10 Keys to Keeping Volunteers

It’s normal to have some occasional volunteer turnover.  Life happens…people move, work hours change, family situations shift, or sickness comes.  But if you are seeing a large turnover rate each year, it will be difficult to build and maintain a solid team that is effective for the long haul.  Here are some keys to better volunteer retention.

Place volunteers in their sweet spot.  Don’t place them where you “need” them.  Place them where their gifting and passion is.  When volunteers are serving in their sweet spot, they will go home energized. When they are not, they will go home drained.

Create a “we are family” culture where friendships are fostered.  Relationships are an anchor for volunteers.

Make sure they are attending “big” church.  Attending the adult service should be a requirement for serving.  Corporate worship and teaching fills their spiritual tank so they can serve from the overflow.

Stay away from, “Can you stay over and help for an extra service today?”  When you ask a volunteer to do this at the last minute, they may say “yes,” but it will take a toil on them.

Don’t let them overload on serving.  I’ve seen it.  A zealous volunteer commits to serving in too many areas or ministries.  Before long the “S” falls off their shirt and they burnout.  Encourage volunteers to focus on one area of service.

Give them time off.  Volunteers should have opportunities to take a break.  Perhaps it’s on holiday weekends or during the summer.  Our Small Group Leaders serve every week during the school year. We purposely don’t have Small Groups during the summer so they can have the opportunity to take some time off.

Show you care more about them than about what they do.  When volunteers feel loved, valued, and cared for, their hearts will be endeared to yours.  Recently I called one of our volunteers whose mother was in the hospital.  His first response was to apologize for not being able to serve that weekend. I was immediately convicted.  I wish his first thought had been, “Dale is calling to check on my mother and pray with me.”  I want our volunteers to know that first and foremost we care about them as a person.

Honor them by honoring ratios.  When you shove a volunteer in a room with 35 three-year-olds, you are not setting them up for success.  Keeping your child-to-adult ratios in check is one of the best things you can do to retain volunteers.

Say thank you on a regular basis.  Everyone wants to know they are appreciated.  Everyone wants to know they are making a difference.  Personally thank volunteers as they are serving.  Thank them with notes, emails, texts, Facebook, etc.

When a volunteer leaves, find out why.  Ask them to do an exit interview.  Listen humbly and with an open heart.  Learn from any mistakes that were made.

You may not be able to completely close the back door, but you can make it smaller by intentionally taking these steps. A great volunteer team is made up of rookies…and veterans.