Volunteers Not Sticking Around? Working Past the Frustration | Track It Forward

Volunteers Not Sticking Around? Working Past the Frustration

Written by James McBryan

You have a super excited volunteer who says they love your organization on the first day, and that they can’t wait to help out at the next event. But by the time the next event rolls around, they’re nowhere to be found.

I feel like we’ve all been in this situation. When you think you’ve finally found your volunteer kindred spirit, it’s so frustrating and disappointing when they decide to not stick around.

How do we move past this? Are there any ways to avoid this frustration?

For Melissa, our Customer Support Specialist, the struggle began when she needed to organize groups of volunteers to participate in service opportunities such as Service Sundays and fundraisers. Many eager students agreed to participate initially, but then ended up bailing on the day of the activity without a word.

When Melissa and her group realized the volunteers were no-shows, she felt frustrated, annoyed and defeated. Especially when some of the no-shows included friends.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to completely avoid volunteers pulling a disappearing act. But there are ways to mitigate the risk of this becoming a recurring pattern. Here are three ideas that helped us out.

Understand the Natural Flow of Volunteers

Volunteers come in all different shapes and sizes: the one timers, the every so often, and the diehards. And those that are die-hards end up changing as well. Life changes, as do expectations of volunteers, know that is the normal flow. b.Focus on those showing up and trending upwards instead of on those trending downwards. There are very few diehards, and that usually takes a lot of time to nurture, so instead of focusing on retaining everybody focus on nurturing those who are staying around.

Honesty, honesty, honesty

Lay out what volunteers are agreeing to so you get people who are genuinely excited about your cause and not people who are just going along with it. If you tell a volunteer upfront what the time commitment looks like, they'll be able to figure out if it's something they can fit in their schedule. 

Be Clear on What Cancellation Looks Like

Let your volunteers know what they should do if they need to cancel. Something along the lines of, “If you need to cancel, you need to do X,Y, and Z” works great. This prevents you from being in a full panic mode if a volunteer cancels.

Being a volunteer coordinator means that you have a lot on your plate. You have responsibility over a million different tasks and people, and when things don’t go as planned you may feel frustrated or annoyed. Those are definitely justifiable feelings, but if you take time to follow the tips we laid out above, you’ll be able to lessen the stress that you’re feeling.

Hopefully these are some new suggestions that can be helpful to you and your organization.

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