Engaging Conversations with Volunteers

“Volunteers … work not for money but because they want to give back, make a difference, change the world.”  Sally Helgesen

While the need to give of themselves may motivate volunteers to get involved, it doesn’t ensure their continuing commitment. What keeps them involved is the quality of their experience with an organization.

The best way to understand your volunteers’ experience is to engage them in conversation. This can be done in individual conversations or, if you manage a large group of volunteers, through roundtable discussions or surveys.

Engaging conversation starters

Ask these key questions to learn what your volunteers think – and how they feel – about your nonprofit:

• What is it about this organization that appealed to you to get involved?

• What about this organization keeps you involved?

• What do you expect to give and get from your volunteer involvement?

• What do you enjoy most about your volunteer experience?

• What suggestions do you have to improve the volunteer experience?

• Would you recommend this organization to other volunteers?

What to do with volunteer feedback

Listen carefully and acknowledge your volunteers’ value – both in serving your organization and in sharing their thoughts with you. Collective responses to the first four questions provide important insight to reinforce volunteer engagement and may be used in your messaging to recruit new volunteers.

Responses to the last two questions will help you identify concerns that need immediate fixing and those that need to be addressed in the long term. Share and communicate any follow up to let your volunteers know that you heard them.

Volunteers are precious resources. Listen to them and treat them with the respect they deserve.

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