Keeping Volunteers Engaged

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Over time, showing your appreciation for your volunteers will help them stay engaged with your program. Continually strive to seek out ways to show your volunteers how valuable they are. Illustrate how their specific contributions have made a difference to the people you serve. Volunteers can be an enormous help in running a program. It’s essential to employ various methods to motivate, incentivize, recognize, and reward them.

Keep volunteers engaged by utilizing and building on their skills.

Just as paying companies provide training, supervision, feedback, and opportunities for professional development to its employee, so too should your organization to its volunteers. By assigning tasks that build on volunteers’ skills, you are recognizing and acknowledging the value of the talents they bring to the table. Someone tasked with filing papers every time they come in may not last long, and you could potentially lose a wealth of knowledge they possess in other areas.

Instead, offer additional tasks or opportunities based on areas in which your volunteers want to grow. If you have a person, for example, who is interested in design, ask them to create a flyer or brochure for an upcoming event. If the budget allows, look for professional development opportunities, such as community center classes, to help volunteers expand their skill sets.

Thank-you notes, personalized certificates, and simple words of appreciation can really make your volunteers feel valued.

Get creative! Organizations should provide volunteers with the same opportunities as employees, including training, supervision, feedback, and opportunities for professional development. The more specific you can be toward each individual, the better. Volunteers generally do not want you to spend a lot of money to appreciate them. (If they did, they’d likely spend their time at a part-time job earning wages, not volunteering.) Meaningful rewards are often small but personalized. Many volunteers value a homemade card, framed kids crafts, gift cards in small amounts (to a local coffee shop, for example), or photos of the organization in action. Additionally, don’t underestimate the effectiveness of simply telling a person, face-to-face, that you value what they do and would love to have them continue to offer their services.

Remember some volunteers are more visible than others, and more easily make strong impressions. Be watchful and fair. Recognize all contributions, not just those on the “front lines.” Timeliness is also important. Recognition doesn’t matter as much if it comes six months after a successful event. Finally, recognize volunteers publicly, whether at a formal event or just in the office break room. Celebrations deserve to be shared.

Click to open interactivity Consider where, when, and how to recognize volunteers.

Consider where, when, and how to recognize volunteers.

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