Tips to Improving Volunteer Retention

October 7, 2020 by Verified First

Tips to Improving Volunteer Retention

Finding great volunteers is hard enough but retaining them can be even more difficult— especially in the midst of COVID. And with the holidays approaching, it's essential to retaining your volunteers. Unfortunately, whether you’re a for-profit or nonprofit organization, turnover isn’t a new problem. Many businesses have developed effective strategies to keep top talent. Some of these strategies, like focusing on transparency, honesty, flexibility, and communication, will also work for your volunteers.

But, at the end of the day, volunteers aren’t the same as employees. You can’t really recognize them with raises, promotions, or vacation days. If volunteers are a valuable part of your organization (we hope you think they are!), putting in some time to find out what they need to stay happy and engaged can pay off big time. So, we encourage you to ask three questions to improve volunteer retention. 

  1. What do your volunteers want?
  2. Are your volunteers also promoters?
  3. What makes your volunteers tick?

What do volunteers want?

You may think you’re providing the best volunteer experience out there (most organizations think they are), but are you really? To help answer this complicated question, consider building a volunteer survey. There’s no need to make it long and complicated— save you and your volunteers some time! A few simple questions can show you where you’re nailing it and where you can make improvements.

Your questions should hit on three key areas: motivation, recognition, and process improvement. Some example questions: 

  • What do you like best about volunteering with our organization?
  • How can we best show our appreciation for all you do?
  • What is one thing we can improve or do differently?

These questions may look simple, but they can provide critical feedback on the following:

  • Volunteer motivation: What do you like best about volunteering with our organization?
    • Critical feedback: What do your volunteers get out of their involvement with you? Why do they give you their time? What personal needs are they fulfilling? If you’re still keeping volunteers virtual, how and why do they value that time?
  • Volunteer recognition: How can we best show our appreciation for all you do?
    • Critical feedback: Do your volunteers feel that their work is valued? Are they expecting formal recognition for their contributions? What kinds of gestures make them feel most appreciated? 
  • Volunteer processes: What is one thing we can improve or do differently?
    • Critical feedback: Are there things that frustrate volunteers about working with your organization? Does your mission align with the work? Do you have processes in place that make it difficult to get or stay involved? Has COVID-19 affected your volunteers’ outlook on processes?

You can ask these questions all at once or spread them out over time to get more detailed information. Here’s a quick example of how you could target volunteer recognition:

We love our volunteers and want to make sure they know it! 

  • Do you feel adequately appreciated?
  • How do you like to be thanked?
  • What could we do to make you feel more valued?

This allows you to keep your volunteer survey short but go into greater detail in a specific area— it’s a win-win situation!

Are your Volunteers also promoters? 

Volunteer surveys can also be designed to help you find out who your biggest fans are by using a net promoter score. According to SurveyMonkey, net promoter score is the world’s leading metric for measuring customer satisfaction and loyalty. It starts with asking one very simple question: On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to recommend our organization to a friend or colleague?

Those who answer in the 9-10 range are your promoters. They love your organization and are willing to spread the word. Volunteers who score in the 7-8 range are your more neutral volunteers. They aren’t necessarily shouting from the rooftops or asking people to join them in their efforts. Volunteers who score 6 or under are those who may be frustrated with the process for volunteering, the opportunities presented, or how they are being treated or thanked.

You may think net promoter scores only apply to for-profit businesses, but according to Feedback Labs, innovative nonprofits are finding ways to benefit from this technique as well.

Net promoter scores shouldn’t just be taken at face value, especially in the non-profit realm. They should be used to dig a little deeper. Create a volunteer survey that provides follow up questions based on a respondent’s answer to the recommendation question. Take advantage of this opportunity to find out what’s going on with your volunteers and how you can fix any potential problems.

What makes your volunteers tick?

At the end of the day, you need to know what makes your volunteers want to keep supporting your mission and what causes them to lose interest. With the rollercoaster of change from COVID-19, knowing what makes your volunteers tick is key to retaining them and protecting your services. 

An important note here: If you’re asking volunteers for feedback, you’ll need to be open to hearing what they have to say. Be open to making changes. You can also offer to have follow-up conversations with individual volunteers to get more information and clarity. Make this part of your overall volunteer retention strategy.

When your volunteers feel helpful, valued, and listened to, they are much more likely to keep giving you their time and support— and helping you do great things. Plus, putting your volunteers first will encourage them to continue putting your mission first. 

Want more tips on managing and retaining your volunteers during COVID-19? Check out the on-demand recording of our Nonprofit HR Coffee Hour where hundreds of volunteers got together to discuss the challenges, solutions, and opportunities of working with volunteers during COVID-19.

About Verified First
Verified First is known for delivering streamlined background screening backed by the best client support, and for developing the easiest, fastest HR system integrations, for free. Our client support team is U.S.-based, answers calls in seconds, resulting in hundreds of positive testimonials and a 96% customer satisfaction. Verified First's patent-pending, award-winning integrations include over 100 applicant tracking systems, and provide clients a turn-key experience.

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