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Why Do Volunteers Quit? And The Best Ways to Retain Them

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Volunteers dedicate their time and effort to supporting the cause they care about. When they join your organization, these people have many expectations. Failing to meet them usually leads to low volunteer retention rates.

High volunteer churn is a serious problem that can affect a nonprofit's operation and prevent volunteer donorship. The more volunteers decide to leave the organization, the harder it becomes to recruit a new team.

Why do volunteers quit? Let's take a closer look at the main reasons for volunteer churn and explore effective volunteer retention strategies.

Top Reasons Why Volunteers Quit

The national volunteer retention rate is around 65%. This means that one out of three volunteers decides to leave the organization. When you consider the resources you invest in volunteer recruitment, onboarding, and training, a 35%  turnover rate is extremely high. 

The key reason behind the high volunteer churn rate is unmet volunteer expectations. Since volunteers don't get paid for their work, failure to meet their expectations turns into a significant turnover.

Here are a few important reasons why your volunteers may be leaving.

Volunteer Burnout

Burnout is a consequence of continuous work-related stress and a lack of work-life balance. Volunteers who are overwhelmed with tasks but not motivated enough to perform them are likely to face nonprofit burnout quickly.

This state of physical and emotional exhaustion can decrease the quality of life and affect the volunteer's health. That's why volunteers who experience burnout usually make a decision to quit.

Lack of Appreciation

Since volunteers work hard to support the cause, they want to feel appreciated for doing so. If the organization doesn't set up a comprehensive volunteer recognition program, volunteers are likely to quit.

Studies show that 79% of employees who quit their jobs cite a lack of appreciation as the key reason. For volunteers, the lack of appreciation works the same way.

When people come to volunteer, they are usually motivated. Without recognition, motivation levels drop, and volunteer engagement suffers. Eventually, volunteers decide to leave.

Poor Communication

Since communication is key to volunteer engagement and management, the lack of it can lead to low retention rates. From volunteer onboarding and training to task distribution and scheduling, communication helps volunteers stay in the loop.

As soon as communication fails, volunteers become disengaged and lose their motivation. This causes them to quit.

Unclear Expectations

Volunteers need to have a clear understanding of their roles, shift requirements, and responsibilities. Since for many people, volunteering is new, they need a structure. Without it, it's easy to become disengaged.

When organizations don't define expectations, volunteers make mistakes and lose their motivation. Eventually, they decide to look for other ways to support the cause and quit the organization.

Since the number of volunteers is regularly decreasing, addressing the above reasons is key to holding on to one of your major assets.

How To Reduce Volunteer Turnover Rate

The average volunteer retention rate can vary from organization to organization. When you learn how to calculate the volunteer retention rate, you can determine the benchmarks for your nonprofit and design effective volunteer retention strategies.

To mitigate the key turnover issues, you can implement these effective tactics:

Design a Robust Volunteer Recognition Program

Volunteers should feel appreciation from the moment they join your team. To maintain their motivation, you need a comprehensive volunteer recognition program.

It doesn't have to involve budget-breaking gifts or major appreciation events. A simple "thank you" at a daily meeting or a "you are doing great" email can go a long way.

Enhance Your Approach to Communication

What do volunteers need? Addressing this question is key to mitigating churn. By improving your communication strategies, you can learn about volunteer expectations, ensure motivation, and maintain engagement.

Besides making yourself available to solve volunteer problems and answer questions, you can consider implementing volunteer management software that simplifies communication. The more information you provide to volunteers, the more engaged they will feel.

Work on Volunteer Scheduling

Besides lack of motivation, one of the big reasons behind volunteer burnout is scheduling problems. Volunteer managers overwhelm volunteers with work not because there is a lack of help, but because they can't monitor the volume of tasks.

By taking advantage of scheduling tools and giving volunteers access to the calendar, you can prevent large workloads and encourage a better work-life balance. With the right approach to scheduling, you can make sure volunteers are always in the right place according to their needs and skills.

Foster Volunteer Engagement

Volunteer engagement is the driving force behind successful retention. Organizations that improve engagement can decrease their volunteer turnover rates by up to 43%. Excellent engagement doesn't just improve productivity. It keeps volunteers motivated.

Engaged volunteers know exactly how their efforts support the cause. This increases overall satisfaction and decreases burnout.

Be Clear About Expectations

Both volunteers and volunteer managers have expectations about the collaboration. Communicating these expectations to each other is essential to improving productivity and reducing churn.

At the recruitment stage, it's imperative to share expectations. This can come in a form of a job description or an outline of duties and responsibilities. A list of expectations can help volunteers make an educated decision about fulfilling the suggested role and prevent churn in the future.    

Implementing a Successful Volunteer Retention Strategy

Keeping volunteers motivated and satisfied is key to ensuring a high retention rate. Similar to employees, volunteers require a comprehensive approach to recognition and engagement. Unbound by salaries, volunteers who don't feel happy in your organization may decide to quit.

By implementing a successful volunteer retention strategy, you are contributing to the nonprofit's success and encouraging volunteer donorship.

Galaxy Digital is a comprehensive volunteer management platform that can help with different aspects of volunteer retention, including advanced communications, versatile scheduling, expectation guidance, and much more.

To find out how Galaxy Digital can keep your volunteer churn rates low, request a free demo today.

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