Here are six ways to enhance the experience for your volunteers, and help them stick around as long as you need them:
- Give the big picture: While the day-to-day tasks are important (someone needs to update the donor database), keep the focus on the long-term. The seemingly unimportant contributions made by volunteers allow the bigger work of the organization to be go on—so make sure they know what that is.
- Be open: Share the challenges, both operational and financial, with trusted volunteers. If things are tough, let them know—they may be more inclined to stick around and help the organization through.
- Move them around: Help volunteers develop new skills, if they’re interested in the opportunity to do so. Don’t think that just because Marcy seems happy greeting visitors at the front desk that she wouldn’t enjoy learning more about how to lay out the newsletter. Ask your volunteers about the skills they would like to develop.
- Treat them fairly: Volunteers usually know when they’re being treated unfairly. And even if they’re not, they may feel it anyway. Avoid problems by being creative about finding ways to treat all of your volunteers fairly. Spread out the workload. Show your appreciation evenly. Don’t play favorites.
- Challenge them: Don’t expect the least from your volunteers. Expect their best effort. Keep them challenged, and they will feel valued and engaged. If you can, offer training to volunteers to help them excel in their positions.
- Respect their time: Volunteers need balance, too. If you have volunteers who are putting in too much time with your organization, gently let them know they need to take some time off. Burned-out volunteers might soon be ex-volunteers.