8 tips to motivate volunteers

A group of 8 volunteers in blue t-shirts walking together across the grass.

Charities rely on the kind donations of the public, but these donations aren’t always monetary. Volunteers donate their time to help run charities and community groups, many of whom wouldn’t be able to operate effectively without them.

Running a charity group means you have to juggle all sorts of things, from charity insurance to renting premises - and looking after your volunteers is another vital part of the role. However, it can sometimes be challenging to maintain volunteer enthusiasm. A volunteer isn’t always motivated by the same things as a paid employee, which can make it hard to know what you need to do to keep them engaged with the cause.

An additional problem is that there is no one size fits all approach to inspiring volunteers. Like employees, volunteers will have their own interests, barriers and needs, so different things will drive them. Having a variety of motivation techniques in place can help you identify what your volunteers respond to best.

Interested in building a motivation toolbox? Keep reading for our eight top tips for motivating your charity volunteers.

1. Show respect

In any organisation, the key to keeping people engaged with what you’re doing is to make sure they’re having a good experience working or volunteering with you. The first step to achieving that is to ensure your volunteers feel respected. Remember, they’re giving up their time to help further your charity’s cause - if they don’t feel appreciated, they might give up helping you.

How do you show respect for your volunteers? A simple option is to verbally express your gratitude for their help - particularly if you’re specific. For example, mention your appreciation for a certain action you’ve noticed them doing rather than simply giving out a generalised message to all volunteers. This will help individual volunteers to feel you value them personally.

2. Communicate

It’s hard to feel motivated when you don’t know what you’re supposed to be doing. Regular meetings - or regular emails if meetings aren’t required - are vital as they help to give your volunteers a sense of direction. Especially at the beginning of their service, volunteers will find it useful to know what’s expected of them, and meetings or bulletins are an excellent opportunity to notify volunteers of important dates coming up.

You should also make sure that you’re giving your volunteers all the support and information they need to perform their role - particularly if they’re doing something they’ve never tried before.

3. Have an open door policy

Part of helping your volunteers to enjoy the time spent with your charity is acknowledging that things aren’t always going to be easy. Having an open door policy encourages your volunteers to feel comfortable coming to you for advice if they have questions or concerns. This helps to foster a community spirit. You should also check in with your team from time to time to make sure they know they are supported.

4. Find common goals

There are many reasons why people choose to volunteer for charity organisations - to give back to the community, to meet new people or to fill their time, for example. Sitting down with your volunteers and discussing their strengths, weaknesses, interests and hobbies can make it easier to identify who is best suited to each role in your organisation. Remember, people who are interested in what they do are likely to be happier doing it.

5. Recognise achievement

Everybody likes to feel like their efforts are being appreciated, and volunteers especially deserve recognition and praise for their work. As they’re not being paid for their time, it’s particularly important to let them know how much their contribution means to your charity in order to keep them motivated. That way, they’re more likely to continue to strive to produce quality results.

6. Build team spirit

Building a sense of community within your volunteer team is key to keeping motivation levels high. You can’t always be there to make sure each and every one of your volunteers is feeling good, but fostering relationships in the rest of the team means they’ll help to encourage and motivate each other. Try organising a ‘meet and greet’ or regular social event such as a meal out or coffee morning to encourage volunteers to get to know each other outside of the work you’re doing.

7. Encourage development and training

Volunteers are working with you because they want to help you, yet many receive limited training that prevents them from reaching their full potential. Investing in personal development and training your volunteers not only gives them a better understanding of their role, but motivates them to grow and strive to better themselves.

8. Accommodate

At the end of the day, volunteers are giving up their free time to help you with your charity’s cause, so it’s important to be as flexible as possible. If your volunteers are unable to work their usual routine or need to take time off, accommodating those requests can help to ensure they’ll continue to work with you in the future.


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