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Volunteers at Your Charity Event, P3: Keep Them Coming Back

Posted by Ashley Shaw on 3/14/17 11:00 AM

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Hello again, everybody! It’s time to conclude our three part series on the volunteers at your charity event. Today we will be talking about getting volunteers to come back event-after-event.

As a reminder, if you missed the last two posts in the series, they were

7 Ways to Retain Volunteers at Your Charity Event

I think you’ll agree with me that it is better to keep a steady stream of loyal volunteers than to have to waste time year-after-year recruiting new volunteers. But you want to know how to keep volunteers. For starters, I’ve got seven ways.

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1: Be grateful. (And show it!)

Everybody likes to feel appreciated. That’s why it is a good idea to make your thankfulness known. 

  • Whenever you think how thankful you are for someone, tell them.
  • At the end of the event, send a thank you card.
  • Have some type of recognition program (as easy as putting a picture of your volunteers or a specific volunteer in your newsletter or on your blog.)

2: Offer something...just not payment.

This is a subcategory, in truth, of being grateful and showing it. However, it is big enough that I am listing it as it’s own retention method.

Let me say this again: everybody likes to feel appreciated. So while you cannot pay them (or else they wouldn’t be a volunteer. Duh!) you can offer them other things.

  • A free dinner at the event.
  • A social thank-you event at the end. (Get pizza and ice cream and have it at your office. It doesn’t have to be expensive to be nice and fun.)
  • A recommendation or reference to use at job or school interviews/applications.
  • A small thank-you gift.
  • A t-shirt with the event details or your organization on it. (Hey! Double points: you also get some advertising every time they wear it.)

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3: Be there to help them.

You get volunteers to help you because you can’t do it all yourself. However, that doesn’t mean you should leave them to fend for themselves once you get them. That’s pretty frustrating for them.

That’s why every volunteer you use should have (and be aware of) a point person whom they can go to for help when needed. If you make it easy for them to help you, they will be more likely to keep coming back.  

4: Make sure they are there for a reason.

This goes back, once more, to making people feel appreciated:

If you give someone busy work, with no real purpose, just because they signed up to help and you didn’t want to turn them away, they are going to figure this out.

There is really only one main reason people go to a place and purposely work for free: they want to help you make a difference.

But if they don’t feel like they were truly needed, then they aren’t going to get that satisfaction. So make sure you have a reason for each of your volunteers.

And then make sure that they know how important their job is and how much of a difference they are making by being there.

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5: Offer them feedback.

If you see a volunteer doing something the wrong way, let them know. (In a polite way. Constructive criticism. Not just criticism.)

This helps them improve. And it also goes back yet again to helping your volunteers feel needed. If you let them do it wrong, and then have someone go back behind their back to fix it, the volunteer feels unwanted and unnecessary.

And I know from my personal experience that if I’m not getting feedback, then I’m either doing everything perfectly (and if I pick everything up that quickly, it probably means anybody can do the job. Why, then, am I necessary?) Or else I’m not doing it right, but people aren’t letting me know. And then I feel like who am I helping? Either way…

Of course, once again mentioning people’s desire to feel appreciated, feedback doesn’t always have to be about what people are doing wrong. Let your volunteers know what they are doing right, too. That way, they’ll want to keep doing it.  

6: Be Honest and Transparent. Stand for What You Say You Stand for.  

I am going to repeat myself here, but I’m going to put some emphasis on a specific word this time:

There is really only one main reason people go to a place and purposely work for free: they want to help you make a difference.

Why would they want to help you specifically and not someone else make a difference?

Because they believe in whatever it is you say you are doing. Now, imagine if they find out that you aren’t really everything you say you are.

Perhaps you keep most of your profits for yourself and only give a small percent to the cause you claim to help. Perhaps you support your cause in multiple ways, but only really talk about one, less controversial, way.

I don’t know what you do. And I hope this section doesn’t even apply to you because you do this without thinking. But…

...If you aren’t being honest and transparent, then you should be. Volunteers are helping the cause you claim to be about. And if they find out you aren’t all that you seem, then they are going to be less willing to come back next year.

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7: Keep in contact.

This tip is important for every organization with volunteers, but it is especially useful if you are mainly attracting volunteers to an annual event.

Think about this:

Would you want someone to contact you once a year (and only once a year) just to ask you for a favor? Even if that favor is for a really good cause…

Not only does regular contact make people more likely to want to keep helping, but it helps with other considerations as well.

  • It helps you keep up with changed contact information, as volunteers are more likely to tell you they have a new number or email address if you are top of mind.
  • It makes it easier for them to help spread the word to other potential volunteers about the great work your organization is doing.
  • When you lose all track of a volunteer (you send them an email and it has a hard bounce or they unsubscribe, they let you know they are moving to another state, etc.), you know earlier. That way, you aren’t expecting them to help, and you can plan accordingly.

There are tons of ways to keep in contact with your volunteers throughout the year.

  • Send them a monthly volunteers newsletter.
  • Send them emails throughout the year on special occasions.
  • If you have birthdays on file, send a card.
  • Encourage them to follow you on social media.

And That’s a Wrap

Have more tips or thoughts on keeping volunteers? Let us know in the comments or on social media.

We are officially done with our series on volunteers at your charity event. But we’ve got tons of great content on all sorts of other fundraising topics yet to come.

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Topics: Volunteers

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