Tips to Motivate Your Volunteers and Keep Them Coming Back

Sponsored by Reward Volunteers


Finding a good volunteer is like finding buried treasure. It’s not always so easy to get to where X marks the spot, but it’s certainly worth the work.

Volunteers are valuable in themselves, but keep in mind that a committed volunteer could mean a committed donor, too! Either way, their commitment to your nonprofit is key. To keep that commitment alive, we have some tips for keeping your volunteers motivated and coming back time after time.


Say Thanks

Whenever you thank your volunteers, always be sure that you’re showing honest and genuine appreciation. By showing them how much their work means to you, you can pave the way for a long-term relationship.

There are many different ways to say thanks. At the very least, acknowledge them when you see them in person, whether that’s in your workspace or while you’re out and about. Handwritten thank-you notes are another valuable approach. Whatever you do, make sure to follow up their volunteer experience with some words of gratitude. Retaining a volunteer is similar to retaining a donor in this way. By saying thank you, you’ll gain loyal supporters for the long run.


Build a Community

Invite volunteers to join your nonprofit community! Get to know them and make them feel welcome. A neglected volunteer won’t come back, but social connections will keep volunteers tied to your organization and your cause.

Food is always a great option for getting your community together. Organize a social for your volunteers or have a bite to eat before they get to work on a project. While you’re sharing a meal, you can get to know one another and ask for feedback in person. A few boxes of pizza can go a long way. If you’re looking for a new way to feed a big crowd, the farm families of Cabot Creamery have an easy-to-make mac and cheese for your next gathering. The recipe is often served on their Farmers’ Gratitude Grille. Try it out!

Volunteers don’t just have to find community inside of your organization—they can find some outside of it, too. The Reward Volunteers program helps new volunteers get connected with your current ones and engage with others in your community. You can also list your nonprofit’s volunteer opportunities there to spread your volunteer community even further.


Equip Them

Communication is key, especially with new volunteers. Having an open-door policy helps your volunteers do their best work and feel comfortable asking questions. Even if it’s not often, try to communicate with them before and after they volunteer, and allow them to do the same. It might add a few extra emails to your plate, but it’ll help things run smoothly once they’re in the door and ready for action.

Once they’ve arrived to volunteer, introduce them to the people in your space. Make time for a quick hello from some staff members, your executive director and other volunteers before they hit the ground running.

When you’re ready to get started, explain their task in detail and demonstrate it if necessary. Stick around for a while to be present for questions that might come up, and make yourself available if any other issues arise. Don’t be afraid to give your volunteers a challenging job either! It might take some extra time on the front end, but giving them significant work will make them want to come back again. Sealing envelopes won’t.


Respect Their Time

Don’t invite a volunteer in until you have something for them to do. Letting a volunteer sit around is a waste of your time and theirs. They’re making themselves available for free, so take full advantage of their help while they’re available.

It’s important to keep in mind that volunteers aren’t your full-time employees. Be considerate and accommodating of their schedules. Be up front about communicating your needs, too. Share how long a task will take, when it’ll be available and when it needs to be done. Providing alternate opportunities is also a great option—it includes your volunteers that have tight schedules but still want to give their time.


Show Impact

Volunteers love seeing the impact their work has made. You can easily do that by giving them a shout-out on social media. Snap a few photos and show some volunteer appreciation to your followers.

Try to brainstorm some other ways to spread the volunteer love! Fill volunteers in on your nonprofit’s goals, or let them know how they helped in a personal email or a community newsletter.

You can also recognize volunteers by rewarding them for their effort. There are lots of creative ways to repay them without having to empty your piggy bank. You can encourage your volunteers to track their hours on Reward Volunteers to earn rewards for their service. By logging their time, volunteers can score prizes for themselves and win money for the nonprofit they serve! Your nonprofit can also get detailed reports on the hours your volunteers are contributing.


Volunteers are a crucial part of your community, so don’t let them go by the wayside! They’re giving their time to your nonprofit. You should give something in return.

Keeping your volunteers motivated shows them that you care. That can be done in a lot of ways, like saying thank you, equipping them for meaningful work and inviting them to be a part of your community. By doing even the little things, you’ll keep your volunteers coming back time and time again.


Reward Volunteers is a free, easy way to track the time you spend volunteering. By logging time and sharing it via Facebook, volunteers can win prizes from companies that are committed to rewarding folks who give back to their communities. The more time logged and the more likes and comments a volunteer receives, the more chances they have to win prizes for themselves and the organizations they serve.

Nonprofits can also create accounts, list opportunities, schedule volunteers and track their hours. Reward Volunteers can connect to any volunteer management system and track volunteer hours for sponsors, prize donors and employers. Try it out!

The program was developed by the farm families who own Cabot Creamery Co-operative. Cabot farmers are often the first to volunteer in their local communities and they seek to honor the important efforts of volunteers across the country.

motivate volunteers

Claire Shinn

April 21, 2017

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