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Ending volunteering well

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Why volunteers leave

There are many reasons why volunteers stop volunteering. Often, these are positive. For example, the volunteer might have a new job or feel they’ve achieved what they hoped to do. Some roles are only needed for a short time.

Volunteers can also leave for negative reasons. They might be feeling unappreciated, or that they are not making a difference. You can reduce the chances of this happening by supporting and managing volunteers well.

Our Time Well Spent research on experiences of volunteering in England explores volunteer retention and the reasons why people continue or stop volunteering.

Ending volunteering checklist

Here are some things you can do to end a volunteer's time at your organisation well.

  • Ask the volunteer for their feedback, both good and bad. You can use a questionnaire or have a chat.
  • Thank the volunteer and recognise the contribution they’ve made.
  • Plan with the volunteer to handover their ongoing activities to others.
  • Offer a reference to the volunteer. This can help if they're looking to volunteer or work elsewhere.
  • Check if the volunteer would like to stay in touch or receive updates about the organisation’s work, and how.
  • Ask them to return any data or equipment, such as laptops or building passes. After they’ve left, you’ll also need to remove their access to any internal systems.

See our guidance on thanking volunteers.

When volunteers leave suddenly

Sometimes volunteers stop volunteering without telling you. They might stop signing up to shifts or answering your attempts to contact them.

While this can be difficult, it's good to give people the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes volunteers feel they're letting someone down in stopping volunteering. They may feel it would be an awkward conversation.

If you have tried several times to contact a volunteer but haven't heard back, then decide when you'll stop.

If you think a volunteer may be at risk, follow your organisation’s safeguarding process.

See our guide to safeguarding for volunteer managers.

Organisational change

Sometimes volunteers have to leave because of changes in your organisation. For example, funding for the service they support may be ending, or their role may have changed.

In such cases it can be a challenge to end things well. Volunteers may resent the changes or feel their efforts are not appreciated.

It's important to take the time to communicate upcoming changes to volunteers. Explain why the changes are happening and try to involve volunteers in decision-making. This will help them understand and be supportive of change.

There may be other ways they can continue to support the organisation. Make sure it's clear and easy for them to get involved in other ways if they wish to do so.

Last reviewed: 12 April 2021

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This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 12 April 2021

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