Want to Keep Volunteers Coming Back? Value Their Time

The morning commute is bad enough as it is. But when you’re late, and there’s a fender bender slowing traffic, and construction, and a school crosswalk, and a cop with a radar gun, it gets downright unpleasant. Then, after an exasperating drive to an early meeting, you discover that you’re the first one there. Drat.

Getting somewhere early is great. Getting somewhere early for no reason is pretty terrible. It gets people a little testy, shall we say. While little life frustrations are, generally, uncontrollable (who knew you’d beat everyone else to the office?), when managing volunteers, you need to be in control. Here’s how:

Value Their Time:

As our example above illustrates, your volunteers’ time is of great value. Don’t take it for granted. Don’t make your volunteers get to their location early for no reason or stay if there isn’t work to be done. Treat their donation of time with as much importance as you would a monetary donation—because, some would say, a donation of time is more valuable.

While actually volunteering for your nonprofit, make sure they’re kept busy the whole time. They carved out a few hours for you—so use time wisely. It’s important that the work you assign them takes up all of their allotted time.

Have a Plan:

Continuing the points above, as a coordinator of these volunteers you need to have a plan. Not a flimsy outline of what they might be doing, but a solid plan that will keep all of your volunteers happy and working the entire time.

Have a plan in case someone gets injured, if weather doesn’t allow for your planned volunteering activity, if someone shows up who wasn’t on the list or if people don’t show up, etc. A pleasant volunteering experience leaves room for future experiences. A negative experience well, means they probably won’t be back.

Make the Connection:

If your nonprofit is all about saving polar bears and your volunteers are picking up trash along a local highway, you’re missing the mark. We know that your volunteers can’t go to Antarctica and help out your fluffy friends directly, but make a connection to your mission. These volunteers chose your nonprofit because of its cause—make sure they feel like they’re helping that cause.

What are your nonprofit’s strategies for keeping volunteers content?


Kathryn Pauley

Kathryn is a regular contributor to the Nonprofit Hub. Soon to be college graduate, she enjoys helping nonprofits understand better how to reach the millennial demographic—cause we are living in a millennial world, and Kathryn's a millennial girl. With experience leading the largest student-run charity event on her campus, she looks forward to bringing her unique perspective to the Hub team every day.

May 3, 2012

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