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Volunteer Motivation: Tips and Best Practices

Volunteer motivation is the pillar of successful volunteer programs. Since many people feel inspired by the cause, it motivates them to donate time and money to non-profit organizations.

However, volunteer motivation is not endless. Complex tasks, long hours, and poor management could reduce motivation, decrease engagement, and eventually affect productivity.

With the right approach to volunteer management and coordination, it's possible to support and improve volunteer motivation throughout their lifecycle with your organization.

Let's take a closer look at keeping volunteers motivated.

What Motivates People to Volunteer?

The key to understanding how to motivate volunteers is learning why they choose to do it in the first place.

Volunteers can have different reasons for offering their services free of charge, including:

  • Dedication to the cause
  • Needing a sense of belonging and accomplishment
  • Wanting a change in their career
  • Needing help recovering from a crisis and improving mental health
  • The desire to change something in their community or the world

All these reasons work well when people choose to become volunteers. It's up to volunteer managers to make sure that the "fire keeps burning." To do that, it's important to meet volunteer expectations, improve their experience, share impact, show appreciation, and match them to the right position.

Figuring out how to keep volunteers motivated is part of the volunteer engagement strategy. Unmotivated volunteers become disengaged quickly and leave the organization within the first year.

Volunteer Motivation: Best Practices

When you know what motivates people to volunteer, you can design a personalized approach to motivating them. While this sounds complicated, in reality, the main motivational tactics can work well for the majority of volunteer teams. It's up to volunteer leaders and managers to add personalization into the mix.

Implement a Strong Training Program

Many volunteers don't have a wide set of skills that matches your program. This can make onboarding tough and kill the existing motivation quickly. By arranging high-quality training, you don't just contribute to volunteer productivity. You are driving volunteer empowerment.

Volunteers who receive appropriate training can feel more engaged while enjoying the impact of contributing to a cause. This can help them maintain high motivation and satisfaction levels.

Design a Volunteer Recognition Program

While volunteers understand that they are working for a cause, they still need to feel appreciated and recognized. Volunteer appreciation is an important part of any volunteer program.

By showing volunteers how much you value their work, you aren't just supporting motivation, you are driving engagement, and boosting retention. A simple "thank you" or "good job" can go a long way toward making volunteers feel empowered.

Volunteer rewards and recognition tactics are similar to what companies and organizations implement for their employees. You need to set clear recognition guidelines for your internal team. Volunteers should understand exactly what they are being rewarded for and what needs to be done to achieve the same recognition in the future.

Streamline Communication

Studies show that communication has a direct effect on productivity. Meanwhile, the lack of communication can affect volunteer engagement and motivation tremendously. When volunteers don't know whom to speak to if they encounter problems, they are left feeling unhappy and often lose the delicate connection with the cause

You need to communicate with volunteers throughout their lifecycle with your organization and:

  • Provide clear communication channels and tools
  • Share existing and future placement opportunities
  • Provide organization-related updates
  • Share information about volunteer networking events

The key to improving communication and empowering volunteers is asking for feedback. An open dialog can help you identify volunteer pain points and learn how to help them succeed within the organization.

Provide Resources

In a perfect world, non-profits have enough time to arrange an extensive onboarding process for their volunteers. In reality, your managers and coordinators could be too busy to spend sufficient time on coaching. This can make volunteers feel lost, confused, and disengaged.

An easy way to deal with this problem is to provide your volunteers with all the resources they need to learn more about their organization and their roles in it.

Volunteers should always have access to all the tools they need to contribute to your organization. Be it software, equipment, or gear, a volunteer should know where and how to get it. The lack of tools could cause volunteers to lose motivation.

Build a Team

While some volunteer contributions are temporary, many people stay with organizations for years. To keep both kinds motivated, it's important to foster team spirit. When volunteers feel as if they are a part of the team that contributes to a specific cause, motivation is likely to stay high.

Meanwhile, team spirit can help you grow your volunteer program and turn existing volunteers into ambassadors and donors. Since 85% of volunteers donate to the organizations they volunteer for, it pays to make them feel happy, motivated, and at home.  

Go the Extra Mile

To help your organization, volunteers have to change their plans, take time away from work and families, cut down on free time, and much more. To make sure these issues don't interfere with their motivation, you can try to accommodate volunteer needs.

If a volunteer asks for reassignment or needs more tools to get the job done, try to go the extra mile to do it. Demonstrating care and flexibility can keep volunteers happy with the arrangement, and contribute to productivity and collaboration in the future.  

Implementing Volunteer Motivation Tactics  

Figuring out how to motivate volunteers isn't an easy job, especially when volunteers have to dedicate extra time and resources to helping your organization. To make sure volunteers stay engaged, happy, and satisfied with the collaboration, it's important to foster and support motivation.

Motivation management requires access to the right tools. Galaxy Digital's volunteer management tools can help you streamline volunteer relationships and boost motivation. Find out how it can help your organization by requesting a free demo today.

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