How to Keep Volunteers Motivated

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How to Keep Volunteers Motivated

Australian charities have faced significant challenges over the past year with donations directed to bushfire devastated communities and then to Coronavirus. These challenges have had an undeniable devastating social impact on the charity sector especially COVID-19 whose impact on the charity sector came in two-fold; charities are facing an increased need for the services that they provide and fewer resources are coming in. Charities have not been able to carry out their usual fundraising activities and also undertake their normal activities due to social distancing restrictions. Some volunteers even had to self-isolate themselves as they are considered at higher risk to COVID-19.

It is very obvious, and not in anyway deniable, that charities have been hit greatly. What can charity leaders do to maintain volunteer’s motivation? Here are some things that charity leaders and employees should keep in mind when dealing with their volunteers.

  • Service and programme delivery is challenging in a time of social distancing
  • Human resources and finances are generally lower putting strain on the resources available
  • New considerations for volunteer recruitment, screening, trainign and management are needed. Changes in programmes and execution methods will require new approaches and training such as online methods.
  • Informal volunteering and risk management work hand in hand. Charity leaders may have to review their existing risk management protocols for the safety of both volunteers and beneficiaries.

5 Ways Charity Leaders Can Maintain Volunteer’s Motivation

1. Acknowledgement:

When people are recognised for what they are doing, they always feel a lot better.  They love that they are noticed for what they do so charity leaders should take some time to single people out and recognise them for all that they have done to help the cause.

2. Shift to remote/virtual volunteer opportunities where possible:

With many in-person volunteer opportunities cancelled, postponed or hampered by volunteers who are at greater risk of Covid-19, charity leaders should look for volunteering opportunities that can be carried out virtually like checking in on seniors by phone or mentoring via computer. Charity leaders can create opportunities for volunteers working to create new virtual opportunities or adapt existing volunteer opportunities that contribute to the vision of the organisation. This could include pro bono opportunities and skills-based volunteering that support major operating functions like IT, HR,or marketing. Charity leaders should check in with volunteers to understand their needs, and skills, to see what may work for both the organisation and also giving the volunteers something meaningful to do during social distancing restrictions.

3. Engage and Educate through Virtual Learns and Lunch:

This is a good time for employees to learn more about the volunteers who work for them and community issues. Charity leaders should consider inviting experts to give a virtual presentation as these activities will build a basis of community knowledge and interest to build future employee roles.

4. Motivate Volunteers through Connecting Employees and Celebrating Efforts:

Creating an opportunity to connect with other employees and recognising the efforts of people are great motivators for volunteers and employees. Ensure that you make programs like this social by creating virtual meetings and/or chat groups for volunteers and employees to share their progress and experiences. Also, ensure that employees periodically report volunteering outputs and efforts or design creative incentives.

Where you are able to physically work together, create an environment where volunteers can socialise either over lunch provided by you or perhaps making games available in the break out room for them to play together.

5. Regular Updates on Impact:

Volunteers are generally driven by a need to make a difference. They have likely chosen to volunteer for your organisation based on your cause and the impact you make on those who benefit from your services. Sometimes volunteers can be helping with tasks which they struggle to see have a connection to the end beneficiary. It is important to provide volunteers with updates on the impact your organisation is having on those you support and most importantly how their help is making a difference.


There are many reasons people like to volunteer.  In most cases, it is something that they feel inclined to do because of who they are.  They want to help other causes that have meaning to them to make a positive difference. At the best of times it can be difficult to maintain the motivation of volunteers as they do not have that base motivation of an income. They will have a personal drive for a cause of interest to them, but if they do not feel valued, or feel they are having an impact or their life gets difficult, you may find their enthusiasm, and availability wanes.

Charity leaders can try the various ways listed above to keep their volunteers engaged and motivated. When volunteers know that they matter and that the time they give freely is valued and impactful it makes a huge difference to their level of motivation. They should not be left to make assumptions; they should be told clearly and regularly about the difference they are making to your organisation and its beneficiaries.

They always want to help and sometimes, they just need to hear a thank you.