Monday, July 20, 2015

Finding Volunteers and Keeping Them

As a 4-H Agent and Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) professional, my programs cannot run without the support of volunteers. In fact, utilizing volunteer support helps us establish community partnerships, one of VCE's core values. By donating their time and skills, volunteers help us significantly reduce our program costs, which helps when you are starting out with a limited budget.

My time as a 4-H Agent is extremely valuable, and my job responsibilities extend far beyond that of managing volunteers. Therefore, it is extremely important that I not only have the volunteer support I need for my programs, but I also don't need to constantly spend time and energy recruiting and training new volunteers. Retaining volunteers is important for community organizations--it adds stability to an organization. Personally, I know that keeping volunteers committed is good for our 4-H program because of several reasons. First, many of our 4-H programs need long term volunteers to keep going. This is particularly applicable to all of our 4-H clubs. This way, the volunteers are able tot spend at least several years serving the organization and mentoring the youth in the clubs. Second, it takes considerably less time to train returning volunteers. Returning volunteers just need updates every so often; in addition, I've found that my experienced volunteers can serve as valuable mentors to new recruits.

Thus, retaining volunteers is an important component to community programs, especially my own. Fortunately, there are many strategies that can help with retaining volunteers. One step is to ensure that volunteers are receiving recognition--whether it's a simple thank you card or an awards banquet, giving thanks for the volunteer's effort is important in keeping them around. Another strategy is through consistent communication. Communication not only helps the volunteer stay informed of their responsibilities and any changes, but it also helps the Volunteer Administrator solicit feedback for improvement. This article also notes that a proper orientation can help ensure that the volunteer sticks around with the organization. From personal experience, I've noticed that the better I am at training and communication, then the more likely it is that my volunteers stick around.

There are many additional ways to keep volunteers motivated and engaged than listed in this post.  Whatever you do, make sure that you take some steps in keeping your volunteers happy. A few improvements in the right direction can go a long way in retaining volunteers for your organization.

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