Last year, the US volunteer rate declined by 1.1 percentage points to 25.4 percent*. Understand your volunteers’ motivation and keep them coming back!
Volunteers serve as the lifeblood of a non-profit. Their service is often sought but less often recognized and rewarded. They bring in enthusiasm and fresh vigor to organizations. They help the organization keep its employee’s morale high and cause driven. They work for the organization but do not expect payment. And they do all this in the spirit of volunteerism! So, what do these numerous, faceless individuals who sign up to volunteer with your organization want from the experience? Here are some quick pointers:
1. Make a difference: They volunteer because they believe in your work and want to make a difference to the world. Unfortunately, non-profits lose many here and the ripple effect it causes harms not just the individual organization but the entire sector. Volunteers reinvigorate staff with their belief in the importance of your work and cause. Be sure to reciprocate – share success stories, highlight how their work matters. In short, inspire and be inspired!
2. Skill development: Many people volunteer to offer you their skills and in turn, hope to learn new skills. A clear understanding between the supervisor and volunteer of mutual goals, expectations and a plan to achieve them at the outset will go a long way!
3. Communication: All workers want clear communication on their tasks and deadlines and most appreciate feedback on completion. Volunteers are no different. Often inadequate communication or access to supervisors hinder volunteers and cause them to turn in a shoddy job or worse, quit. Treat your volunteers professionally and see a change in the results they produce.
4. Acknowledgement and recognition: Volunteers work for free, saving your organization money. Many non-profits rely on them, especially for help at events and fundraisers. They seek and deserve your gratitude. Go the extra-step to recognize their work and make them feel appreciated!
5. Team spirit: Volunteers want to feel like they are a part of your team. The more your staff extends camaraderie and support to them, the more they’ll give and chances are, go beyond the call of duty.
6. Information: Remember, volunteers often serve as unofficial ambassadors for your organization. They need access to clear and accurate information about your work and mission. Often, non-profits don’t bother to offer a formal orientation to volunteers and are not prepared to welcome volunteers into their team. This results in a lack of or a misguided understanding of its work and mission and the word spreads.
7. Fun: People don’t volunteer to do dull and drab work. They sign up to enjoy doing good. You don’t need to throw a party but even the most mundane office tasks can be enlivened with a fun and congenial atmosphere.
We’d love to hear from organizations and volunteers on the matter. Share your thoughts and insights below!
* Source: Current Population Survey, 2013