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How Can Non-Profits Motivate and Retain Volunteers?

Sherita Brace is an international development professional and writer with an avid interest in Africa.

How to inspire volunteers and keep them coming back for more

How to inspire volunteers and keep them coming back for more

How to Motivate Volunteers

One can't help but observe the positive effect that a successful volunteering program can have on a non-profit's productivity. A well-oiled and functioning volunteer program can catapult a non-profit to greater heights of prosperity. Although a plethora of sources highlights the benefits of volunteering to both the volunteer and the recipient of a volunteer's services, some non-profits increasingly experience challenges when it comes to motivating and retaining volunteers.

A common problem experienced is the loss of enthusiasm and interest by volunteers after a week or two or perhaps a month of commitment to a non-profit's cause. The question then becomes, "How can this trend be changed for the better?"

The following measures have proven beneficial in keeping volunteers motivated, happy, and committed.

1. Express Appreciation

Volunteers offer an abundance of skills, knowledge, and service at no cost to the receiving organization. Regardless of their decision to offer their services, staff members of non-profits ought to express genuine appreciation to volunteers by providing a welcoming and positive environment.

Also, staff members should make a conscious effort to refrain from gossiping, grumbling, or sharing personal problems with volunteers. A recommended approach to finding solutions to personal challenges or problems stemming from the work environment should be channeled through the non-profit's procedure for resolving employee problems.

2. Develop a Training Program for Volunteers

The creation of a training program for volunteers will prevent confusion while clarifying the required input from volunteers. A clearly developed training program, where designated staff member(s) guide volunteers through their responsibilities, will lead to a productive experience devoid of frustrations that typically occur when tasks/responsibilities aren't clearly communicated.

In addition, the training program should be structured in a format that provides room for growth while rewarding volunteer input. For instance, a component of the training program that caters to the reward of volunteers can highlight initiatives such as monthly recognition of volunteer input. The monthly recognition can be carried out through the issuance of a certificate to a volunteer who exceeds expectations. Not only will this input motivate volunteers, but it will also express the non-profit's appreciation of volunteer input.

3. Sustain Volunteer Passion

Most volunteers opt to offer their services to non-profits whose mission aligns with their interests. Therefore, a crucial means of sustaining their interest is through the ignition of their passion. The passion of volunteers can be ignited by helping them buy into the vision of the non-profit. To carry out this objective, it behooves the leadership of non-profits to share their vision, goals, contributions, and aspirations with recruited volunteers.

Volunteers Are Critical

Their actions and interactions should also communicate to volunteers that they are an important part (which they are) of the non-profit's ability to succeed in its mission. By successfully carrying out these steps (express appreciation, develop a training program for volunteers, and sustain volunteer passion), non-profits will not only experience successful recruitment efforts, but they will be rewarded with a happy, motivated and productive volunteer corps.


Pilak, N.B. (2009). Cultivating and Retaining Committed Volunteers: An Analysis of Volunteer Identification in Nonprofit Organizations. Marquette University.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2017 Sherita Brace