There’s no doubt about it: volunteers make us. They are the heart and hands of an organization, carrying out its mission simply for the joy and satisfaction it brings. Surprisingly, very few nonprofits formally survey their volunteers on a regular basis. That’s a lot of voices not being heard! Here’s how volunteer surveys work – and why your organization should use them.

If you want to improve your volunteers’ experience, increase retention and even improve your organization, getting feedback from your volunteers on a regular basis is the way to do it. The volunteer survey provides valuable insight into the volunteer experience, and how your organization matches up to their expectations.

Volunteer Survey Format

Volunteer surveys can take many forms, just as long as they are easy to follow and take only minutes to complete. Some nonprofits like to hand out a quick one-page survey with multiple choice questions, while others prefer to use electronic surveys that they can email to their volunteers.

Volunteer Survey Guidelines

The questions you ask in your volunteer surveys may vary, but they all should follow these basic guidelines:

  • Simple, easy-to-follow format
  • Begin with a quick note explaining why you value their feedback
  • End with a sincere message of appreciation
  • Invite volunteers to add their own comments and suggestions
  • Have volunteers rank how likely they would recommend your organization to others
  • Always test your survey with a few volunteers first, to make the experience as smooth and easy as possible for your volunteers

Volunteer Survey Incentives

What if you could gain valuable insight from your volunteers and show them appreciation at the same time? By offering a small survey incentive, you can! For example, you can offer a code that lets volunteers watch a movie of their choice for free after sending in their survey (txtMovies was developed just for this purpose, and only costs $1.99 per movie). Another incentive would be handing out a small gift or snack along with the paper survey. The survey incentive is a great way to let your volunteers know you appreciate their work AND value their feedback. Both are valuable strategies to increase volunteer engagement and retention.

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Conducting volunteer surveys on a regular basis is truly a win-win for everyone. It lets your volunteers know you care about them and value their input, and allows you to find new ways to improve your organization’s volunteer experience. These surveys may take a bit of time to create and update, but once you have a good system in place, you’ll be rewarded with happier, more engaged volunteers.