Managing people and keeping them motivated is a tough task and when it comes to managing volunteers, the level of difficulty just increases.
We talked to a lot of our partners who have been managing volunteers for many years and here are the top suggestions to keep your volunteers motivated.
Strategies for effective volunteer management
Try to understand your volunteers
Before you start working with your volunteers, especially if they are a part of a long term project, then it would be highly beneficial for you to spend some time with them to understand who your volunteers are as people. Getting to know what brought them here, what is their driving force, what do they like/dislike. Knowing them better can really help you in not just knowing what strategies would work best with them but also make them feel heard.
“They are human beings who are willing to devote their time and energy for no cost, so instead of treating them just as resources for our work, we need to treat them as people. People who have their own needs and concerns.”
– NGO worker
Have clear roles and goals
Another very important strategy is to have clear goals & roles for your volunteers. Avoid as much as possible any vagueness around what are they expected to do. This will make sure they know what they need to do and what is expected of them to deliver. It will help you avoid any confusions in future and also make volunteers feel comfortable as they would have a clear understanding of what they are supposed to deliver over a period of time. This will also help you weed out from volunteers who are there just for passing time and volunteers who actually want to contribute to your cause.
Create an environment where they feel free to express themselves
Volunteers are willing to work for you without any cost or material gain in most of the cases because most likely they believe in your cause and want to make a difference. Giving them a chance express their opinions, viewpoints can make them feel respected and a part of the team.
Make them feel valued
No one wants to work if they feel what they are doing are not valued. Appreciating and recognizing their efforts on a regular basis can go a long way in creating an environment where they feel motivated and encouraged to do more good work. There are many ways in which you can do that, sometimes a simple thank you will do the trick as well. But if you want to go a step ahead and make appreciating volunteers a part of your organizations’ culture, then you can use a tool like Artemis – it lets you appreciate the actions of your volunteers by tracking & rewarding them for the time they volunteer.
Provide a support system
A lot of the tasks that your volunteers will be doing can be very stressful especially if they are working away from home or doing mentally exhausting tasks like healthcare, animal welfare etc. In such cases, more than others, having a strong support system behind you can really help you continue and get past the tough moments. Having open media of communication like phone calls/emails with supervisors, regular one-on-one meetings, on board counselors can be a really good strategy for your volunteer management program.
Share the output
Surveys with volunteers have shown that most of the volunteers like to see the output of their work and the impact they are creating. Sharing overall organizations’ impact or their individual impact could be a great source of motivation for your volunteers to keep on going. Keeping them informed about overall progress of your organization, attainment of project/organization goal on a regular basis is also a good idea to keep them involved.
Opportunities to learn and grow
Give them continuous opportunities to learn new skills, they could be hard skills like improved I.T. skills or soft skills like leadership. Most of the volunteers state that the chance to learn new skills is one of the main reasons they choose to volunteer and continue to volunteer with certain organizations.
Volunteer management can be tricky, but the key is to appreciate and show impact to volunteers in a way that they feel they are actually making a difference.
Incorporating these strategies can help you keep your volunteers more involved with the organization and help you retain committed volunteers. If you think there is something we missed, then feel free to add it in comments.