Experienced volunteer managers know that treating your volunteers well is one of the best ways you can ensure that you retain the best ones for future events. A volunteer’s time is being pulled in multiple directions, but we can do a few smart and thoughtful things to ensure that our volunteers want to come back to work for us time and time again. Here are some creative ways you can show volunteer appreciation and boost retention!
1. FREQUENT, INFORMATIVE & FUN-LOVING COMMUNICATION
Nobody wants to be left in the dark and sometimes the best form of appreciation is information. Keeping your team informed and connected to you as a manager can be an effective way to get the most out of your volunteers. Make sure your communication is frequent, informative (but not over-bearing) and fun-loving.
Your team will feel motivated and appreciated if you keep them in the loop and let them know that you care, before, during and after your event.
Since you can’t be in all places at once, consider an event communication app for your team that can allow you to send role based or location based messages.
2. EVENT ACCESS
A volunteer has chosen to give their time to your event because they believe in your cause or they think it’s super cool. As a form of appreciation, why not give them access to your event outside of their volunteer hours? Are you planning a multi-day festival? You could provide access to a free show if your volunteer completes a certain number of hours. Are you planning an educational conference? Give your volunteers access to sessions they’re interested in between their shifts. Not only will your team feel appreciated, but they’ll get a better understanding of the event as a whole and what the experience is like for your attendees.
3. VOLUNTEER SOCIAL EVENT
If you’re an experienced volunteer manager, you’ve likely planned a volunteer appreciation event that follows the big show, and you may have struggled with low attendance, strapped time and low energy. Sometimes it’s hard to create excitement after the main event has already happened.
Have you considered having your volunteer social before event day? This can be a great way to foster community and connection between your team before they are required to work together. A pre-event appreciation event can also build excitement for the main event!
Keep in mind that a volunteer social event should be just that, social! If you try and slip volunteer training or education into the event, you might get some push-back. If you have to combine the activities, make sure you’re up front in your communication to the volunteers.
Free stuff! Everyone loves a keepsake and if you’ve given your volunteers a rewarding and memorable experience, they will want to bring a piece of it home with them. Try not to cheap out here, and consider increasing the value of the keepsake with the years of service a volunteer has given. You can create a sense of loyalty and pride in your volunteers with this simple act of appreciation. Make sure you put the year or date of your event on the item, that way you volunteers can look back and see all of the years they’ve participated.
Some ideas are: premium beer glasses for beerfest volunteers, Sunglasses for a beach volleyball tournament, water bottles for an athletic event, coffee mug for a conference, or a signed football for your homecoming event.
5. PROMOTE YOUR TEAM
In the special case when you have a real star volunteer, you may want to consider giving that person an opportunity for more responsibility. The right candidate will thrive in the new role and will appreciate being chosen for a leadership position.
Sometimes it can be hard to find leaders who will volunteer even more of their time to help run your event. Make sure you don’t give too much responsibility too quickly in the scramble to find leaders for your team. You risk losing those star volunteers if they have a negative experience.
Lastly, be sure to set up your stars for success. If you’ve identified leaders, talk to them shortly after your most recent event to gauge interest. Then start the training and preparation early. Make them part of the planning process, so they have a good understanding of the event as a whole. They’ll feel appreciated and invested in your event’s success.
We treat our volunteers well for many reasons; they are more engaged, more supportive and it’s the right thing to do. But appreciating your volunteers well can also boost retention. The best way to help your volunteer program grow and succeed is to retain already engaged and trained volunteers, they will be your champions pre-event and in the field as you grow your team and bring on new members.
For more volunteer appreciation ideas, check out our blog post on How to Incentivize Volunteerism in 8 Simple Steps.
For some clever, affordable, and fun gift ideas for your volunteers, download our 12 Days of Volunteer Appreciation Gift Guide!