A Non-Profit's guide to Volunteer Retention Strategies

Once you’ve invested time and energy into recruiting volunteers, retaining them is critical to building a strong and sustainable organisation.

Most non-profits rely on volunteers to fulfil their mission. Once you’ve invested time and energy into recruiting volunteers, retaining these volunteers is critical to building a strong and sustainable organisation.

Engagement is the key to volunteer retention

To ensure volunteers stay committed and invested in your organisation it’s important to understand the current state of volunteer retention, and why it’s crucial to focus on improving the experience of volunteers. Some of the best strategies for volunteer retention include implementing comprehensive training programs and onboarding processes, offering opportunities for personal and professional development, and seeking feedback from volunteers.

Brand management and organisational optimisation are also important in volunteer retention. By focusing on your organisation’s mission, engaging with volunteers in different ways, and creating a positive experience for volunteers, you can build a strong and dedicated team that will help your non-profit thrive.

Whether you’re a small non-profit just starting or a large organisation with an established volunteer management program, this guide will provide valuable insights and practical strategies for volunteer retention.

Volunteer retention trends

Recent research published by the Charities Aid Foundation found that there has been a sustained decline in the level of the UK population who volunteer, with 1.6 million fewer people volunteering than 5 years ago.

The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly impacted volunteer participation levels, but volunteer satisfaction is also lower. The National Council for Volunteer Organisations (NCVO) reports that 26% of volunteers are now more likely to think their volunteering is becoming too much like paid employment. This is up from 19% in 2018. The NCVO also reports that 24% of volunteers felt the organisation or group they volunteered for had unreasonable expectations of their workload.

While volunteer retention is crucial in addressing the ongoing need for volunteers, implementing effective volunteer recruitment strategies can also help boost your organisation’s volunteer workforce. To balance the quantity and quality of your volunteer applicants and placements it’s important to follow a comprehensive screening and selection process and have a strong volunteer management system in place.

With fewer people engaging in volunteering, it is more important than ever to use effective volunteer retention strategies to ensure your volunteers feel appreciated, remain motivated, and stay committed to your organisation. 

Volunteer Retention Strategies

The best volunteer retention strategies are those that engage volunteers, provide meaningful experiences and show volunteers appreciation for their contributions. 

Listening to volunteers

It’s important to understand what your volunteers hope to get out of the volunteer program. It may be a sense of purpose, a feeling of accomplishment, skills development, or something completely different. Whatever their response, by listening to and understanding your volunteers you can create a more positive volunteering experience for them.




Assigning a volunteer management professional

Assigning a volunteer management professional can help non-profits improve volunteer engagement and volunteer retention. 

A good volunteer manager is approachable, communicates well, and creates a positive experience for volunteers. Their main role is to ensure that the volunteer management program runs smoothly and efficiently.

Celebrating volunteer management wins

Celebrating the contributions of your volunteers and the efforts of the volunteer management team helps create a positive culture and fosters a sense of appreciation. Celebrating successes also reinforces the value of volunteer work and encourages volunteer retention.

Communicating goals and objectives

To help volunteers and other supporters understand the mission and goals of the non-profit, clear and frequent communication is vital. With so many organisations and causes, from homeless shelters to mental health, needing volunteers, this volunteer retention strategy becomes even more important.

Setting realistic volunteer goals

Setting realistic goals for volunteers helps them feel like they can achieve something meaningful and worthwhile. Goals should align with the organisation’s needs and the volunteer’s ability.

Improving the onboarding process

A clear, comprehensive onboarding process helps new volunteers feel welcome and prepared for their roles. The process should include an overview of the organisation, its mission and goals, and the volunteer's responsibilities. Inviting feedback and offering opportunities for volunteers to ask questions can improve the onboarding experience.

Implementing comprehensive training

Providing a comprehensive training program contributes to volunteer retention by ensuring volunteers feel equipped and confident in their roles. This helps their work to have a meaningful impact and fosters a sense of fulfilment and accomplishment.

Offering development opportunities

Offering opportunities for volunteers to develop their skills and knowledge can increase satisfaction and confidence in their role. It can also demonstrate that your organisation values and invests in its volunteers, which can lead to higher volunteer retention rates and a more skilled and dedicated volunteer workforce.

Leading with a private sector mentality

Leading with a private sector mentality means running a non-profit organisation like a for-profit business. This involves focusing on efficiency, setting clear objectives, and establishing measurable outcomes.

Digitising systems

Digitising systems streamlines volunteer management processes, making it easier to manage many volunteers efficiently. Digital systems also automate communication making it easier to reach potential volunteers to let them know about upcoming volunteer opportunities. 

Sending exit surveys

Sending exit surveys to volunteers who leave your organisation can provide valuable insights into areas where improvements can be made. It also sends a message to volunteers that their feedback is valued. This helps maintain a positive relationship, potentially leading to future volunteering or recommendations to new volunteers.


How to improve your brand to attract volunteers

An organisation's brand plays a critical role in volunteer retention. A strong brand can help you stand out in a crowded field, showcase your values and mission, and create a sense of community among your volunteers.

Why brand management is important for recruiting and retaining volunteers

Brand management helps establish your organisation's reputation and credibility in the eyes of potential volunteers. A strong brand identity can attract volunteers who share your values and mission, and who are more likely to remain engaged over time. By creating a consistent and recognisable brand image across all platforms, from social media to promotional materials, you can build trust with your volunteers and show that you are a professional and reliable organisation. Effective brand management helps differentiate your organisation from others and provides a competitive edge for volunteer retention.

Organisational optimisation

Organisational optimisation involves analysing, leveraging and improving an organisation’s processes and resources to make them more efficient and effective. By optimising operations, non-profits can free up resources to better serve their mission and enhance the volunteer experience. Organisation optimisation often involves conducting an internal review of systems and processes, adopting new technologies, and implementing new strategies to improve productivity.

One area you may like to target in organisational optimisation is volunteer training.  A review of volunteer data and training practices should include determining how satisfied your volunteers are with the training they have received and identifying what additional training you would like to provide to your volunteers.

Leading with your mission statement in mind

A mission statement sets out an organisation's values and purpose and is often what inspires volunteers to join an organisation.

When making decisions related to their organisation, leaders should do so with the mission statement at the front of mind. Whether it be regarding volunteer management, employee relations, volunteer appreciation, volunteer retention strategies, or any other aspect of volunteering, the mission statement is what drives the organisation. Having the mission statement inform operations helps volunteers understand the impact of their work and the importance of the organisation's missions and goals. 

Rosterfy volunteer management software

If your organisation is looking for a way to recognise the contributions of its volunteers to increase volunteer retention why not consider implementing a digital volunteer management program like Rosterfy.  

Rosterfy volunteer management software is a centralised system that captures volunteer data and streamlines communication, onboarding, training, and scheduling processes. With Rosterfy, organisations can easily track volunteer hours, skills, and qualifications, and promote volunteering opportunities.

Volunteer retention is essential for the success of any non-profit organisation. By implementing effective volunteer retention strategies, such as listening to volunteers, assigning a volunteer management professional, and providing comprehensive training, volunteers are more likely to feel valued, supported, and engaged in their roles.

Additionally, communicating organisational goals and objectives, celebrating volunteer management wins, and adopting a private sector mentality can help increase volunteer retention and satisfaction. Digitising systems and sending exit surveys can also help provide valuable insights into how to improve volunteer programs and increase retention. By investing in volunteer retention strategies, organisations can build a strong and committed volunteer base, leading to greater impact and success in achieving their mission.

About Rosterfy

Rosterfy is used by non-profits, charities, sporting federations, and more to better manage their volunteer programs by improving how they can recruit, screen, train and retain volunteers.

Our market leading technology helps you create engaging experience throughout the whole lifecycle of your volunteer journey.

Book a demo today.

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