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How to Keep Volunteers Motivated

Not everyone knows how to motivate volunteers, and motivation is key to volunteer retention. Organizations with a thriving work environment know not to take volunteers and their efforts for granted.


Volunteers are not helpers who drop by to lend a hand because they have nothing better to do. Instead, they are committed people who either seek to do good or improve their skills. There are organizations run entirely by volunteers in the world, while others, like Habitat for Humanity, rely entirely on volunteer work.


The very presence of volunteers working side by side with paid personnel is a sign of good management and strong corporate values.


Like paid staff, volunteers need a positive, supportive work environment and a sense of belonging. You can motivate and improve the volunteer work experience by:


  • defining clearly their responsibilities and role in your organization;

  • offering them space and resources to perform their duties;

  • being accessible and approachable, especially when they need advice and support;

  • providing ongoing training and learning opportunities;

  • showing appreciation for their skills and expertise by giving them corresponding tasks;

  • showing them courtesy and respect and making them feel valued;

  • giving them a sense of belonging and inclusion within your organization.


Do not take volunteers for granted: without a proper work environment and motivation, many may decide to criticize or leave your organization for good. So, make them feel like a part of the team and show them how much you value their contributions.


It would be best if you never abused their time either: don't give them too many tasks that will overwhelm them and cause burnout. When volunteers - or paid staff - experience burnout, you will know it. They may display a loss of energy, lack of interest in the tasks ahead, and even anger or hostility. To avoid these issues, plan and delegate tasks appropriately and show appreciation for their work.


To keep volunteers motivated, recognize their efforts, and show gratitude. Show them support and praise them when they perform their tasks to your satisfaction.


A "thank you" goes a long way, especially when it is honest and spontaneous. For example, you could have a thank you note and card system to "surprise" a volunteer after a job well done. The message can be a simple "thank you" or something more elaborate like "we are so grateful for your hard work." As long as your message is honest, kind, and appreciative, it will motivate volunteers to work harder and become more productive. However, the "thank you" should come in association with results provided by the volunteer and not randomly.


Motivation for Volunteer Work Through Rewards


Give volunteers rewards ongoingly. You can find many creative and cost-effective methods to keep volunteers motivated for the entire duration of their time with your organization.


  • Praise their work and efforts on your website, social media, and newsletters.

  • Arrange interviews with local media or write to your local papers and radio to inform them about the volunteers' noteworthy accomplishments.

  • Organize a volunteer-of-the-month program to motivate productivity and competitiveness.

  • Reward good work with gift certificates, shopping coupons, movie passes, and tickets to concerts, theatre, sporting events, etc.

  • Offer volunteer appreciation gifts they can cherish for a long time: apparel, mugs, totes, stationery, and other items with your organization's logo. These are also good reminders of the time they spent working for you.

  • Surprise them with birthday parties at work or just a simple birthday cake to share with colleagues.

  • Use the International Volunteer Day to surprise your volunteers with a reception or party that acknowledges their contributions and value within your organization.


These are just some guidelines to help you define methods for motivating volunteers. Then, you can use your imagination and creativity to come up with a set of rewards that are unique, original, and aligned with your corporate values. Whatever you choose, take some time to know your volunteers, what drives them to volunteer, and what happens in their lives. This way, you will be able to deliver meaningful rewards and personalized messages that inspire and motivate volunteers.


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