Although our volunteer survey suggested that recognition is not of great importance to volunteers working in family support, a volunteer that is motivated and happy will stay longer, work harder and give more to an organisation than someone who is not engaged and is not enjoying their role. The main way to retain volunteers is to provide interesting and engaging roles that make them feel part of the organisation and to make sure they are supported.
A volunteer is much more likely to leave if they feel undervalued or if the induction training leaves them feeling ill equipped to do the role. Motivating volunteers therefore starts at the planning and recruitment stage of the process.
Other ways to increase motivation levels are:
Celebrate successes and achievement- Within family support roles, we know that people volunteer because of their passion for working with families and their understanding of the issues that families face. It is therefore particularly important to emphasise the difference made to families by the organisation and the volunteer in order for them to remain motivated.
Offer opportunities and recognise skills- Volunteering is a form of personal development. If people find the work unchallenging or repetitive, they may look elsewhere for opportunities that can raise their skills and increase their experience. It is therefore important to make sure volunteers are given differing roles and that you can be flexible to allow them to take on more duties or responsibilities that are appropriate to their particular skills or interests. If there are formal ways of recognising skills such as an accredited certificate or a qualification, supporting them to achieve that can also encourage them to stay with the organisation.
Support and supervision- If a volunteer feels unsupported, they are likely to feel overwhelmed and leave. Regular supervision and offering help and further training allow volunteers to bring up and tackle any issues that worry them. This communication means that volunteers are motivated to continue working as they know that they will have support if problems arise.
Involvement- Involving volunteers in the decision-making and running of an organisation means that they are listened to and feel that they have some power to shape the service. Whether this is by regular surveys about volunteer opinions or by having a volunteer representative on a decision-making committee, involving volunteers will ensure that they have a voice regarding changes and decisions that affect them.
Reward and recognition- The simplest way to make sure that volunteers feel valued is to tell them! Thanking them at the end of the day or whenever they have finished a piece of work will ensure that they know how appreciated they are. Involving them in social events, recognising particularly good work with certificates or a small gift will show how important they are and thank you cards signed by the team help to make people feel involved.
Special occasions and events- There are a number of special events that can be organised to celebrate the work of volunteers. National events include Volunteering Week in June and Student Volunteers Week in February. You can also use birthdays, valentine’s day and religious festivals to send a thank you card or give a small gift to say thank you. For organisations working with parents, celebrating father’s day and mother’s day might be particularly effective. Some organisations participate in external volunteer award ceremonies or run their own.