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Steps to Reduce Volunteer Turnover (May 2,2018)

It is not a secret that volunteers are an essential part of not-for-profit organizations. Volunteers are important to nonprofits because they help the organization get closer to achieving their mission and vision, whether used on a daily basis or just on special occasions. In addition, volunteers help the organization by keeping costs low, since they aren’t paid, and because volunteers help spread the word about the organization they volunteer at. This helps get more volunteers involved and possibly generates new donations and sponsors for the organization. These are just a few reasons why volunteers are important, but more important than having volunteers, is keeping good volunteers coming back. It is also no secret that nonprofit organizations experience a high level of volunteer turn-over. Below are a few steps that will help your organization retain good volunteers and attract new volunteers, whether it is for special occasions or for day-to-day operations of your nonprofit organization.

  • Keep volunteers motivated – people who volunteer do so because they are motivated by some aspect of the nonprofit organization. They have a passion for the work that is being done. Rather than having the volunteers just help check off items on your employee’s to do lists, learn about what motivated them to volunteer in the first place, and enhance that motivation by having them help in that area. This will help volunteers feel satisfied at the end of their volunteer day and will leave them wanting to come back.

  • Enhance individual’s skills – remember volunteers come from different personal and professional backgrounds, make volunteering a win-win situation and allow your volunteers to utilize their skills to benefit the organization. By allowing volunteers to help in areas of the nonprofit were they can use their skills, not only will allow them to show what they know, but it will help them feel that they accomplished something. For example, if you are involved with afterschool programs, and one of your volunteers is a school teacher, have them help your program coordinator create lessons plans, or afterschool program curriculums.

  • Good working environment – just because volunteers aren’t paid employees does not mean that they have to have a poor work environment. One of the reasons volunteers do not come back is because they don’t feel comfortable with the work environment they are in. Treat volunteers as you would treat a paid employee by offering them a clean and comfortable work environment. For example, if you have a volunteer that will be helping your nonprofit with administrative type of work, provide a nice office or cubicle area, with the same equipment provided to your paid staff, and allow your volunteer to decorate their assigned space. This will help your volunteer feel at home and an important part of the organization, not just another volunteer that helps out occasionally.

  • Training and guidance – nobody is born knowing it all. When people go to a nonprofit to volunteer it is like starting a new job. Have a volunteer policy in place that includes a volunteer hand book, with direction for new volunteers. The volunteer hand book should state what is expected of a volunteer, what is considered acceptable/unacceptable behavior, and other day-to-day procedures. Also, provide volunteers with the appropriate training and guidance to do a good job.

  • Hard work pays off – this is one of the most important things you can do to keep volunteers coming back. Don’t forget to tell your volunteer what a great job they are doing! This is important; it helps volunteers know that the time they are spending is appreciated and worthwhile. This will keep them motivated to keep coming back.

These simple steps will not only help you retain good volunteers, but will help ensure that the current volunteers spread the word about how great your nonprofit organization is, which will help bring in new volunteers. There is no such thing as too many volunteers.

By Maria Gonzalez, CPA at Myers, Brettholtz & Company, PA.  Maria can be reached at or 239.690.4250.

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