Back to Blogs.

How to Retain Volunteers

Volunteers are the backbone of nonprofits (and society in general, for that matter). If you’ve managed to find some good ones, great! That’s half the battle won. The other half? How to retain volunteers.
NEW FBIG Tiles templates (1080x1080) (12)

If you found our guide to finding good volunteers helpful, you’ll likely find these next tips just as handy. 
Here’s how to hold on to good volunteers & keep them coming back (with some extra tips around social media and how to keep volunteers engaged virtually). 

Understand Your Volunteers Motivations

At the top of our list of tips on how to retain volunteers, is to understand your volunteers motivations for volunteering in the first place.  By understanding what motivates them, you’ll understand better how to engage with volunteers, reward them, and ensure you’ll be able to offer them unique and engaging activities that align with their motivations. This in turn assists with those perennial volunteer management questions: ‘How to keep volunteers engaged?’ and, ‘How to keep volunteers happy?’

For many, volunteering at its most basic level is about giving back; it’s about creating and engaging in experiences that are meaningful. People searching for something purposeful is arguable the biggest driving force for people to do anything. But that’s not the only motivation. 

Others include: 

  • Gaining skills and experience in order to enter or re-enter the workplace. This might apply to those who are university or school graduates, as well as those who’ve left one career pathway and are looking for another, or had a break in their career. For these people, they are volunteering in order to develop their skill sets, or get a feel for what they’d like to do next, as well as develop networks. 
  • Learn new skills for life. Not all those looking to develop skills are looking to do so in order to gain employment; some may be looking to learn new skills for life in general. 
  • To make friends and socialise. People new to the area and retirees may be looking to make new friends.
  • Give back to a cause close to their heart. This might be because they’ve been on the receiving end of the same kind of help before, or who have had friends and family in need. 
  • To make good use of spare time – and more often than not these people are searching for something purposeful to fill an otherwise empty calendar, and areas of their life with meaning. 

The best way to understand your volunteers’ motivation is to make this an essential part of the onboarding process. Ask volunteer interests and their reason for applying in their online applications, as well as when you first meet applicants in person. You can use tools like Survey Monkey (free plan available) or Google Forms (you will need a free Google account to use) if you are looking for online tools to administer surveys.

Aligning the activity or charity with their motivations plays a big role in keeping volunteers happy and coming back. 

For those on Volaby: you can add this in the profile section of your onboarding process. This way you can verify if this person will be suitable upon applying, as well as being referenced over time and compared with other volunteers to understand what is driving them and where they can be best allocated.

Engage with your volunteers

Another vital step for anyone unsure how to retain volunteers? Make sure you’re consistently communicating and engaging with them. If a volunteer never hears from you again, they’re never going to volunteer for you again. To ensure your message is not missed by any volunteers, it must come from multiple channels – think phone, email, in-person & via social media. You can’t send out something once, and hope everyone sees, remembers and responds.

Think about what you can automate to make it as easy as possible on yourself; create emails that go out weekly or bi-monthly, promote hashtags on social media & encourage volunteers to include them in posts so that creating content on your part might be as simple as sharing their posts and responding to their comments (this is essential). You can also run social media ads that retarget your volunteers who you may not have heard from for a while, or notify them of upcoming volunteer activities. More on that below. 

Engagement is a two way street – be clear about expectations, priorities, and what your goals are for your organisation; in return, ask for feedback, ask for suggestions, and ensure they feel listened to – via whatever forum you can.

Train & Upskill  

Offering training is a great way to increase volunteer engagement with a value added experience and transferable skills.  

For those looking to gain skills and experience, it’s a great way to make all volunteers feel more confident in the activities they partake in. 

It’s also a great way to get volunteers engaged in activities they may have felt otherwise unqualified for, or lacked the confidence to try. And as a benefit for you as the nonprofit, your volunteers become more skilled and efficient.

These don’t necessarily have to be formal training sessions, or even taken by your staff – think workshops, inviting guest speakers, hosting demonstrations, and informal and fun group sessions. Reach out to your sponsors or partner with businesses who may be keen to help out in ways other than monetary. 

Reward & Acknowledge Their Efforts

We’ve talked about the benefits of rewarding previously when it comes to attracting volunteers, but it’s about as important as you get when it comes to volunteer retention best practices.  

Volunteers give you their most valuable resource for free: their time. It’s vital you acknowledge their efforts, no matter how big, or how small. 

A simple thank you (in person) is great, but there are lots of ways you can reward your volunteers – think certificates, (link to certificate) gifts from sponsors, useful merchandise (mugs, hats, water bottles), free lunch, even fun activities such as trivia nights. 

Try also giving people a “humble brag” or “humble shoutout” – one of the top things volunteers say they need from their organisation is for them to acknowledge their efforts. Amazing people usually don’t like to talk about themselves, so it helps to give a ‘humble brag’ on your social page, or perhaps your newsletter to highlight the amazing work they do and how much they appreciate their efforts. 

Use the Power of Social Media 

While social media is a great way to attract volunteers, it’s also a great tool for engaging with current volunteers virtually and retaining them. 

There are two types of social media to utilise: organic and paid  And, we recommend doing one in conjunction with the other to optimise your results. 


Organically, reposting lots of user generated content and tagging the user keeps the volunteers engaged on an emotional level; they feel part of your team, and their efforts feel recognised. They’re likely to continue to interact & engage with your page, whatever content you post in the hope of seeing themselves, or some of the work they’ve done. 

Tagging volunteers in Facebook in your posts will allow them to share the post on their own accounts as well, showcasing your content to a much wider audience. 

We also touched on using hashtags here and in our last blog post (including some to start with), but we suggest learning to research some for yourself to suit your particular niche and campaign. 

The simplest way to research hashtags is to look them up within the social platforms themselves. To begin, we suggest jumping onto Instagram on your phone or your desktop and clicking on the search / looking glass icon. On desktop, you’ll find it along with the searchbar at the top of your screen. On Instagram, you’ll need to click on the icon at the bottom of the screen. 

This will take you to the Explore page. Once in the searchbar, type # then a phrase relevant to your post, such as #volunteering. You’ll see 4 hashtag results come up, with see all results below this. Next to each of those 4 hashtag results, you’ll see the number of Instagram posts contain that hashtag, with the most popular hashtag at the top, and descending in volume. 

When it comes to selecting which ones to use, don’t just choose the hashtag with the highest volume. These are great for increasing your visibility, but it also means you’re competing with millions of other posts with that hashtag. #Volunteering for example has 2.4 million posts. 

Try to look up ones that are more specific to your particular niche or goal, or location. #Virtualvolunteering has 5000 + posts, while #Volunteerbrisbane has just 100+ posts. 

There are some great guides that give you more info about hashtag research – here’s one, and here’s another – and even some hashtag tools that can help you generate relevant ones too. 


If you’ve not yet delved into the world of social media advertising, it’s time to get started. 
It’s not only a great way to get your business in front of potential volunteers, it’s also a really great way to retarget audiences who you’ve not seen in a while. 

The Ads Manager in the Facebook Platform allows you to create and distribute ads across Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and their partner networks. You can retarget volunteers by uploading your email lists into Facebook (this is why email lists are super important) and send ads directly to those people in the email list, by targeting with volunteer activities they have a specific interest in, or have volunteered in previously. You can also retarget those who have seen or engaged with your ads previously (watched videos, clicked buttons, liked or commented) or simply visited your website, prompting them to sign up or register for a call back. 

You can even look to deliver a sequence of automated ads to the same person with one ad type / message first, followed by another, then another  – with all ads following the journey towards re-engagement and retention.
You don’t need a large budget to get started – just the patience to test different formats, creatives and versions of copy until you start seeing results. 

Facebook offers some step-by-step tutorials you can take through their Meta Blueprint hub, perfect for beginners through to more advanced ad creators. 

Feeling More Confident In How To Retain Volunteers? 

As you can see, there are a host of ways you can retain volunteers for your nonprofit, with a mix of these tactics laid out in a strategic plan over time likely to yield the best results for you.

At Volaby, we understand what it’s like to feel like you are spending all of your time trying to recruit and mange volunteers at the expense of other important non-profit management tasks. Our volunteer management platform helps to simplify many administration tasks, freeing you up time to focus on other essential jobs. 

It’s simple and easy-to-use, for volunteers and staff with all skill levels.  We invite you to get in touch and trial Volaby for Free today, with no obligations.

Sign-up to the

Volaby Voice

Stay up to date with all things Volaby, volunteering, and industry best practices.

See for yourself how Volaby can perform better for you.