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VT readers ask questions about volunteer management and administration. Ask Connie, an experienced volunteer manager, consultant and trainer, provides the answers for all to see.
Send questions to AskConnieP@cs.com

~ August 2007 ~ Topics

Target Recruiting
Employee Volunteer Programs
Calculating Volunteer Attrition (Turnover)

Dear Connie:

I am a volunteer coordinator for a small hospice. I am having a hard time recruiting volunteers; we have billboards posted, signs posted, and an ad in the newspaper. To no avail, we cannot get volunteers. When they come in and want to fill out the necessary paperwork, they ask how much they get paid and then never come back. We have gone to senior centers, churches and local businesses. Any advice you have on the subject would be greatly appreciated.


Dear N:

My best advice is to do target recruiting. This means that you look at your various volunteer position descriptions and identify the "types" of people who would be appropriate based on your needs (time availability, skills required, etc.). Then figure out how you can get your recruiting message to those types of people. For example, if you need people who can volunteer on weekdays, then retirees, homemakers, and students are the "types" of people who might be most suitable. You could send emails to the members of any local retired persons organization, such as AARP or a teacher's organization or whatever. Just contact the organization and ask if you can provide them with a recruiting message to be sent to their members. If there are AARP chapters in your area, ask to make a live presentation to their members. Your enthusiasm for the work your hospice does is the best "selling point" you have and face-to-face presentations have a greater impact than the printed word. If you're targeting students, visit with the student advisors at your local colleges and/or universities. Ask for their help in getting the word out. You might even be able to identify a professor who'd be willing to let his/her class volunteer for you as an "assignment."

Targeted recruiting says to people, "We want to engage YOU." This proactive approach is much more successful than the passive approach of posting flyers around town.

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Dear Connie:

I work for a not-for-profit hospital and want to start a Volunteer Program for the Employees. I have worked with volunteers for 30 years and I am not sure where to start.


Dear H:

The Points of Light Foundation in Washington, DC, has an excellent manual on "How to Start an Employee Volunteer Program." It's available as a free download at:


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Dear Connie:

I am Director of Volunteer Services at a hospital and have been ask to measure our volunteer retention rate. What would be the most effective method for doing this?


Dear A:

My colleague, Nancy Macduff, has written an excellent piece on Volunteer Attrition and how to calculate it (copied below). It is taken from her book, Building Effective Volunteer Committees, Second Edition, available for sale at the VolunteerToday.com bookstore. This article and others on recruitment and retention can be viewed at VolunteerToday.com's "Recruitment and Organization of Volunteers" page.

Calculating the Attrition Rate of Volunteers

Calculating attrition rate is an important task for volunteer managers. What is your turnover rate of volunteers? Here is a five-step approach to calculating attrition rate:

How to Calculate a Program's Turnover Rate of Volunteers

Attrition is turnover! What is your turnover rate of volunteers? Be sure to only count those volunteers who sign up for long-term jobs. Suggested steps to take include:

  1. Set a start and stop date: Calendar year, fiscal year, school year, whatever works best with your normal organizational functioning.
  2. Count all the volunteers as of that date.
  3. Track on a monthly basis the ebb and flow of volunteers in and out of the program.
  4. Count all volunteers after 12 months and compare this number to the previous number. You now know if you are, for example, losing 20% of your volunteers on an annual basis or gaining 12% annually.
  5. Set recruiting goals accordingly.

The attrition rate should be recorded each and every year. This information can show the incremental changes in a program that are often not available when considering month-to-month changes. It is also helpful information for a successor.

In addition to the statistics on attrition or turnover, you should be conducting exit interviews to determine why people are leaving. This can best be done by trained volunteers. It might be hard for a departing volunteer to criticize the program or a staff member (if that is the reason they are leaving) to a member of the volunteer office staff. Trained volunteers can identify themselves as such, and get more candid answers to two or three questions. This information is also valuable in planning recruiting and educating staff and volunteer leaders.

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Do you have a question? Now you too can ask an expert!

Connie Pirtle, of Strategic NonProfit-Resources, has 15 years' experience in working with volunteers. She has consulted and/or trained for such organizations as the Washington National Cathedral, Anchorage Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Music America, and the Association for Volunteer Administration.

Send your questions to Connie at AskConnieP@cs.com.
Connie Pirtle
Strategic Nonprofit Resources
10103 Edward Avenue * Bethesda, MD 20814 * VOICE: 301-530-8233 * FAX: 301-530-8299

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