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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

~2012 ~

Dear Connie:

Do you have statistics concerning the "average" volunteer retention rate?  How about the expected increase (decrease?) of volunteers per year?  This is part of my goal and expectations for next year.  Thank you.


Dear PA:

I believe that one of the pitfalls you want to avoid in volunteer management is looking to other programs and research for guidance on volunteer retention and turnover statistics.  The key to retention and turnover is how well you're managing your own program and how effectively it's structured. What works for you, your organization, and the volunteers who support you is what's most important about retention and turnover.

Some questions to ask yourself:

  1. Are you tracking carefully the service years of current volunteers and how many new volunteers join your program annually? 
  2. Do you have exit interviews with volunteers who chose not to return to your program? 
  3. Are you offering the type of volunteer opportunities (short-term versus long-term) that appeal to many of today's volunteers? 
  4. Are you recognizing in meaningful ways the efforts of volunteers so that they want to stay with your program? 
  5. Do you adequately train volunteers so that they can be successful and thus want to stay?  

Having said all of that, I would encourage you to contact your local colleagues who have programs similar to yours and find out what they're experiencing in volunteer retention and turnover.  You'd be comparing "apples to apples" with them, and you would strengthen your professional network in the bargain!

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Dear Connie:

I am planning a celebration that is for volunteers who have volunteered for 20+ years.  I need a game or something for them to do at the beginning before we have the presentation of service pins.  The game would be to warm up the group, which will be probably about 30 people.  The event will be in a medium-sized room at a local restaurant.  Any ideas?  And could you tell me when the National Volunteer Week is for 2013?  Thanks for your help!


Dear C:

First, the short answer – National Volunteer Week is April 21-27, 2013. [Dates for several years in advance for US National Volunteer Week are listed on Volunteer Today Events page.]

Next, what you're looking for is an "icebreaker" (in trainer's lingo).  And, there are literally hundreds from which you can chose!  Two of my favorites are designed for groups of people who already know each other, like yours, and don't require any tools or table space.

"The Pocket Trick" – Ask everyone to find one item in their pocket, handbag, or briefcase that describes them best.  Then allow 1 minute per person for each one to tell the group why that item describes them best.  This generally produces lots of good humor and creativity.

"Deep Secrets" – Ask everyone to think of one thing that the rest of the group doesn't already know about them.  Then allow 1 minute per person for everyone to reveal their "deep secrets."  This icebreaker is sure to energize the group.

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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
314 E. Marie Dr. * Stillwater, OK 74075 * VOICE: 405.372.8142 or 202-306-1492

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