August 30th, 2013
The key to retaining volunteers is to have a volunteer management program in place and to apply its principles to your daily volunteer management. In this article we will cover:
In some organisations, volunteers are told little more than to come in when they can and something will be found for them to do. Consequently, volunteers can have no sense of belonging to the organisation or of the purpose of their role. Retaining volunteers under these circumstances can be difficult. Orienting volunteers to the organisation, regardless of how much time they commit, is essential to creating the first feelings of belonging and purpose.
Some organisations provide group orientation sessions prior to a personal interview as a method of pre-selection, so that the volunteer may self-select. However, most organisations prefer to conduct the interview first, followed closely by an orientation session.
Example of topics to include in orientation:
While much of the above information may be provided in written form, an opportunity to discuss issues and instructions and to meet other volunteers is essential. Inviting key personnel to meet volunteers is also a good method of providing a welcome and effective communication.
Volunteers have the right to expect training and support. Pre-placement and on-the-job training will depend upon the type of job and the level of ability of the volunteer. Training should be flexible and relevant. Ongoing training serves as a means of support, helping build skills, interest and confidence, thus helping in retaining volunteers. In addition, training should provide opportunities for growth and development of individual volunteers.
Training, like other aspects of the volunteer program, needs to be carefully planned in consultation with volunteers, paid staff, service users and their representatives, and appropriate specialists.
Apart from providing specific skills, techniques and knowledge, a good training program enables the volunteer to:
Choosing the best techniques for presenting new skills and information is essential. For various reasons, some volunteers are reluctant to participate in formal training while others are enthusiastic. A range of approaches can cater to the varying needs of volunteers. Training can be formal or informal, practical or theoretical, on-the-job or off-the-job. Training methods to consider are:
If volunteers appear reluctant to attend training sessions, you can encourage their interest by informal information sessions during morning or afternoon tea, or with a special guest speaker. If particular volunteers remain reluctant to attend training, you may need to reconsider their suitability.
Supervising people includes a range of functions, usually falling into the following categories:
|Planning and rostering||Meetings and telephone contact|
|Checking work||Supporting, coaching and training|
|Handling problems||Observing and improving|
|Assigning jobs||Record keeping|
All supervisors need to create an encouraging environment. However, this is especially important for managers and co-ordinators of volunteers. They need to be sympathetic and understanding of the volunteer’s needs, easily approachable and readily available for information, support and complaints.
In addition to providing personal support to volunteers, managers and co-ordinators need to meet some of the technical and legislative responsibilities of the role. Some factors to consider are:
Evaluation provides a time for making revisions and improvements. It is an ongoing process to ensure the program’s viability and vitality. Results are measured against the goals and objectives of the program and appropriate changes made to suit the changing conditions of the community and client group.
Both qualitative and quantitative information can be used to judge whether the goals and objectives of the program have been met. Qualitative information, for example, can be gained through questionnaires to service users, volunteers and paid staff.
Questions such as ‘Has a better service been provided?’ will help provide information regarding service quality and standards.
Quantitative information is based on statistical records. This information should help answer questions such as ‘Have we expanded our service in the last year?’.
The performance of the volunteers may also be considered in qualitative and quantitative terms. Number of hours of services and of clients receiving service can easily be measured through the keeping of records. However, questions such as ‘How much have volunteers enjoyed being part of the program’ can only be measured by asking the volunteers themselves. An appraisal interview is an appropriate time to ask such questions.
Appraising the work of volunteers is just as essential as appraising the work of paid staff. This provides an opportunity for managers / coordinators to receive feedback regarding their own skills in supervising and supporting volunteers. Appraisals are also a time for volunteers to express their needs and set new goals. Volunteers whose opinions are sought and listened to are far more likely to remain with an organisation.
Volunteers’ appraisals should be conducted in a similar way to those of paid staff. In general, the function of an appraisal is to:
Motivating volunteers relies on satisfying the individual’s reasons for volunteering. In addition, the reason an individual begins volunteering may change over time. For example, a newcomer in town may desire to meet people. Once friendships have formed, a new reason will replace the original, for example, meeting new challenges.
Motivation is a driving force that comes from within the individual. Finding out what drives particular individuals is the key to keeping them motivated. Do not overlook human curiosity and learning as powerful motivators. The chances of retaining volunteers is greatly enhanced by continuing to engage and motivate volunteers in your organisation.
Some practical ways of maintaining volunteer motivation and enthusiasm are to:
Part of ongoing motivation for volunteers, and thus your organisation retaining volunteers, is providing informal personal acknowledgement as well as formal recognition of their contribution to the organisation. You can:
Individuals differ in the way they prefer to be recognised. Some are given a great boost by a personal telephone call thanking them for a job well done; others prefer public recognition. Try to find out the preferences of your volunteers.
Nominating your volunteers in programs such as the NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards is a great way to show your volunteers they are appreciated. every volunteer nominated receives a certificate of appreciation. For more information visit the Awards section of our website.