3 ways to improve volunteer retention at your nonprofit

September 12, 2014

3 ways to improve volunteer retention at your nonprofit

Having volunteer help is of utmost importance at a nonprofit organization. Whether volunteers help raise funds or work directly on a specific project in the field, the donation of time from interested and engaged individuals is just as important as direct financial donations. In fact, research from Independent Sector, a nonprofit leadership coalition, shows that the average monetary value of a volunteer hour in the U.S. stood at $22.55 in 2013. This is an increase of 34 cents from the 2012 figure for such donated time.

Maintaining and building a volunteer base is important for nonprofit groups because of this demonstrated value. Although not all volunteer work translates directly into financial gains, the effort put in by these contributors is too important to ignore. With that in mind, here are three pieces of advice for charitable organizations looking to build relationships with their volunteers:

  1. Be professional: Legal website Nolo recommends that volunteer training and onboarding processes be formalized. Not only does this give these contributors a better idea of what to expect when they're performing their tasks – and learn how they can move into more possibly exciting duties – it also allows for more comprehensive education and a reduction in liability.
  2. Be flexible: Because many volunteers have to work their schedules around full-time jobs and family obligations, being open-ended with requirements can help attract a larger group. Instead of having a detailed schedule in place, consider asking contributors to dedicate a certain number of hours or shifts over the course of a month or quarter. Then, send out notifications of upcoming events and regular opportunities. While it's good to get a regular commitment from some volunteers, having a flexible schedule in place will allow more people to participate.
  3. Be thankful: Just as a good nonprofit makes contacting donors and expressing gratitude a priority, being appreciative of volunteers can strengthen their bond with the organization. Small gestures like showing volunteers how their work has helped a nonprofit succeed in a specific campaign or effort can aid in showing appreciation, as can tokens of gratitude like the occasional free meal at an event. Nolo also suggests inviting contributors to events such as holiday parties or get-togethers to demonstrate appreciation as well.

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