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Getting and Keeping Volunteers

It today’s world, communities rely heavily on volunteer labor, and the number of potential volunteers has never been higher. Despite this, volunteer support is an ongoing struggle for organizations, in both finding and retaining quality volunteers. Resources are tight and organizations realize that in order to keep doing their work, they must look to other areas besides the traditional employee. This approach is catching on and as we see a rise in retired individuals with tons of skill and time on their hands, we see more responsibly handed over to volunteers.

Finding Volunteers

There are many reasons why finding volunteers can be so difficult, but one of the main reasons o that there are many places where a volunteer can serve. Due to this increase, volunteers are more selective when it comes to the types of work they want to be involved in. This means that you now must compete for volunteers. They are no longer just walking in off the street. Volunteers now seek out opportunities that they find engaging and rewarding. If you are not “selling” your work, you are going to be lacking volunteers.

Keeping Volunteers

Once you land the volunteer, how do you keep them? This is a real problem for many organizations. I worked for a large international non-profit shortly after Hurricane Katrina. At first glance, our volunteer roles were robust, but after careful examination, the list of thousands really netted me less than a hundred volunteers. The rush of Hurricane Katrina caused people to volunteer, but when I was asking them to do the day-to-day, not-so-sexy stuff, no one wanted to be involved. What’s the answer then? I would encourage you to follow the few steps below.

  1. Be clear about volunteer roles and responsibilities

  2. Focus on value for them, not you

  3. Build relationships with your volunteers

  4. Train your volunteers

  5. Provide Opportunities for Different Levels of Engagement

  6. Show your appreciation

By following, these simple steps you can make sure that you do not miss landing and holding on to a quality volunteer. Think about the type of person who person you want to volunteer for you. You must know them well enough to give them the right assignment and provide them the benefits that will keep them coming back to play their essential role in your work.

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