunteer Retention Mistakes to Avoid
We’ve discussed how vital the onboarding process is for volunteers, and how a positive onboarding experience can improve volunteer retention. But there are additional ways to help prevent volunteer dropout. Below are five mistakes nonprofit organizations should avoid when it comes to volunteer retention, as well as ways to correct them.
1. You aren’t checking in regularly.
Are your volunteers comfortable in their role? Do they understand your organization, its goals and how they contribute to the realization of those goals? You can’t answer these questions without communicating with your volunteers – not just at the beginning of their tenure, but regularly and often. Checking in periodically and creating a strong system of communication from the start allows you to track volunteers’ progress and performance, giving volunteers the chance to talk through any challenges or issues that may arise.
2. Your volunteers aren’t motivated or challenged in their service.
Volunteers stop serving when they are bored or uninterested in their service role. Does your organization offer multiple ways for volunteers to be involved? Create specialized service roles and allow volunteers to select which positions interest them. This will help you to key into each volunteer’s interests and skill sets, and to ultimately keep them engaged. If they are doing what they love, they won’t become bored with their service.
3. Your volunteering schedule doesn’t allow for flexibility.
With families, careers, and a variety of other activities, many volunteers have jam-packed schedules. If your organization offers few volunteer opportunities — ones that only occur during work hours or on weeknights, for instance — prospective volunteers may not be able to commit their time. Organizations should keep this in mind when scheduling service events. They should offer various times and days throughout the week to accommodate a large number of people. Another helpful tip for service organizations is to ask volunteers how many hours they are looking to volunteer and set expectations at the beginning of their time with your organization. Knowing whether they are committed to volunteering weekly, monthly, or just a few times a year, will help both the volunteer and the organization plan accordingly.
4. You’re not well organized.
Is your volunteers’ time being used in the most efficient way possible? An unorganized service event can lead to wasted volunteer hours and unsatisfied volunteers. Make sure both your time and theirs is used productively by having clear instructions ready for volunteers and letting them know who to report to should they have any questions about their tasks. This way their time can be spent in service instead of waiting for instruction — something everyone will be grateful for.
5. You aren’t showing appreciation.
Volunteers want to feel connected to the organization they serve and want to know that you value their time and commitment. If your volunteers feel their efforts aren’t appreciated, they may get a negative impression of your organization and stop their service. Strengthen ties between your program and your volunteers by making efforts to recognize their service, whether it’s by giving a shout out in your organization’s newsletter, having a special event for volunteers, or offering a simple compliment on a job well done during their usual service hours.
Good Volunteer Retention Begins With Quality Volunteers.
The first step in creating a great volunteer base is choosing recruits who are reliable, dedicated and valuable to your organization. Screening volunteers helps identify these individuals while making sure your organization and its assets are protected.
Does your organization have a strategy for retaining volunteers? We value your feedback, so feel free to leave your thoughts in a comment below or connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Google+.Tom Klein founded Verified Volunteers and leads their mission to propel service organizations and nonprofits by empowering volunteers. Connect with Tom on LinkedIn or Google+.