Pt. II: Aspects of Community


Your volunteers will have an authentic interest in kids and education and the arts, but they also might sign up because they want to meet people their own age. Many volunteers are new arrivals to your city. Or they’ve just graduated college. Or they’ve just been divorced or have gone through a life change. Or they’re unemployed.

Whatever their background, they might be hoping to meet nice people. They might believe — rightly, it turns out — that if they volunteer at a literacy center, they might meet sensitive and good-hearted people. They might be hoping that your nonprofit will become a part of their life, both altruistically and socially.

Successful volunteer-driven organizations have found that some combination of the ideas below has led to high volunteer satisfaction and retention:

Constant appreciation: Find ways to show your appreciation for your volunteers. Notes, pats on the back, dinners, lunches. Anything. Make it familial.

Social events: Some centers have held dance parties. Drinks nights. Bowling nights. Thumb-wrestling tournaments. And SINGLES NIGHTS. Honestly, there has never been a more successful series of events than when 826 Valencia had singles nights. The lines were out the door and down the block. Why? Because people knew that at a gathering of volunteers, they might find good people.

Reward benchmarks: Many centers will use certain milestones as times to give special attention to longtime volunteers. You could create a “100 Club” for volunteers who have given 100 hours. Give these volunteers a dinner out. Or a patch. A T-shirt.