Motivating your Volunteers

Motivating volunteers is a key part of your role as a volunteer coordinator/manager and it is one of the most challenging aspects of volunteer support.  Likewise, it is a critical factor in keeping volunteers committed to their roles. The success of motivating volunteers comes from understanding the motivation of volunteers in the first place and managing them according to their needs.

Typical things that might motivate a volunteer are:

  • feeling connected

  • common goals

  • common values

  • mutual respect and trust

  • pride in the team

  • equity

  • having a say

  • feeling effective - able to see something through to completion, having some control

  • feeling unique - having particular individual strengths recognised, being given challenges which use particular strengths

If we understand what motivates both our staff and volunteers, we also need to recognise where motivation may be lagging.

Signs that your volunteers may be feeling demotivated include:

  • increased absenteeism

  • persistent lateness

  • irritability

  • drop in performance or standard of work

  • petty grievances

  • lack of co-operation, seeming to disagree for the sake of it

  • general increase in volunteer turnover

Keeping your volunteers motivated

One of the most important aspects of maintaining motivation is to address the way in which you recognise and reward your volunteers. The best way is to encourage and foster a culture of rewarding and recognising your volunteers as early into the development of your volunteer framework as possible.

Fortunately, motivating volunteers is not that hard.  

There are tools you can have at your disposal that you can use to reward and recognise your volunteers that include:

  • saying 'thank you'

  • making sure you know and use each volunteer’s name

  • remembering the more personal things about them such as the names of their children and pets

  • giving them time – not just formal support sessions

  • celebrating major achievements

  • involving them in decision making

  • offering relevant training and progression

  • making sure that you settle expenses claims quickly

  • providing food and/or refreshments

  • nominating them for awards, or having your own awards ceremony – remember volunteers’ week is the first week of June each year

  • making sure that the whole organisation recognises what volunteers do and make sure this is reflected in external media

  • mentioning their achievements at committee meetings and in reports

  • remembering their birthday

  • sending cards at Christmas and other appropriate holidays

  • organising social events

  • providing any equipment they may need to do their jobs

  • keeping a record of individuals achievements so you have that information on hand

  • using special events such as Volunteers Week to celebrate their work

  • saying ‘thank you’ again