1. Volunteers want you to be prepared for them

Many of us have, at some point, worked in the temping world. A common experience is to be sent to an office to work, only to find that the office is unprepared. So, you sit around trying to look busy when you are actually twiddling your thumbs.  Don’t let this happen to your volunteers.

Some may put up with this, but your volunteers will see you as disorganised and inconsiderate. Don’t bring a volunteer in until you have sorted everything out, from what you want them to do to a place to work with proper equipment, to something to do immediately. 

2. Volunteers want to feel welcomed 

Show them around. Introduce them to other people involved with your organisation. Show that your organisation is warm, friendly, helpful, and happy to see your volunteers. 

3. Volunteers want training 

Even if the task assigned is a simple one, take the time to explain it, demonstrate it, and mentor the volunteer through the first few hours. When training a group of volunteers, be sure to use adult learning techniques such as group involvement. Volunteers don’t want to be lectured to, they want to participate in the training. Include in your training clear expectations for your volunteers. Let them know what the job entails and the quality measures that you will use to evaluate their work. 

4. Volunteers want to do interesting work

Most volunteers are willing to roll their sleeves up and do physical labour as long as it is meaningful. Do not use volunteers to do the tasks you or your staff don’t want to do. Envelope licking and mindless filing do not always appeal to current volunteers. 

Think of your volunteers as extra staff who are capable of performing complex tasks that take advantage of their experience and skills. Provide leadership opportunities to those volunteers who are willing and have the time to shoulder more responsibility. 

Do you interview each volunteer? That might not be possible for large-scale projects such as a one-day clean-up campaign or when a volunteer signs up to do a remote task online. But if you can, talk to volunteers to see what they are good at and would like to do. They will love you for your interest and for uncovering their passions and expertise. 

5. Volunteers want to know up front how much time the job will take

Everyone is busier than ever, and many volunteers may only have time for short term assignments. Project-oriented, rather than ongoing, tasks seem to work particularly well. 

Decide how much time your job will need and include that when you publicize your volunteering role. Will it take 6 hours a week? Does it need to be done on a weekend? Do you need your volunteer for the summer, for a season? Does they need to be available from 2 to 4 p.m. during the week?

Provide lots of options so that you can appeal to millennial professionals, a stay at home parent, or the retiree who has more time. Think about offering “alternative” opportunities, such as project-based family volunteering and even micro-volunteering and virtual opportunities. 


6. Volunteers want to be appreciated

Tell your volunteers frequently that they are doing a good job. 

Although you will want to come up with some exciting and novel ways to formally say thanks, don’t overlook the power of a simple gesture such as taking a group of volunteers to lunch, giving out gift cards, or mailing an old-fashioned handwritten thank you letter. 


7. Volunteers want you to communicate with them well and often 

Regular communication is motivating for volunteers while the lack of it is one of the chief reasons volunteers become dissatisfied. Volunteers like to have a particular person who looks after them. 

If your organisation does not have a volunteer coordinator, be sure to assign someone to be the point person for your volunteers. Neglect can be deadly. A forgotten volunteer won’t return and may well talk to others about what a poor organisation you are.

8. Volunteers want to know that they are helping to make the world a better place

Let your volunteers know how they are making a difference. 

Share success stories about your clients and programs. Bring volunteers up-to-date on progress toward your organization’s goals. Let them see your work in action through tours, presentations on the issues by your experts, and by inviting them to provide suggestions about how your work can be done even better. 

9. Volunteers want to be socially connected 

Volunteering is a great way for many people to socialise, If you think a couple of volunteers would get along famously, provide that opportunity by assigning them to do a particular job together. Keep in mind that younger volunteers especially, enjoy volunteering as a group. 

10. Volunteers want to learn something new

Anyone who is willing to volunteer for an organisation is likely to have a healthy curiosity and willingness to try new things.  It is the case that many volunteers  with causes specifically to learn new skills or about interesting topics and issues. 

Provide that opportunity. Turning your volunteer job into a mini educational experience will be highly valued by potential volunteers, and will likely result in some further referrals to your organisation as your volunteers tell others about what a great experience they are having. 

Take a look at our online course 

About The Author - Terry King OBE

Following a very successful career in the UK Civil Service Terry became the classic mature entrepreneur,  co-founding  Chapter 3  Enterprise, a not for profit company at age 60 and has  since gone on to set up 3 other companies, including another not for profit all aimed at supporting women and girls in Nepal www.friendsofvin.uk

She acknowledges that much of her success both in business and in the civil service is down to working with great teams where she uses her skills to lead and motivate and so deliver great outcomes.

Volunteers form an essential part of the delivery of her third sector work with Chapter 3 and Friends of VIN UK across the UK and help her make a bigger difference to whatever community she is working with. 

In 2002  she  was awarded an OBE for her work in reducing pensioner poverty and coaching and supporting women.