3 Keys to Closing the Volunteer Turnover Door

Do you struggle with volunteer turnover?  Seems every time you work hard to get a new volunteer, you lose a current volunteer out the turnover door. 

It's normal to have some volunteer turnover.  People move away, get sick, change work schedules, have babies, etc.  But if you are seeing volunteer turnover beyond that, then there are other issues at play that are causing volunteers to walk out the turnover door.

But the good news?  You can close the turnover door.  No, it won't ever be completely closed, as I said in the beginning,  because life happens.  But you can move the door from being wide open to just a small crack.  Here are the 3 big keys to closing the volunteer turnover door.

When you meet with a new volunteer and ask them where they would like to serve, what do they normally say?  "You can place me where ever you need me."  And the temptation is to do just that...to place them where you currently have an opening.  But don't.  Here's why. 

Don't place volunteers where you need them.  Place volunteers where they need to be.
Where do they need to be?  They need to be in a role that is based on their gifts and passion.  Simply put, they need to be in their sweet spot. 
If you don't help people find their sweet spot, their serving will turn sour.
When people are serving in their sweet spot, they thrive.  When people are serving in their sweet spot, they serve long term.  When people are serving in their sweet spot, they love what they are doing.  When people are serving in their sweet spot, they are happy.

How do you help people find their sweet spot?  There are several steps among which are having them take a spiritual gifts test and a personality test.  Another biggie, is simply asking them, "What would be your dream role here at church?" and "What do you love doing?"  These questions will quickly help you access what their sweet spot is.

Give volunteers permission to let you know if they are not serving in their sweet spot.  In fact, take the initiative and ask them one month after they start serving if they are in their sweet spot.  If they are not, help them find the role that is their sweet spot.  If you don't, they will let you know, but it will be too late.  It will be when they are walking out the volunteer turnover door.  

Have you ever been working on a project and realized you didn't have all the right tools you needed?  You try to make it work, but you get frustrated and eventually quit until you can get the right tools.  It's the same scenario with volunteers.  When you place them in a role, but don't give them the right tools or training they need to succeed, they get frustrated and quit.

Make sure you provide adequate training for new volunteers.  From an orientation to a clear job description to shadowing a seasoned volunteer for several weeks, it's important to set them up for success.  I am thinking now about a volunteer years ago that I pushed into a room without adequate training.  It was only a few weeks until he quit.  And looking back, I don't blame him.  Don't make this mistake with your volunteers.

I believe relationships is the super glue that keeps volunteers serving long term.  When volunteers are surrounded by people they know, care about, do life with and pray with, they keep serving.  Although many of these relationships will be formed organically, there are some key steps you can take to help foster relationships among volunteers. 

As stated in the first key, when you place volunteers in their sweet spot, it means they will be with people who share the same passions as they do.  This helps relationships naturally form around this common interest.  Some other steps you can take to help relationships form is to provide opportunities for volunteers to spend time together outside of serving, share prayer requests, do team building activities and form small groups with volunteers.

You can get many more ideas for closing the volunteer turnover door in my new book "The Formula for Building Great Volunteer Teams."  In this book, I share a proven formula for not only bringing volunteers on your team, but keeping them long term as well.