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Volunteer Retention – Keep Them Coming Back for More

Now that you have recruited a database full of fabulous volunteers, how do you keep them coming back for more? Recruitment can be time consuming and you definitely don't want to start over every time you need volunteers. Make sure you keep notes on who you contacted and collect contact information from all of your participating volunteers.This will allow you to keep in touch and reach out to the same volunteers for your next event. It is also a good idea to keep in touch and build strong relationships with your group contacts. Remember, groups are the easiest way to gather large numbers of volunteers with the least effort.
The key to repeat volunteers is to give them a positive experience.This will ensure that they feel good about working with you again and will also encourage them to spread the word about your agency and bring others with them the next time they serve. Organization and communication is the main thing you need to focus on to create repeat volunteers. Volunteers need information and lots of it! They are giving their time, often early on a Saturday morning when they could be sleeping in. They spend their entire week organizing their work, families and social activities.Volunteering should be an effortless activity where they don't have to expend too much brain power or stress.

What kind of experience would you have if you didn't know where to park, couldn't find the check in tent, encountered staff that did not know what was going on and wandered aimlessly thru the experience not sure if you were in the right place or doing the right thing? Not a very good one I suspect, and not one you would do again. You should always have the following set up and easy for your volunteers to navigate:


  • Communication: Send out emails or post your information before the event. Where do they go, when, where do they park, where should they sign in, what should they bring? Is there a rain out plan? What information do they need to make it to your site successfully and prepared?
  • Signage: Have visible, legible signs directing volunteers to parking and sign in areas. Make your sign in area visible with either a colorful pop up tent or banner.
  • Paperwork: Make sure you have all the paperwork needed for sign in. Sign in sheets (be sure to collect contact information and signatures if including legal verbiage), waivers, photo releases, assignment sheets, etc. Volunteers will need a place to fill out the paperwork so bring plenty of tables and chairs to set up as needed. Don't forget the pens!
  • Waivers: Waivers are always recommended for liability purposes. This information can be on a separate sheet of paper or in the verbiage at the top of your sign in sheet.Check with legal counsel before finalizing your waiver. 
  • Photo Release: A photo release is also recommended, especially for minors. People should understand that you may take their photo during the event and share it on your website or social media. Give them the opportunity to decline.This verbiage can also be placed on the top of your sign in sheet or placed on a separate page. 

We have examples of paperwork, photo releases, waivers and communication on our Affiliate Resources page, as well as within each cleanup like Fall Sweep.​

  • Supplies: Make sure you have all supplies and materials needed to do the project. If volunteers need to bring anything of their own (gloves or tools), you should communicate this before the event. Snacks and hydration are encouraged. Be prepared for those that may have forgotten their sunscreen or bug spray. Having some on hand is a nice courtesy.
  • Staff: Make sure there is a staff member or organization representative to help the volunteers. This designated person or people should be able to provide instructions, materials and assistance to the volunteers to at least get them started on the project.

  • Have a plan: Don't ask for 100 volunteers if it will only take ten to do the job. Make sure you have something for everyone to do. Spread out the work. Don't send 20 people to the same area if there is not that much work or trash to handle.The easiest way to lose a volunteer is to make them feel unneeded and/or bored.
  • Thank you!: Make sure you thank your volunteers; before, during and after the event.Follow up with a thank you through email, on social media or other outlets.You can also send more personal notes and messages to special volunteers or groups that were involved. Recognition and thanks are important keys to retention.

Check out other blogs in our Volunteer Series and visit our Pinterest page for additional tips.

​Blog Post Written By Karen Maldonado, Program Coordinator.

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