Volunteers are the backbone of any nonprofit organization. They contribute their time, skills, and energy to support your cause and help you achieve your mission. Now that you've learned how to recruit volunteers, it's time to focus on retaining your volunteers.

Many volunteers may lose interest or become overwhelmed with other commitments, leaving you to struggle to fill the gaps. As a volunteer manager, it's essential to find ways to retain your volunteers and keep them engaged and committed.

In this ultimate guide, we're sharing 15 tips to help you retain nonprofit volunteers, ensuring they keep coming back.

1. Make Your Volunteers Feel Valued

One of the most important ways to retain volunteers is by making them feel valued. Show them that their contributions are meaningful and appreciated.

  • Recognize their efforts publicly, thank them personally, and provide opportunities for them to see the impact of their work
  • Make sure you communicate with them regularly and provide feedback on their performance
  • Ask for their thoughts and opinions on how to improve the volunteer experience.
  • Offer incentives, such as discounts, certificates of appreciation, or gift cards, for those who stay with the organization for an extended period or complete a certain number of hours

2. Set Clear Expectations

When volunteers sign up to help, make sure you set clear expectations from the beginning. This includes the amount of time you need them to commit, their specific responsibilities, and what they can expect in return. Be upfront about what you need from them. Provide detailed information about the project they’ll be working on and how it fits into your mission. This will help them understand why their help is important and make them feel more connected to your organization.

3. Provide Training and Support

Volunteers are more likely to stay engaged if they feel confident in their abilities. Provide training and support to help them learn new skills and feel prepared for their role. This includes orientation, ongoing training, regular check-ins to provide feedback and support, and ensuring they have access to the resources they need to be successful.

4. Offer Flexibility

Volunteers have busy lives, and it's essential to offer flexibility in scheduling and responsibilities. Provide options for remote or flexible work, and be open to adjusting schedules to accommodate their needs.

5. Create a Positive Environment

A positive work environment can make a big difference in volunteer retention. Create a culture of positivity, respect, and inclusivity. Encourage teamwork, collaboration, and fun to make volunteering a positive experience.

6. Build Relationships

Volunteer retention is often about building relationships. Take the time to get to know your volunteers, their interests, and their motivations. This can help you tailor their experience and provide opportunities that match their skills and interests. Encourage networking among volunteers through formal events like volunteer appreciation dinners or informal gatherings such as potlucks or group outings. These events provide an opportunity for volunteers to socialize, share experiences, and get to know one another better. They can also help create a sense of community within the organization and make volunteers feel more connected and engaged.

7. Communicate Effectively

Communication is key to retaining volunteers. Keep them informed about upcoming events, changes, and opportunities. Use a variety of channels, including email, social media, and in-person meetings. Remember to ask for regular feedback, and make sure to address any concerns they may have.

8. Provide Feedback

Volunteers want to know that their work is making a difference. This could be through verbal or written praise, allowing them to take on more responsibility, or providing incentives such as gift cards. As mentioned before, asking volunteers for their feedback is also important so you can make sure their experience is positive and they feel supported in their role.

9. Show Impact

Volunteers want to know that their work is making a difference. Show them the impact of their work and how it contributes to the organization's mission. Share success stories, testimonials, and data to demonstrate the impact of their efforts.

10. Offer Growth Opportunities

Volunteers want to grow and develop their skills. Offer opportunities for them to take on new responsibilities, learn new skills, and advance within the organization. For example, you could offer a volunteer the chance to attend a relevant training workshop or ask them to help lead a new project or task. This will show them that you value their contributions and are invested in their growth.

11. Foster a Sense of Community

Volunteers are more likely to stay engaged if they feel a sense of community. Foster this by providing opportunities for volunteers to interact with each other, share their experiences, and build relationships.

Have team-building activities, social gatherings, or open forums where volunteers can share ideas and support each other. Also, be sure to recognize and reward individuals when they go above and beyond to help out. This will reinforce the sense of community and encourage others to follow suit.

12. Recognize Milestones

Volunteers often reach milestones in their service, such as reaching a certain number of hours or years of service. Recognize these milestones with certificates, awards, or other forms of recognition.

13. Address Concerns and Issues

Volunteers may have concerns or issues that need to be addressed. Take the time to listen to their feedback, address their concerns, and make changes as needed. The information you receive will be useful when you're recruiting volunteers in the future.

It is also important to provide support, resources, and training when necessary to ensure that volunteers feel comfortable with conflict resolution and confident in their roles.

14. Provide Resources

Volunteers may need resources to be successful in their roles. 

  1. Provide access to a library of books, journals, and other materials to help volunteers stay informed 
  2. Set up online forums or discussion boards where volunteers can ask questions and collaborate 
  3. Give volunteers access to online tools and resources such as software programs and databases that are relevant to their role 
  4. Provide information about their role, responsibilities, and expectations 
  5. Offer orientation or training sessions for new volunteers to learn about their role and the organization 
  6. Give volunteers access to technology such as computers, printers, and phones if needed for their role 
  7. Give easy access to organizational policies and procedures, job descriptions, and contact information for department heads or other staff members 
  8. Provide access to tools, materials, and information to help them do their job effectively

15. Say Thank You

Finally, always say thank you with both your words and your actions. Show your appreciation for their time, effort, and dedication. Let them know how much you appreciate the difference they are making in your nonprofit organization and community.

Now you have the volunteer retention blueprint

Volunteer retention is part of volunteer management because retaining volunteers is essential for the success and sustainability of your organization. By implementing these 15 tips, you can keep your volunteers engaged, committed, and coming back year after year. Some of the tips contain similar information to other tips because all of these approaches work together toward the same goal - volunteer retention.

When it comes to volunteer recruitment and retention, it's all about creating a culture of appreciation, inclusivity, and growth. When your volunteers feel valued and appreciated, they'll naturally want to come back and give more of their time to your cause. 

About the Author:
Geng Wang

As CEO of Civic Champs, I lead our team of passionate change leaders to create technology solutions to create a seamless and rewarding volunteering experience for both volunteers and service organizations.