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How to motivate volunteers: 10 pro tips for 2021

Motivating volunteers is essential for making and impact and growing your relationships. Learn more about our favorite motivation tips.

Volunteers are essential to any organization, often serving as the most effective recruiters and donors. Once you’ve recruited your volunteers, motivation is critical to encourage continued engagement and long-term success. Motivation tactics should be built into your broader volunteer management strategies to help keep volunteers engaged over time. The longer volunteers work with your nonprofit, the greater of an asset they become. Check out our top 10 tips for motivating volunteers!

1. Clearly define your volunteer engagement lifecycle from the start.

In order to most effectively motivate volunteers, organizers must understand the volunteer engagement lifecycle from initial recruitment to long-term retention and growth. Understanding the volunteer engagement lifecycle will help organizers consider what types of training opportunities and resources will be most effective at each stage. From newcomers to long-term volunteers, your volunteers’ needs will vary depending on where they are in the lifecycle.

If organizers have a detailed understanding of the different stages within the engagement lifecycle, they will be able to better understand how to reach each volunteer as they progress through the organization. This plan can also easily expand to include more volunteers as your organization continues to grow and scale.

2. Understand your volunteers’ reasons for getting involved.

Volunteers get involved with organizations for a large variety of reasons. While some become involved for things such as seeking community or meeting new people, others may become interested in volunteering as a fun way to fill their time. A large chunk of volunteers are motivated by the cause itself, the possibility of contributing to change, and the population that the organization serves. Whatever the reason may be, organizations should seek to understand their volunteers’ intentions for getting involved in order to better motivate them.

One way organizations can do this is by conducting a survey with their volunteers during the onboarding process. By surveying volunteers, organizers will become better acquainted and more knowledgeable about their volunteers’ reasons for getting involved. Asking volunteers about themselves and their interests upfront will help organizers better assign them tasks. For example, if a volunteer is interested in developing soft skills such as communication and listening, organizers can assign them to more people-centered tasks that will give them the hands-on experience that they are seeking.

Learn more about volunteer training programs:

3. Motivate your volunteers with proactive communication.

Staying in touch with volunteers will enable organizers to build deeper connections that keep volunteers motivated for longer. Be sure to use volunteer recruitment and management tools that take the friction out of communication! When organizers are proactive about communicating with their volunteers, volunteers form a community that empowers them to take more actions and become more involved. Tools such as group chat or automated nudges can provide volunteers with valuable information in addition to giving them a space to stay in touch after the event.

There are many tools available online that can assist in everything from volunteer recruitment, data management, and more! Tools like Mobilize assist in volunteer recruitment, management, communication, and follow-up by connecting organizations with their supporters.

4. Encourage your volunteers to motivate each other.

Peer-to-peer recruitment is a powerful way to reach new audiences that will naturally be more receptive to your message, plus it strengthens your relationships with volunteers who recruit their friends. The main reason people start volunteering is because someone asked them.

Your volunteers can serve as your most valuable asset in recruiting! Mobilize’s bring-a-friend feature automatically prompts your volunteers to get their friends and families involved! Users see 14% more signups using this feature, growing your volunteer base with zero effort.

5. Constantly show your appreciation to volunteers.

Volunteers are an essential part of any organization, and they go above and beyond to support an organization’s cause.Thanking volunteers is an essential part of recognizing the importance of their work, encouraging them to give more, and strengthening their bond to your cause.

There are many actions, both small and large, that organizers can take to make sure their volunteers feel valued by your organization. This includes things like:

  • A celebratory night out
  • Thank you letters
  • Personal merchandise
  • Networking opportunities

The list of ways to appreciate your volunteers goes on and on, so don’t worry about running out of ideas! Whatever you choose, the most simple and effective thing an organizer can do is remember to say thank you out loud and often to your volunteers.

6. Spur long-term motivation by showing impact.

Emphasize the concrete impact that volunteers have on your mission to encourage long-term engagement. Use social media, newsletters, and other communication platforms to show your volunteers the impact of their collective efforts. Organizers can also use emails, handwritten letters, and more personalized means of communication to inform volunteers of their individual contributions.

Feedback and recognition remind volunteers of how meaningful their work is which instills them with pride and confidence in their work. When volunteers know the impact of their work, they are encouraged to give back even more!

7. Understand why volunteers don’t stay motivated.

Be aware of common reasons for volunteer disengagement or abandonment. Some of these include underutilization, unclear directions and expectations, no sense of real impact, and feelings of being ignored and unappreciated. Once you are aware of these reasons, you can be proactive in preventing them in your volunteer management strategies.

Remind volunteers of the reasons they wanted to get involved in the first place. This is the perfect opportunity to use the surveys that you collected during your volunteer onboarding process. Let's say that you have a volunteer that has been disengaged for the past few months. It would be a great idea to take a look at the survey that they completed during onboarding and see which types of things that they noted an interest in. For example, if your volunteer expressed an interest in doing community work, you can direct them to volunteer at events that are more hands-on. This shows that you are invested in the happiness and fulfillment of your volunteers which will help keep them motivated.

8. Consider your volunteers’ skills and interests.

Each of your volunteers has unique skills and experiences that they bring to the table. Tailor your opportunities and new engagement options to your volunteers’ skills and interests whenever possible. When supporters are doing work they are genuinely interested in, they are more motivated to stay involved and perform well.  

Persist Brooklyn discusses utilizing each of their volunteers’ “superpowers” in their work. Volunteers who had experience with graphic design were able to get involved with the social media team whereas volunteers who were more interested in social justice were able to lead study groups.

Tailoring your program to each of your volunteers gives each of them the opportunity to shine!

9. Provide training and development opportunities.

Let volunteers know that you’ll actively help them grow their impact on your mission over time by providing relevant training and opportunities for development. Training sessions help volunteers develop their skills which will enable them to more effectively advocate for your cause. The more trained a volunteer is, the more confident they are in their work and the more responsibility they can take on.

Volunteers can also take part in development opportunities, such as networking, if they are interested in getting involved full-time with your organization! Organizers can also provide mentoring, write letters of recommendation, or edit resumes for volunteers to aid them in their professional development.

10. Motivate volunteers by valuing their feedback.

Ask for feedback! Be sure to take in the feedback, ask for clarification, and address concerns to show volunteers that you truly value their opinions as team members. These feedback surveys can be used to improve your program and the overall volunteer experience. When volunteers feel heard by their organizers, they will be more likely to stay involved.

Mobilize collects feedback from volunteers with automated post-shift surveys. This means you can gather information from your supporters without lifting a finger!

Wrapping Up

Volunteers are a valuable asset to any organization, and the most effective organizers are able to keep them motivated and involved. Organizations must have a plan for getting volunteers involved at all stages of the lifecycle from initial onboarding to expert volunteer. By understanding a volunteer’s challenges, organizers learn about their own areas for growth, improving the volunteer lifecycle for all involved. And by taking the time to gather information about their volunteers’ interests, drive, and unique skills, organizers will be more intentional in their assignments.

In order to best empower your organization’s volunteers, you need a centralized platform for recruitment, communication, and management. Sign up for a demo with Mobilize to learn more about what our software can do for you.

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