International Volunteer Day (IVD) was on December 5. The IVD 2018 theme was Build resilient communities – grow your volunteers! So how do you ‘grow volunteers’? Michelle Kitney, General Manager at Volunteering New Zealand, gives her top 5 tips on how to grow and retain volunteers.

How to grow and retain volunteers

When I think about what is important to nurture and grow volunteers within an organisation I draw from my own experiences as a volunteer and from what I have seen work in the volunteer involving organisations I have been involved in, and things I have learnt from great people leaders.


  • Get to know your volunteers
    Involve your volunteers in drafting their role description. Talk about what they want out of the opportunity, where they are going and what opportunities are available within your organisation to help them get there. Offer them the opportunity to review, comment and edit their role description or project brief. Spend time thinking about the most useful roles they can play, make it easy for them to feel helpful and celebrate the difference they’re making.


  • Get organised to welcome your volunteer into the organisation
    Invest some time to make sure things are ready for your volunteer when they start. Tell the rest of your team about the volunteer before they start, or ideally introduce them to the team as part of the on-boarding process. Get a space ready for them and the resources they will need to start.


  • Make your volunteers feel part of your team
    Show them that their input and outputs are valued. Include volunteers in team meetings and planning events. Explicitly seek their feedback and opinions.


  • Show them how they make a difference
    Explain how their task, project or team contributes to the organisation’s missions and goals. Find ways to show them how their contribution has impacted on the organisation, or the community it supports. It could be as simple as showing them stats or an infographic from your annual report. Or feedback from someone supported or impacted by your organisation.


  • Reflect and recognise their value
    It is really important to know that everyone likes to be recognised in really unique ways, and it can take time to figure out the best way to thank and recognise individuals. However, thank yous go a long way. Lots of them. “Thank you for coming in today”,  “thank you for giving your time”, “thank you for helping me with this task”. I also think it’s really important to ensure you are consistently reflecting and recognising the work a volunteer has done for you and the organisation to others in your team, to your CE, to other volunteers, to the board and the wider community.


 How to increase volunteer retentionIn my next post I will outline a formal tool designed specifically to help grow and retain volunteers.

  • Michelle Kitney, General Manager at Volunteering New Zealand.