Thanks to Atlas Corps, Sunga, Giana and I had a great opportunity to be Atlas Corps representatives and go to a Points of Light conference, the world’s largest service-related convening, bringing together 2,000 nonprofit, government, business and civic leaders to gain and share the knowledge, resources and connections needed to galvanize the power of people to create change. We went to St Paul, Minnesota, to learn more about volunteer engagement and retention from the best and most experienced practitioners in this field.

One of the issues that a lot of us face when working with volunteers is volunteer retention. Sure, we are recruiting volunteers, they are serving with us, but are they staying? We cannot deny that retention is vital to building a sustainable and well-trained volunteer team.

At one of the sessions at POF we discussed 5 questions that we should ask ourselves:

  1. What is your goal?
    How many volunteers do you need and do you want? what retention percentage is ideal for you? Is it 100%, 80, 50%…? This is a great start.
  2. What metrics are best for you?
    Is it better for your concrete organization to analyze data for 6 months/a year/ 2 years/ 3?…
  3. What is a reasonable goal for your corps?
    So,this question brings us back to question #1 but this time you should think twice about the real and reasonable goal. Those 100% retention that you put as an answer to the 1st question is just not doable, it is not possible to have a 100% retention rate. So, what number would be real?
  4. How can you make volunteering easy?
    This is the most important and useful question that will push you to strategies that will actually bring volunteers back. The easier you make it for people to sign up – the higher chance is that they will! Your goal is tto make this step as easy as Netflix did with watching the next episode – you have 5 seconds to decide, and then it just automatically goes on and you end up watching things you nver even considered watching.
    a) Make signing up easy! maybe it is a 3-click sign up, maybe it is letting your returning volunteers not do the training all over again, mybe it is less papers, maybe it is you following up with them and doing all the signing up for them… What is best for you?
    b) Ask about returning in person. Your volunteer finished their shifts for the year? Before saying goodbye and hugging them, ask about the next year and promise to email them when the time comes.
    c) Make it meaningful. Show the volunteers how much work they’ve been doing and how much they have accomplished by volunteering! Send pictures, numbers – of hours total/ or people who got helped / worj done… Use concrete data to show how meaningful volunteering is so that your volunteers understand how important it is what they do and they will be back to make even more impact!
  5. What is one thing you can do next week?
    Here is when theory goes into practice. Think of that one step that can start the machine and help your organization maximize volunteer retention.
    Good luck!