Tennessee Nonprofit Network

Marking Your Calendar: Volunteer Retention Points Throughout Their Journey

Volunteers donate their precious time and skills, fueling the mission and helping you to serve your communities better and more efficiently. Their time is worth more than most would think, as evidenced by Independent Sector’s new valuation of volunteer time. But just like any relationship, keeping volunteers engaged and fulfilled requires consistent effort. Volunteer expert Steve McCurley identified key points throughout a volunteer’s journey that are crucial for retention. Let’s explore these stages and see how you can nurture your volunteer relationships at each step.

1. Initial Contact: This is your first impression. Make sure your volunteer inquiry process is clear, efficient, and welcoming. Respond promptly, answer questions thoroughly, and express enthusiasm for their interest.

2. First Day: First impressions matter! Orient volunteers to your organization, their role, and the team. Provide a warm welcome, proper training, and a clear understanding of expectations. Make them feel valued and ready to contribute.

3. First Month: This is a critical time for engagement. Check in with volunteers regularly, answer questions, and offer support. Ensure their tasks are meaningful and provide opportunities for them to see the impact of their work.

4. First Six Months: By now, volunteers should feel comfortable with their role. Offer opportunities for growth and development, such as additional training or leadership experiences. Recognize their achievements and celebrate milestones.

5. End of First Year/End of Term of Commitment: This is a time for evaluation. Talk to volunteers about their experience and future goals. If they’re ending a commitment, express gratitude and offer flexible options for continued involvement.

6. Anniversaries: Celebrate volunteer anniversaries! A simple card, recognition on social media, or a small token of appreciation shows you value their ongoing commitment.

7. Times of Conflict or Crisis: Challenges can arise. Be open and transparent in communication. Offer support and work collaboratively to resolve issues. Show volunteers you value them even during difficult times.

8. When a Volunteer Leaves the Organization: Exit interviews are invaluable. Thank them for their service and understand why they’re leaving. This feedback helps improve your volunteer program and potentially encourage them to return in the future.

Remember: Retention isn’t a one-time event; it’s an ongoing process. Here are some additional tips:

  • Match skills and interests: Connect volunteers with roles that suit their passions and talents.
  • Provide flexibility: Offer a variety of scheduling options to accommodate busy lives.
  • Show appreciation: Regularly thank volunteers for their contributions, both big and small.
  • Create a positive environment: Foster a sense of community, collaboration, and fun.
  • Communicate effectively: Keep volunteers informed about organizational updates and the impact of their work.

By focusing on these key points and implementing these tips, you can build strong relationships with your volunteers, fostering a sense of belonging and purpose that will keep them engaged and contributing for years to come. Remember, happy volunteers are your most valuable asset!

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