How Can You Keep Your Volunteers Energized and Engaged?

What can you do in your volunteer program to keep your volunteers engaged, enthusiastic and continuing to help you attain goals?

There is so much written about volunteering.   There are workshops, books and newspaper articles.  However, most volunteer programs fall short.  The experience of volunteering can be quite unsatisfying. 


Lack of care and attention.

There are smiles and welcome messages when a volunteer signs up.  Some sort of orientation may be offered.  Then . . . volunteers are assigned and forgotten or they never hear back from the organization at all.

Yet, paid employees receive a lot of attention.  They receive job descriptions, performance reviews, raining, raises, pats on the back, structure, benefits, etc. 

Shouldn’t Volunteers Be As Well Treated as Paid Employees?

Of course.  They are employees too.  They just aren’t paid employees.  Let’s not forget the members of the board either since, they too, are volunteers. 


Treating volunteers like the treasures they are!

Assure a good structure, organize proper and regular recognition, pay attention to suggestions and make the assignments interesting and engaging. 

Volunteers don’t want to waste their time nor feel as though they are invisible or redundant. They need to feel that their contribution is important and worthwhile.

I worked for an organization once whose very success was built and continued to be the result of volunteer efforts. 

In all the years the organization had been operating, no one ever thought of volunteer recognition.   As the new Executive Director, I presented the idea to the board, obtained approval for the expenditure and we held an afternoon tea for all volunteers including the members of the board.  The people on staff planned, organized and worked the event.  Tea, cake, cookies and fruit were served – not complicated and not expensive.  We had linen on the tables, chairs in small groups around the tables, beautiful napkins, nice plates and cutlery and flowers on the tables.

And each volunteer was presented a red carnation with a thank you scroll attached with their names handwritten.  The messages inside were thoughtful. 

300 of the 400 volunteers attended.  Smiles.  And, “Thank you.  Our efforts have not been recognized before.  It feels good.  How can I help the organization more?” 

Volunteers had been  formally recognized and their contributions publicly acknowledged.  Simple.  It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive but it does require the “personal touch” – personalizing makes it real!

That was the beginning of a major transformation in the volunteer program.  In the next blog, I’ll talk most about working effectively with volunteers.

Lorraine Arams


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