One way to encourage long-term retention of volunteers is to offer them activities that pique their interest and match their work styles. While many traditional volunteer programs involve an ongoing, regular time commitment and administrative-type tasks, baby boomer and/or highly skilled volunteers are seeking something else.

Here are ways to tap new segments of volunteers.

Engage Skilled Volunteers

Skilled volunteers are able to fill professional-level roles, such as directing marketing programs for your organization, setting up accounting systems, writing a business plan or charting a strategic direction for your organization.

To employ these valuable assets, offer these volunteers opportunities that

  • Enable them to contribute their skills in meaningful ways.
  • Produce measurable results.
  • Are project-based and of limited duration.
  • Give them responsibilities equivalent to staff’s.

Assure a fit by conducting a skills inventory, learning each volunteer’s expertise and interests and matching those to specific organizational or project needs. See these other ideas to keep skilled volunteers happy.

Create Self-Directed Teams

Some organizations have had substantial success with self-directed teams, where volunteers meet to learn more about the community needs, to set project goals and to brainstorm and implement solutions.

These autonomous teams can raise productivity and lower operating costs for an organization. They can sweeten the deal for potential volunteers, encouraging more to join and more to stay with the program over time.

As an example of the high-level work that self-directed teams can accomplish, consider a case study from a senior center in Madison, WI. Among other things, its marketing team produced a comparative report on accomplishments and barriers of other area senior centers, presenting it to local policymakers.

Work Well with Teams

To gain the most value from their expertise, give team members freedom, yet retain their ties to the organization:

  • Put them or staff or board committees.
  • Invite them to staff meetings.
  • Ask them to check in regularly with project directors.
  • Request updates to the board of directors and the like.
  • Give them a desk and possibly staff support.
  • Consider paying them a stipend.

Attract Volunteers

The approach to finding team members and skilled volunteers is essentially the same.

During the recruitment process, meet individually with all potential volunteers. Consider these questions before assigning them to a team:

  • What skills can they bring?
  • Are they passionate about the work they propose doing? About the project’s impact?
  • Do they come across as team players?
  • Will they commit to seeing the project through to the end?


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