Volunteer Retention: How to Keep Your Volunteers Coming Back

A positive volunteering experience can lead to a life-long relationship with an organization. How can you make sure your superstar volunteers stay engaged, year after year?

Show Genuine Appreciation

Their work matters! Show you care.

Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best. A short “thank you” email will let your volunteers know they are appreciated. It only takes a few minutes, and it is an easy way to acknowledge what their help means to you and your organization. (You might even try upping your show of gratitude with a handwritten note for volunteers who went above and beyond!)

Track Contributions

Volunteering for a few hours a month might not seem like much, but over the course of a year it really adds up. Show how much you value your volunteers’ time by tracking volunteer hours and celebrating grand totals at the end of the year. Speaking of…

Celebrate Together

After months of hard work, everyone needs to blow off some steam and reflect on new accomplishments. There are lots of ways to celebrate!

For example, consider hosting a party or gathering to let volunteers mingle and have a little fun. If you have an annual event for donors, consider inviting volunteers, too. They may not have contributed monetary donations, but they did donate their time.

Cultivate Community

Volunteers don’t only have a relationship with your organization; they often get to know other volunteers as well! Encourage a positive volunteering community by helping your volunteers get to know each other and, importantly, feel like they belong.

One way to do this is to come up with a fun name for your group of volunteers. Call them “Event Heros,” “Race Superstars,” “Triathlon Wizards,” or work out a fun pun based on your organization’s name. Anything you do to create a team atmosphere will strengthen the relationships among your volunteers and keep them eager to return.

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How to Manage Volunteer Expectations

It’s a rare event that doesn’t rely on some kind of volunteer support.

They’re the backbone of any non-profit, along with a surprising number of giant races and multi-million dollar festivals.

Volunteer help is important, but are you getting the people you need? To make sure you are, you need to lay out information clearly for your volunteers.

Make sure you’re open and upfront about what will be expected of your volunteers. Have people sign up for jobs like distributing race packets or checking IDs at the beer tent. A generic “volunteer” option means they don’t know what to expect, and you don’t know what their skills and interests are. That’s a good way to squander talented individuals or end up with an overload of people with similar interests in the same area.

Write up a description for each position, with general information on what is expected. This will make it easy for potential volunteers to find the right fit and stay busy. It also provides a good starting point for super volunteers who may be able to go above and beyond what you’re asking. 

How many times have you visited a website, then went elsewhere because it wanted you to create an account? Sending someone from your website to their email account for verification is inviting huge dropoffs in users. No one wants to remember another password or enter a bunch of information that isn’t relevant to your event. Does your half-marathon really to know the maiden name of everyone’s mother?

Keep it simple and volunteers will come pouring down the funnel.
If they start thinking “Do I really need to do this?” you’re already losing them.

Don’t make anyone dig for information. Have everything a volunteer might need to know in a central place.  Where should they park? Put it on the volunteer page. Where should they check in? Put it on the volunteer page. What should they wear? Who should they get in touch with if they can’t make it? Put it… you get the idea.


Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself what you would want to know before waking up on event day. It may feel like second nature to you, but you’ve been planning the event for months. The easier you can make the process for them, the more likely they’ll be to volunteer again.



For more tips and tricks on how to keep your volunteers happy and create a pleasant nonprofit culture, check out this article on how Your Nonprofit Culture Can Be Ruined by These 3 Common Traps.



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