Volunteer Retention: Prioritizing Those Who Power Your Cause

Volunteers are essential for powering your nonprofit’s cause. Discover key volunteer retention strategies to inspire these key supporters to stick around.

Tim Badolato
5 min read
Volunteer Retention: Prioritizing Those Who Power Your Cause

You’ve worked hard to recruit motivated volunteers. Naturally, you want them to stick around! While one-time helpers are great, transforming them into lifelong advocates will do a whole lot more good for your cause.

It’s time to stop the cycle of volunteer turnover, enrich the volunteer experience, and build a loyal volunteer team. Let’s cover why retention is essential before we explore how to empower and appreciate your nonprofit’s volunteers.

Why Volunteer Retention Matters

According to eCardWidget’s volunteer retention guide, 33% of surveyed volunteer managers rank retention as their top challenge. When you put thought into your retention strategy, you’ll tackle this challenge head-on and make it less of a problem for your organization.

Besides making retention less of a pain point, here are a few other reasons to focus on boosting volunteer satisfaction and retention:

  • Volunteer acquisition is costly. You likely spend a lot of time and effort marketing open roles and training newcomers.
  • Volunteers who stick around can develop their skills and become more valuable over time.
  • Retained volunteers are familiar with your mission, understand how to contribute to your goals, and can help new volunteers get up to speed quickly.

As a volunteer coordinator, it’s your job to inspire them to stick around, so your nonprofit can experience the benefits of a strong volunteer base.

How to Prioritize Volunteer Retention

It’s not hard to see that retaining volunteers is important, but how can you accomplish that? Experiment with the following best practices and pay attention to how your volunteers respond.

Put Their Skills To Use.

While typical volunteer roles consist of general assistance almost anyone can provide, skills-based volunteer opportunities leverage specific skills. Double the Donation’s skills-based volunteering guide explains that these volunteers contribute their talents to address complex challenges, enhance your nonprofit’s organizational capacity, and advance specific projects.

Think about your mission and areas that need additional support. For instance, graphic designers can create visually appealing marketing materials. This not only enhances your promotional efforts but also gives volunteers a chance to build their creative portfolios.

Conduct skill assessments to understand each volunteer’s skills and match them to roles that suit their strengths and interests. Alternatively, list skills associated with volunteer roles when you post opportunities. This will enable volunteers to pick jobs that fit their skill sets.

Create A Reliable Communication System.

Keep volunteers in the loop with regular updates about your organization’s activities, upcoming events, and any changes in procedures.

Use the communication channels your volunteers prefer, such as emails, social media, text, and a dedicated mobile app. For example, our volunteer management system allows you to invite volunteers, create teams for different regions, assign tasks, and provide updates through push notifications.

Show Your Appreciation.

Volunteers will stay if they feel valued for their time and skills. Make it a point to show appreciation, such as by giving small gifts or posting social media acknowledgments. You can even hold a full-blown appreciation event to celebrate all volunteers.

One of the best ways to show appreciation regularly is personalized thank-you letters. Put your thank-you notes in a fun format with nonprofit eCards. This approach works for several reasons:

  • Cost-efficiency: Cut down on printing and postage costs since eCards are delivered electronically.
  • Timeliness: Promptly acknowledge volunteers by sending eCards instantly. You can even schedule your eCards to send automatically after a volunteer opportunity, so you don’t forget.
  • Personalization: Add a personal note explaining the individual volunteer’s impact to each eCard, making appreciation more genuine and heartfelt.
  • Visual engagement: Create fun designs with vibrant colors. You can also add your own images or fun illustrations, such as those depicting volunteers in action.

Three volunteer appreciation eCards a nonprofit can send to its supporters

With eCards, your volunteers will have a memorable keepsake to remind them of their experience with your nonprofit and feel appreciated. It’s hard to beat the classic thank-you note in a modern format!

Promote Volunteer Grants.

Corporate volunteer grants take your volunteers’ impact even further! Employers who offer this type of corporate giving program donate to causes where their employees volunteer. 

Volunteer grant programs usually have eligibility requirements based on employment status and nonprofit cause. Companies will also set grant amounts and hour requirements. For example, a company might promise to donate $20 for every hour full-time employee volunteers at registered 501(c)(3) organizations.

These programs link your volunteers’ efforts to tangible financial contributions. When volunteers know their time can result in additional funding, they’ll feel like they’re making a greater impact, encouraging continued involvement.

Provide Fun Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteer work doesn’t have to be mundane. Offer plenty of opportunities for people to get involved, such as:

  • Event planning and hosting where volunteers help organize events like charity runs and gala dinners
  • Peer-to-peer texting where volunteers send individualized text messages to raise awareness and encourage actions like voting or donating
  • Translation services where multilingual individuals translate documents or provide interpretation services during meetings and events
  • Content creation where volunteers with a knack for writing or video production can create content for your newsletters, website, or other outreach channels

Our volunteer recruitment strategy guide suggests tailoring opportunities to accommodate diverse preferences, including short-term projects, remote tasks, and skills-based information. 

The exact opportunities you offer will depend on the nature of your mission, so brainstorm how hands-on ways volunteers can get involved with your cause! For example, if your mission is to promote literacy, offer mentoring opportunities. If you run an animal shelter, let people walk dogs or play with cats.

Next Steps: Use Volunteer Management Software to Boost Retention

As you leverage these retention strategies, embrace the power of technology as the foundation of your volunteer management efforts. You’ll be able to automate administrative tasks, improve communication, and foster deeper connections with volunteers.

Embracing these tools can help your nonprofit create a more sustainable volunteer program, ultimately leading to higher retention rates and greater mission outcomes.

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