Saturday, June 13, 2015

But I can't keep volunteers

I had a conversation with someone recently and their lament was they couldn't keep volunteers and certainly not "those Millennials."  Of course I disagree, as I usually do
First if you are a volunteer manager, what are you doing to take care of your volunteers; remember a volunteer is not coming to do things with you for a check. 
So what keeps them coming back? 
Are you doing things to make their time comfortable? Like this Fire Department in Virginia?
Are you providing them with training ? 
Are you providing them with time to connect with other volunteers?
Are you giving them meaningful experiences/ things to do that matter?

If you can't answer yes to these questions , then the next question is why do you have them?

Go take care of your volunteers


Michael O'Day said...

You forgot are you honest with them and respect their intelligence

Rebecca Drekmann said...


I am right there with you on saying there is no reason to not be able to retain your volunteers. Now sometimes it can be a challenge to get the volunteers to buy into the concept of volunteering their time, but honestly if you have a great mission and you stay true to it the members will come.

I think one of the best things you can do to retain volunteers is to let them have ownership in the program and what the mission is. I allow my volunteers to take on leadership roles and empower them to act on the behalf of the organization. Who am I to think I can do it alone? Seriously, the amount of talent that lies with then the members of your volunteers is profound and you should capitalize on it. Then when good comes give that credit away to those members.

If you run your volunteer organization like a company you will succeed in finding quality, quantity and retaining most of them. I find that volunteers want to be part of something with substance and that is valid. So don't be afraid to have high standards with job descriptions, quarterly reviews and yes writing up volunteers when they break a rule is all ok. If you let them know their role is important and valued enough to be evaluated they will value their work too.

Well, that's what's working for me anyhow. I have recruited over 500 members in 2.5 years ( current volunteer numbers is 756), have a 60% monthly engagement rate and less than 4% drop out rate. 34 members give 30 hours a week as volunteer managers, 3 give 20 hours a week as office support staff ( 2 have full time jobs else where BTW). So yeah I think its working! But there is always room to improve.


@disaster_dave said...

Mike Oday, absolutely true

Rebecca- you are right, I go into the relationship with my volunteers with the notion they are joining to do something. And like you I try to empower my volunteers to take on tasks and projects. My Corps currently runs 4 medical care sites for homeless & at risk for a total of around 200-300 hours per month. And by run, I mean they do it all, I just process paperwork and resupply. I love what they do, and love that they are doing it. I always tell everyone I work with that volunteers should be treated like employees (in a good way) tell them what is expected and step back- good things will happen.
Thank for the conversation