Understand Volunteers’ Motivations to Increase Retention

When you’re managing a nonprofit organization, the one resource that you depend on the most is your pool of volunteers. If no one was willing to put in the time and effort to do what needs to be done, many nonprofits wouldn’t even exist.

Unfortunately, asking people to volunteer their time and energy can be challenging, to say the least. People are busy with their lives, which can make it difficult to devote extra time to other things like volunteering.

Fortunately, there are some proactive methods that you can use to ensure that your volunteers stick around. Turnover is always to be expected with this kind of work, but once you utilize these strategies, you should notice a significant difference in your volunteer retention. Let’s see what works the best.

Get to Know Your Volunteers

If you’re used to getting a lot of new people in your organization, then it’s easy to assume that most of your team is going to leave and get replaced. However, if you want to retain your better talent, it’s imperative that you begin with that kind of mindset.

Too often, nonprofits treat all volunteers equally and don’t try to develop a personal relationship with them. That doesn’t mean that you have to devote a certain number of hours of engagement with each recruit. However, you should listen to their stories, most importantly:

  • Why do they want to volunteer?
  • What are they hoping to get out of their time with the organization?
  • What kind of things do they want to achieve?
  • What caught their attention about your nonprofit in the first place?
  • How long are they planning on volunteering?

You can ask these questions during an orientation period, or you can draft a questionnaire for volunteers to fill out before they get started. Taking this approach will not only show them that you’re interested in what they have to offer, but it will help you figure out a better strategy for utilizing them in the future.

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Inspire Your Volunteers

Unless they are being forced to help out your nonprofit for some reason (i.e., school credit), your volunteers chose to work with you. It’s crucial that you understand volunteers’ motivations and what they’re trying to do with their time here.

Are your volunteers looking to give back to the community? Are they looking for experience and knowledge in a particular field?

This is where your engagement at the beginning can come into play. Once you understand volunteers’ motivations, you can inspire them by ensuring that their interests coincide with your nonprofit’s mission. When people feel good about the work that they do, they are much more willing to come back and continue to invest time and effort into the organization.


Want to increase Volunteer Retention? Show your volunteers that there are perks to donating their time, and don’t hesitate to show your volunteers some love. Read more about this in Part 2 of 5 Ways Nonprofits Can Increase Volunteer Retention.