Volaby Voice - Topic of the week:

What is driving your volunteers?

Isaac Newton’s 1st law states that “a moving body will remain at rest or in motion unless it is acted upon by a force” – now when Isaac was talking about this he was referring physical objects and forces of nature, however, like all patterns in nature there is relevance to this theory in other walks of life, in particular when it comes to volunteers.

After speaking with many different volunteering organisations, we have noticed there are a number of forces that both encourage volunteers to apply and stay, and a number of forces that discourage volunteers to commit less or even leave. You can see from the image above that if these forces are not balanced in the right direction (i.e. towards growth and encouragement) they can tend to building momentum in the wrong direction and you might begin to see volunteer commitment and attendance levels decrease over time.

Some of the GROWTH and REDUCTION forces noticed amongst the volunteering organisations we have engaged with include:


  • High awareness of opportunities (spark interest/consideration)
  • Alignment to the cause (e.g. saving the environment might be extremely important to them)
  • Enjoyment and fun within the role (do I feel good when I’m there?)
  • Desire to learn new skills / knowledge (we have found this to be one of the most powerful!)
  • General reminders / updates (as most volunteers have other commitments)
  • Desire to give back (this is another powerful one, however we have found that for a majority of people this might only be effective short term, unless it is cultivated & nurtured with the volunteer over time)


  • A Lack of awareness (I didn’t even know it existed?)
  • A Lack of interest (I don’t even know what it is about?)
  • Not enough time/availability in their schedule
  • Not a big enough priority to commit long term
  • Too inconvenient and complicated to attend (we have found this to be one of the strongest reduction factors!)
  • Not aligned to their purpose / beliefs
  • Low value exchange (e.g. “What am I getting out of this? I have a lot going on in my life and can’t afford to sacrifice time!”)

Please note, these are simply just examples and patterns we have noticed in the industry first hand, and it should be mentioned that this is not certain for all organisations. The point of the above is to help demonstrate and spark empathy with our volunteers so we can all better understand at a deeper level “what could we be doing more of to attract and retain amazing volunteers in our organisations?”. 

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