5 Reasons Why Your Church Volunteers Quit and 5 Ways to Retain Them
Volunteer retention is a challenge for any service program. Even the most committed church volunteers need a break. And that’s okay. What’s more important is that your volunteers are motivated to come back. We’ve outlined some key strategies to help your church address volunteer engagement and volunteer retention. But first, let’s discuss some key reasons why volunteers quit in the first place:
Why do church volunteers quit?
Sometimes, volunteers quit because of reasons beyond your control. Life events like new careers and young children can take up a lot of time, and volunteers may feel overcommitted for now. Your church should, however, focus on the causes for quitting that you do have control over. Here are some of the top reasons church volunteers quit:
- Burnout: Are you putting too much pressure on your volunteers? It can be tempting to bombard–and overload–your go-to volunteer with tasks. Just because they’re consistently willing to lend a hand, doesn’t mean you should assign them to every unfulfilled volunteer role.
- Disorganization: A disorganized, poorly planned volunteer program can become taxing on volunteers. Volunteers are more likely to remember (and share) very positive experiences and very poor experiences.
- Disinterest: A volunteer may have signed up for and participated in an opportunity, but found they weren’t passionate about the cause. Or perhaps they didn’t feel like their skills were being best utilized.
- Out of sight, out of mind: Your congregation members are busy. If they haven’t heard from you in a while, it’s possible they just aren’t thinking about volunteering.
- Lack of appreciation: Volunteers like to know their work is making a real difference to others. If your church isn’t regularly thanking your volunteers, the may feel like their efforts do not matter.
Related Reading: 10 Church Volunteer Appreciation Ideas
5 Volunteer Retention Strategies to Keep Your Church Volunteer Program Going Strong
Below, we offer simple solutions to the common challenges that make church volunteers quit. These ideas can help strengthen volunteer retention and grow your service programs:
Help Define Their Purpose
Each volunteer at your church should have a clear sense of your program’s mission. Let volunteers know why you need their help, then introduce them to the specifics of the role. Volunteers are more likely to return when they understand: (1) why the work they’re doing is important and (2) that they’re services are needed to help solve a problem.
After volunteers have signed up for an opportunity they’re interested in, create clear expectations. Volunteers should know the following essential information before starting a job:
- Where they need to be
- When they need to be there
- What they will be doing
- Why they’re doing it
Provide Proper Training
Opt for quality over quantity. In other words, a few committed, well-trained volunteers are much more effective than a large group of unprepared volunteers. Church volunteer training is essential to ensuring your volunteers get the most out of the experience and have a significant impact. Make sure your church volunteer handbook and volunteer orientation program clearly outline your program’s expectations.
You should also strive to create an open line of communication with volunteers. One way to communicate feedback effectively is to compose volunteer evaluation forms like this one. Your survey should assist volunteers in recognizing strengths and identifying areas where further training may be required. It’s essential that individuals feel prepared before diving into volunteerism, especially for more involved roles.
Bare in mind that your support should continue throughout the volunteer’s experience with your program. Offer feedback and additional training when appropriate and ask your volunteers what they need from you.
Match Their Skills and Passions
Engaged volunteers like to feel: (1) passionate about a cause, and (2) useful to the cause. So leverage the skills and strengths of your volunteers. This will require some understanding of the skills, strengths, and passions your new volunteers possess. One way to accomplish this is to create a questionnaire or conduct a church volunteer interest survey. Ask questions like these to help you better place volunteers from the outset:
- Which of the following causes are you passionate about?
- Which of the following service areas interest you most?
- What professional or technical skills to do have that may aid volunteer activities?
- What are your goals for volunteering? What do you hope to get out of your volunteering experience?
Galaxy Digital’s church volunteer management software can capture volunteer interests and skills and recommend opportunities that will keep volunteers excited about supporting your program. Learn more about Get Connected software.
Volunteer retention requires commitment from volunteers and program coordinators. Show volunteers you’re thinking about them, and let them know that they’re continued support is both appreciated and necessary to your congregation. Keep volunteers in the loop about upcoming events and exciting opportunities with an e-newsletter. But be careful not to overdo-it. Bombarding email inboxes daily can have the opposite effect. We recommend distributing your volunteer e-newsletter one to two times per month. Note that just because volunteers don’t have the time to volunteer now, does not mean they’ll volunteer never.
Show Volunteer Appreciation
Thank your volunteers sincerely and often. They’re donating their time and skills to support your program, so it’s essential they feel valued. What’s more, volunteers like to know that their efforts made an impact. Find ways to illustrate and share this impact. For example, let your volunteers know how many meals your soup kitchen was able to serve because of their efforts. Or share a story from a community member who was particularly grateful for your volunteers’ service. And always end your message with a thank you!
Building a healthy, sustainable volunteer program is about utilizing the gifts you have available to you. This can mean supporting and valuing your dedicated volunteers, and making room for new passions and skills. When you match your volunteer’s commitment, you’re sure to foster a thriving congregation.
Also published on Medium.