The Road Ahead

Our analysis of the major opportunities and challenges facing the voluntary sector in 2024. Learn more

Keeping volunteers

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Meet volunteers’ motivations

The best way to keep volunteers is to make sure what they do meets their motivation for giving their time.

Our Time Well Spent research on experiences of volunteering in England tells us that the most common motivations for volunteering include:

  • wanting to improve things or help people
  • having the spare time to do it
  • the group/club/organisation or cause being important to the individual.

Each volunteer will have their own reasons for volunteering, which may change over time. Be flexible and open to meeting your volunteers’ needs where possible – but be clear if you think a role won’t be a good match and explain why.

Make sure roles are meaningful. Volunteers should get some enjoyment or fulfilment from volunteering. They should feel welcome in the organisation and able to be themselves.

See our guidance on supporting volunteers.

Make it as easy as possible to volunteer

Remove any unnecessary barriers to getting and staying involved. Let your organisation know if processes or systems are:

  • difficult to use
  • not inclusive
  • inaccessible.

Give volunteers the information they need to do their role and keep them updated in the way they prefer. Make sure they hear about any important updates or changes as soon as possible.

Make sure volunteers are not out of pocket when they volunteer by paying their expenses.

If volunteers’ situations change, explore how they might stay involved. This could be in the same role, or by supporting in a different way. See our guidance on paying volunteer expenses.

Remove access barriers by providing remote volunteering opportunities that people can do online or over the phone.

If volunteers’ situations change, explore how they might stay involved. This could be in the same role, or by supporting in a different way.

Value volunteers’ contributions and time

Giving time is a valuable donation. It's important to respect this. Avoid asking volunteers to do unnecessary tasks for the sake of it.

Take an interest in your volunteers and get to know them, where this is possible. Be sure to thank your volunteers and highlight their efforts.

Listen to and seek volunteers’ thoughts, ideas and suggestions. Make sure they have a voice in the organisation, and can contribute to how it works and makes decisions.

If there are complaints or problems, make sure to handle these fast and with fairness.

See our guidance on:

Offer volunteers development opportunities

Some volunteers will have management or leadership skills and experience.

Giving them more responsibility can be very rewarding for all. For example, they could help you recruit or support other volunteers.

Offering opportunities that develop a volunteer’s skills helps maintain their interest. This is true even when they find their usual role very fulfilling.

See our guidance on training volunteers.

More information

Keeping Volunteers: A Guide to Retention: The Art of Volunteer Retention ('How to' Management Series) (Paperback) by Steven McCurley and Rick Lynch

Last reviewed: 12 April 2021

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This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 12 April 2021

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