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Help Sheet

Retaining Volunteers

Volunteers give their time because they're committed to a cause, and they come back because it's fun. You have to be able to deliver on both counts. They don't want beads and trinkets, but they do want to be appreciated.

It's important to show volunteers that you place a real value on their work. You should offer them what you offer your donors - rewards, recognition and respect.


  • Give them a winding-down party after they've helped out at one of your special events.
  • Try and build team spirit. Soldiers don't face death for their ideals or their country or their flag, they fight so as not to let their comrades down, and the same goes for less final sacrifices. People give their best when they see themselves as among discriminating friends.
  • Help them to get to know their fellow volunteers. Have social meetings a few times a year - video nights with popcorn, say.


  • List their names in your report (if there are a thousand of them, write small). Thank them in your speeches.
  • Make a phone call, write a letter, say thank you..


  • Give them the training they need. Help them learn new things.
  • Talk to them.
  • Supervise them properly and offer them resources and support.
  • Demand that they do a good job.
  • Consult them. Ask them to suggest other volunteers, for example. Ask their opinion on the experience.
  • Tell them about the complaints and grievance resolution procedures in case they have a beef.


There are occasions, too, when you really do need to assess the value of your volunteers, and to write it down and justify it if anybody asks. These times come when you're applying for a grant or proposing a joint project, or entering any other arrangement where there's a question of who is contributing what. A grantmaker will want to know what your level of commitment is, a partner will want to know how much you're putting in. For these purposes it helps considerably if you're able to put a dollar figure on your workers; and for this purpose, the applicable figure is the cost of hiring someone to do the job. The fact that you are getting it pro bono is not something that affects them - put it in a footnote, if that.

On the Record

And if you're trying to motivate and challenge them, then there's another thing to consider; if that's one of your strategic goals, then you should be measuring it.
A recent report on "Volunteerism Among the Nation's Voluntary Health Agencies" pointed to some major contradictions in what agencies preach and what they practice when it comes to volunteers. For example, 93% of the study's respondents said their primary concern was whether volunteers were satisfied, but almost half of the respondents said they did nothing to measure volunteer satisfaction.

Do you survey your volunteers? Do you ask them whether they're satisfied with the way you use them? (Have a look at the questionnaire on this page[ link])


Remember, the way volunteers generally register their dissatisfaction isn't usually by filling out a form, it's by drifting over to another cause that they think will be more fulfilling. You hold on to volunteers by a very weak thread - the smallest resistance and it tears away. If they aren't ahead of you, they're away. If you want to keep volunteers committed, you have to show them that you value their time just as highly as if they were paid staff. You have to find them jobs that produce results that are worth as much as what they put in. You have to take them seriously. If you give them make-work jobs, things that don't need doing, you'll lose twice - you'll get little out of them, and they'll sense you don't need them and will go elsewhere, taking their services over the years and their potential donations and their contact lists elsewhere while telling people unhelpful things about your organization. This you don't need.

Park Volunteer Program Participant Survey

In order to meet the needs of our volunteers, we are surveying people who perform volunteer service in the Park. Please help us by answering the following questions and returning your completed survey in the enclosed envelope. Your answers are important to us and we need them by December 31, 2003, so please take a few minutes right now and complete the questionnaire. Please circle all responses that apply. It should take you ten minutes or less. Thank you for your help. All responses will remain confidential.

How many years have you served as a volunteer at the park?
1 2 3 4 5 More
Are you planning to return as a volunteer this season?
How did you learn about your volunteer position?
Website Newspaper Recruited Other:

Position Description

Were you provided with a clear Position Description (PD)?
Did you end up doing exactly what your Position Description said you would be doing?
Did you end up doing more, or less, than your Position Description stated?
If you have comments you'd like to share about your Position Description, please include them on the lines below.


How many hours of training did you get?
1 2 3 4 5 More
Was this on-the-job training or a special training session?
On the Job Special Session
Was the training you received :
Excellent Good Fair Poor Received no training
Did your training prepare you for your job?:
Very well Somewhat Didn't relate Received no training
If you have comments you'd like to share about your training, please include them on the lines below.


Did your direct supervisor provide adequate support?
Did he/she make you feel like a valuable member of the team?
Did you feel that the Park, as a whole, supports volunteers?
Did you feel that the Park got as much from your service as we could have?
If you have comments you'd like to share about your supervision, please include them on the lines below.

Awards and Recognition

Did you feel that your efforts were being recognized and appreciated?
Did you receive an award for your service?
Was the award you received sufficient?
What kinds of awards would you like to receive?
Mugs/Ball/Caps/Patches/Gift Certificates/Forest Pass/Other (Please List)


Were your views on the program sought out?
Were your views on the program listened to?

Overall Satisfaction

Would you recommend the North Cascades VIP program to someone else?
Were you treated like a regular staff member?
If not, were you treated better or worse than regular staff?
Do you enjoy having extra perks for volunteers only?
What types of perks would you like?

Please use the space below to make any comments about your experience that would help the Program to improve the volunteer experience for yourself and others.


Thank you for taking the time to complete and return this survey. Your answers are important to us and will be kept confidential.
If you would like further information about this survey, please provide your contact information below.

For the remainder of the volunteer cycle -

- see the separate helpsheets dealing with
* Planning, Recruiting , Managing and Maintaining volunteers
* Recruiting Volunteers
* Managing volunteers

Our Community Pty Ltd   www.ourcommunity.com.au   ABN 24 094 608 705
National Headquarters: 51 Stanley St, West Melbourne Victoria 3003 Australia
(PO Box 354 North Melbourne 3051 Victoria)
Telephone (03) 9320 6800   Email service@ourcommunity.com.au