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The Recruitment and Organization of Volunteers page and the Management & Supervision page have been merged into one new page. Everything from ideas to help you work more efficiently to the latest in research on keeping volunteers happy and productive, as well as ideas, suggestions and hints to build volunteer recruitment capacity.

~September 2008~

Retaining Volunteers:  It is About the Numbers

         A recent inquiry on the CYBERVPM listserv which is for administrators of volunteer programs provided some excellent suggestions for monitoring progress on the retention of volunteers.  Marie Tucker, the Director of Volunteer Services in a hospital provided a novel way to record retention numbers. 
         In Tucker’s view there are some people who just cannot stay for long periods of time.  It is her premise that retention is measured when a volunteer stays as long as he/she agreed to stay.  When the coordinator of volunteers lumps everyone together and measures the numbers against the long term volunteer, the numbers can appear grim. They are also inaccurate.  Retention statistics should be based on how long someone agreed to stay.  And if the person completed that commitment.
         She has a method of tracking retention that uses numbers to see the reality of volunteer engagement.  Here are her suggestions:

  • Create a “project end date” for each volunteer and then calculate retention based on the established date.  Example:  An intern from a local college is on board for a semester.  The person’s end date is the end of the semester.  If the individual stays for the entire semester it is counted at 100% retention.
  • If someone is doing “community service” hours and needs 100 hours of service, project out the hours for when the person might be done.  10 hours per week over 10 weeks.  If the person stays the entire 10 weeks or completes the 100 hours that is counted as 100% retention

         Tucker’s view is that over time she will gather statistics to make comparisons and set goals for increasing retention over the ensuing years.  This means retention is counted for the style of volunteering, not lumping all volunteers into the old traditional styles and measuring against that benchmark.
         She also tracks why people leave.  Questions to be answered:

  • Did the person move away?
  • Was there a significant change in the person’s life?
  • Did I just lose them?

Editors Note:  Tucker’s program is large with hundreds of volunteers.

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  • Check out the article on using the Internet to aid in supervising volunteers on the Tech Tips page.  An article by Jayne Cravens, the maven of Internet volunteering information.
  • Read the article on Internships on the Local Government page.  It outlines the benefits, tells how to sell it to administration, and outlines management strategies.  Written by a person who does it every year.
  • Melissa Heinlein shares an outline on the Federal Government page on preparing for this year’s crop of volunteers.  It can apply in a nonprofit or local government program too.

Volunteer Policies Checklist

         Effective volunteer programs have written policies governing the expectations for volunteer behavior—long term or episodic.  These policies need an annual review.  Here is an adapted checklist suggested by Elaine Hanson, Director of RSVP in North Central Iowa, via the Volunteer Management Report www.stevensoninc.com.

  • Review existing policies for relevancy to today’s volunteer positions and services
  • Review policies in similar organizations for volunteers
  • Check with volunteers and staff on the relevancy of current policies and new ones they think appropriate
  • Involve volunteers in revising and rewriting policies
  • All policies need to be approved by managers/administrators/boards
  • Write policies for simplicity and clarity
  • Roll out new/revised policies with fanfare to all volunteers

Informal Speech Steps:  A Worksheet

Coordinators or managers of volunteer programs are frequently called upon to make informal speeches or presentations to groups—large and small.  Here is a five-step outline to help you create your own “stump” speech.  There is a worksheet you can copy to make the notes for the informal speech.

1.       Start with wake-up or catchy story, joke, picture, to get people paying attention, not talking to their neighbor.
2.       This Concerns You-why is this topic important, how does it relate to the audience, why does the listener need to be paying attention
3.       Generally Speaking-general outline about programs where volunteers provide service, what volunteers do, what qualifies someone to be a volunteer, what volunteers get from experience (benefits)
4.       For Example-real stories (no names) illustrating what you said in #3, heart warming and funny work well, do not be pathetic
5.       Conclusion-an effective closing statement, summarize, use quotes, funny story, anecdote, make it about the volunteers (not just clients or program),


By calling 1-800-VOLUNTEER in the U.S., individuals can be connected to their local volunteer center. This is a national interactive call routing system designed to get volunteers connected to people who can help them volunteer.

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