Retaining good volunteers is key to the long-term success an growth for a chapter. In addition, volunteers who become involved regularly are likely to be the source of future chapter leaders. Retaining volunteers is more than just asking them to come back. Here we provide key concepts from REI on how help retain volunteers.
Volunteers give of their valuable time which is a precious resource for many of today’s busy people. In order for volunteers to return, they have to see that your chapter is worthy of the time and effort. You must demonstrate that you are the right organization for them to volunteer with.
Demonstrating competency can take many forms. One of the best ways is to show your volunteers that their time is valuable to you. Be prepared with work plans, the right tools and a well-organized event to help them see that your chapter is effective and efficient.
Volunteering is supposed to be a fun and rewarding experience. In addition to the opportunity to give back to a meaningful cause, your chapter should be providing a meaningful and engaging experience. Sometimes all it takes is a moment to stop and talk with each volunteer. You should take the time to assess their experience to make sure they are having fun and feel like they’re contributing. The volunteer who is most likely to return is the one that felt a sense of accomplishment along with a sense of community.
Personal recognition and thanks by one or more of your chapter leaders can help to make a volunteer feel engaged in the experience. Be sure to provide adhesive nametags to new volunteers and be sure all chapter leaders are also wearing nametags.
One of the most rewarding things about volunteering with Friends is the ability to do it as a family. Make sure your chapter is offering volunteer opportunities that are accessible to all ages and abilities. Consider creating a smaller project for children, families or “light-duty” volunteers.
If a specific volunteer opportunity is not well suited for children or requires physically challenging work, be sure to let prospective volunteers know in advance. They will appreciate knowing what they can and cannot do and will also see that your chapter is serious about making sure that everyone can participate.
Chapter leaders and site managers can often clearly see the difference that volunteers make at a site. However, to the casual volunteer, it may not be as obvious. Help your volunteers see the impact they are making by providing the big picture. For example, if you are clearing a trail from storm damage, let your volunteers know how many people normally hike the trail and what it will mean to the site to have it re-opened. Be sure to also document the efforts and successes along the way.
A dramatic way to demonstrate impact is through before and after pictures posted at your site or on your Facebook page.
Once the project is completed, take the time to thoroughly document all the effort that went in to completing it. Keep track of the money spent, the volunteer hours put in and the progress made for each project. Then, share that information with your volunteers when you send them a thank-you note. By demonstrating that your chapter keeps track of these things, you help your volunteers understand how valuable they are to the chapter and to your site.