How to Boost Volunteer Retention When YOU Are A Volunteer Too
Tips for Hometown Pride Committees, or any Volunteer-Based Community Organization
Hometown Pride runs on volunteers! We have 75 volunteers working in our 7 communities. We all put in a lot of hard work, and it’s important that we help each other stay motivated, so that we can keep all these great volunteers around for the long haul. Here are the 10 main ways we support each other – make sure you read the last one!
- Thank you, Way to go, We couldn’t do it without you! Offering words of encouragement is one of the simplest ways to support each other. Make sure people know that you’ve noticed their hard work. You don’t have to go over-the-top (some people get embarrassed by TOO much praise), but a simple “thank you” goes a long way.
- Help Uncover Hidden Talents. Take some time to get to know more about each other so you can find out what strengths each person brings to the table. Are they an avid gardener? Put them in charge of landscaping during a clean-up day. Are they a sales pro? Maybe they can apply that to committee fundraising.
- Let everyone take charge of something. Make sure everyone has something they can take ownership of for the group. If someone feels indispensable, they will keep showing up even when life gets busy. Take a look at the agenda of a typical meeting – if you were to put a name or two by each item, how many different people would be represented? If someone looks at the agenda and sees an item with their name next to it, they’re more likely to show up prepared! It’s best if people choose what they are in charge of, rather than someone assigning it to them, so pay attention to what they are passionate about and help them find a way to incorporate that into what the group is doing.
- Respect the value of their time. We should always be thoughtful about the work that we assign to our fellow committee members, to make sure it is necessary and will be put to good use. It may help to know that the value of an hour of volunteer time is estimated to be about $23. Before we ask someone to take on a new task, take a minute to reflect: would I pay someone $23 an hour to do this? If not, maybe it’s not worth their time!
- Remind them how important their work is. Take a moment now and then to remember WHY we are doing what we do. It doesn’t have to be complicated, just making a simple observation about the value of a recent accomplishment can help. For example: “I’m so glad we threw that event. It really seemed to bring the town together!” Or, “The kids will love this new playground, and I bet it will help bring new families to town too!”
- Provide the Right Resources. Is someone struggling to complete their assigned task? Maybe they don’t have the right resources. Do they need help connecting to the right person, finding funding options, or getting advice from someone who has done this before? Who can help direct them?
- Make new people feel welcome. Take time to welcome new people during the meeting. Check in one-on-one afterward to get them up to speed and answer questions. Check in often the first few months.
- Stay in Touch. For volunteers who are just pitching in once or twice a year, find a way to keep in touch, perhaps through social media, e-mail updates, a thank you note, etc.
- Make friends! When members of a group like each other, they’ll be more likely to stick around. Get to know each other, either by hosting a social event, opening a meeting with an ice-breaker question, or simply making small talk before the meeting. Hold an occasional meeting in an informal location, such as a restaurant (or bring food to the regular meeting location), to help people feel more at ease with each other.
- MOST IMPORANTLY, Do Great Work. This may seem too obvious, but the best way to retain volunteers is to focus your energy on valuable, inspiring projects that further your mission. Easier said than done, right?! But if you find your volunteers aren’t engaged, it’s possible that you are chasing the wrong ideas. Take a step back and consider the following: the purpose of the group, the passions/strengths of the members, the needs of the community. Is your work in line with all that? If not, it may be time to rethink and redirect your efforts.
— Tips compiled by Warren County Hometown Pride Coach, Lorin Ditzler and inspired by our awesome volunteers!