Why They Do It: What Motivates People to Volunteer

hands-in-the-air on volunteer screening blogGood volunteer coordinators see their nonprofit organization’s (NPO) volunteers as more than just bodies filling positions. Knowing names and personal histories is the first step in fostering good relationships when managing people. It’s also important to know what motivates your volunteers, so you can keep them engaged and enjoying their service to your organization. It’s far easier to keep happy volunteers than to replace burned-out or disinterested ones!

So, what makes people volunteer their time and energy to service and charity organizations?

1. People like to make a difference. Whether focused on their street, their neighborhood, community or the world, people want to know that their efforts are actually making a difference to another human being. Remind your volunteers of the changes they are bringing about through their work. They may be changing one life or making the entire world a better place to live—and they should know it.

2. Volunteering makes people feel better. Giving to others without expecting anything in return is reward enough for many volunteers. Many report feeling their mood brighten by seeing how others are affected by their work. Some volunteers get “addicted” to these good feelings—a real bonus for their chosen organizations. Do what you can to help make your volunteers feel good, and they’re more likely to stick around.

3. People like to learn. Many folks look to volunteering as an opportunity to learn new skills, or do something completely different than their profession. Keep this in mind as you assign tasks to your volunteers; don’t assume they’d like to perform the same tasks they’ve been doing for years! Switch things up when you can to keep people fresh.

4. Volunteers are “people people. Many volunteers report their love of meeting new people as a big reason they offer their help to service organizations. If you have extroverts among your volunteers who are not getting enough people contact, you could lose them.

5. People love to support their favorite causes. Step inside an animal shelter and you’ll see animal lovers volunteering their time. Look no farther than the Boys and Girls clubs and you’ll find volunteers who relish the idea of turning around the life of a kid. If you need more volunteers, a great place to start looking is at your donor base. After all, these people have already demonstrated and interest in your cause!

6. Volunteers love to be active. Most volunteers aren’t good at the couch potato thing. These folks love to be out and about in the community, knowing what’s going on, and contributing to society. Keep your volunteers busy before they get bored and move on.

7. Everyone like perks. Some people are ushering at the local theater because they want to see plays for free. Others volunteer at art museums to get their fill of paintings and sculptures. Still others just like to be included in the annual volunteer appreciation luncheon. Bear in mind any perks you can offer your volunteers to keep them happy and show your thanks.

8. Some folks love seeing how things work. Certain volunteers get a kick out of seeing how a food bank or health clinic works. Others are more event-oriented and love working on parade floats, or setting up food booths and music. These behind-the-scenes people are vital to many NPOs’ success stories. Remember that not all your volunteers want to be on the front lines.

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