Keeping your nonprofit’s heartbeat strong depends on retaining those who voluntarily fuel it. Volunteer retention has always been at the forefront of nonprofit sustainability, and inspiring these supporters to stick around is only becoming more imperative.
As the nonprofit community grows and volunteer engagement shifts to the digital space, organizations must adapt their tactics to keep up. If you’re battling compassion fatigue among your nonprofit’s supporters, it’s time to rethink your approach to volunteer retention!
Modern strategies are essential to maintain volunteers’ momentum between events. There’s no time like the present to improve your retention methods, so let’s dive in!
Understand Volunteer Motivations.
People support your nonprofit for different reasons. A few of the countless reasons why someone might volunteer with your nonprofit include:
- Altruism: Some people have a genuine desire to help others and make a positive difference in the world, no matter the cause.
- To Support a Cause: A personal connection or passion for a specific cause or mission can drive people to volunteer their time.
- Skill Development: Volunteering provides opportunities to learn new skills or further develop existing ones.
- Sense of Purpose: Volunteering can fill a personal void, giving individuals a sense of meaning and purpose.
- Social Opportunities: Volunteering can be a way to meet new people, make friends, and form other connections that might be personally or professionally beneficial.
Knowing why your volunteers spend time supporting your cause will allow you to reach out with relevant updates and suggest other engagement opportunities they’ll be interested in. eCardWidget’s volunteer retention guide explains that you should tailor your engagement strategies to meet these motivations and share creative opportunities to boost involvement.
Encourage role variety and skill development to keep volunteers engaged. If you’re unsure how to expand a current volunteer's involvement, simply ask them! Your volunteer management software (VMS) may allow you to track interests, skills, and experiences. This allows you to match volunteers with roles or projects they’re passionate about. In turn, you’ll be able to incentivize supporters and create a positive experience!
Harness The Power of Volunteer Recognition.
Just like you thank donors, you should thank your volunteers, too! You can go all out with a full-blown appreciation event or recognize them on social media. Sometimes, a simple note can go even further.
The art of the thank-you letter has not lost its effectiveness. It speaks volumes about your nonprofit when you take some extra time to write a personalized note.
According to Fundraising Letters' volunteer thank-you letter guide, each letter you write should address the volunteer by name, emphasize their impact, and share upcoming volunteer opportunities.
To really make your thank-you letters stand out, transform them into meaningful keepsakes by delivering them in the form of eCards like the ones below:
Here’s why this approach is catching on:
- Eye-catching designs. Your eCard designs can embody your cause and inspire recipients to read your thank-you note. Choose mission-related graphics, upload your logo, adjust the colors, change the font, and take complete control of your designs.
- Personalized recognition. Create a variety of eCards that you can customize for different volunteer achievements. For example, one design can relate to event volunteering, while another can be geared toward specific projects like redesigning your website. As soon as you’re ready to send one, you can add a personalized note for an extra touch of thoughtfulness.
- Immediate deliverability. Instead of waiting for traditional letters to be delivered via mail, you can immediately thank your volunteers. Pick the eCard you want to send, add a custom note of appreciation, and hit send. You can also schedule your eCards to send them at a more optimal time!
Thanking your volunteers in meaningful ways requires you to get creative. Online greeting cards may be just what you need to elevate your acknowledgments!
Consistently Communicate With Volunteers.
Picture this: You just volunteered with a nonprofit. They send you a thank-you email, and then … nothing. You go back to your regular day-to-day life and start to wonder what the organization has been up to. You visit their website and find out they’ve actually been doing a lot of amazing work recently. You would’ve loved to help out … if only you had known!
Don’t make your volunteers (or any other supporter for that matter) jump through hoops to find out what your organization’s been working on. Instead, be proactive with communication. A few types of communication you can easily fold into your regular outreach include:
- Regular Check-Ins. Regular check-ins with volunteers are crucial for nonprofits to maintain engagement and ensure volunteers feel connected. You might schedule one-on-one meetings, group meetings, virtual check-ins, or phone calls to discuss experiences and address concerns.
- Feedback Loops. Invite volunteers to share their suggestions for your programs and projects. Their experiences and ideas will empower you to continuously adapt your volunteer program. Use your VMS to conduct surveys and ask questions related to their satisfaction, interests, and ideas for your nonprofit. Once you’ve gathered feedback, don’t let it sit there — act on it to show you’re listening!
- Updates on projects. Sending updates helps maintain transparency, boost morale, and keep volunteers invested in the mission. Publish social media posts, message volunteers with your nonprofit’s VMS, or share insightful videos of your latest project.
From sending emails to calling supporters to invite them to your upcoming events, regular communication is a must. Just be sure to contact volunteers using their preferred communication methods! This increases the chances they’ll see your outreach.
Build A Supportive Volunteer Community
Make people excited to support your cause. Proactive volunteer recognition is just one part of this! Beyond your thank-you letters, you can create a positive culture throughout the year by doing the following:
- Host regular meet-ups or exclusive parties for supporters. Inspire people to join together and build camaraderie outside of your volunteer opportunities. From meeting up for coffee to attending an appreciation event, meet-ups can help form friendships among your supporters.
- Send eCards for birthdays, anniversaries, or community milestones. You’ll make each volunteer feel valued and connected whenever they hear from you. Since online greeting cards have several uses, they’re perfect for showing you care throughout the year. There’s a card for every occasion, especially when you’re in complete control of your designs!
- Create an online community where volunteers can interact. Create a Facebook group or another online forum to encourage volunteers to chat about your cause, share industry news, and connect with your team.
Inspiring your volunteers to stick around means helping them feel like a part of a community of equally passionate individuals. Work with your team to brainstorm other creative strategies that’ll strengthen this sense of community among your supporters based on what you know about their interests and preferences.
Final Thoughts: Redefining Your Volunteer Engagement
As we navigate the future of volunteerism, embrace tools and strategies that truly resonate with those who give their time and passion to your nonprofit.
Volunteer coordinators like you need to evolve their approaches by leveraging digital tools to inspire modern supporters. The end result will be more effective volunteer engagement and retention.
From thoughtful recognition to exciting volunteer opportunities, every step counts toward sustaining momentum. Now, it’s time to keep your nonprofit’s heartbeat strong and focus on your volunteers’ vital work!
Tim Badolato is the CEO of eCardWidget.com an innovative platform for digital employee recognition, donor acknowledgment, business marketing, and nonprofit marketing. He has a passion for using technology to drive positive outcomes for mission-driven businesses and nonprofits.