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ASU Lodestar Center Blog

How to keep your volunteers satisfied

volunteer satisfaction

Volunteer engagement plays a pivotal role in the success of nonprofit organizations, impacting productivity, service delivery, and overall operational costs. Volunteer satisfaction is a key factor influencing retention, donor support, and community engagement.

The importance of volunteer engagement

Volunteers contribute significantly to the nonprofit missions, offering their time, skills, and passion. Successful volunteer engagement practices not only enhance organizational effectiveness but also drive funding, boost morale, and garner community support. The ability to retain satisfied volunteers directly correlates with sustained organizational impact.

Successful volunteer engagement practices have been studied and researched across nonprofit entities. This research underscores the critical role of volunteer satisfaction in organizational success. The literature reveals that 60 million Americans volunteered for a total of 8.1 billion hours in 2011. The positive correlation between volunteer satisfaction and increased volunteering hours is evident globally, emphasizing the need for a focus on satisfaction and retention.

Volunteer satisfaction has notable financial implications. A survey found that 65.6% of CEOs believe volunteers allow organizations to provide more detailed attention to those served. However, 46.8% of CEOs identify recruiting sufficient volunteers as a significant challenge. Funding reductions and staff restrictions lead to an increased need for satisfied volunteers to reduce budget constraints. According to the Independent Sector, the current value of the volunteer hour is $31.80, which is a 6.2% increase from 2022.

Beyond the quantitative benefits, volunteering yields qualitative advantages. Social capital development, improved mental health, and enhanced community connectedness are associated benefits for both volunteers and organizations. Aligning individual motivators with volunteer experiences positively predicts satisfaction and commitment.

Recognition and appreciation play a crucial role in volunteer satisfaction. Dr. Tara Holloran, CEO of an Indiana based animal rescue, emphasizes the impact of recognizing volunteers’ contributions through programs like “Volunteer of the Month” and appreciation events. Volunteer satisfaction has been shown to predict volunteer retention. Retention hinges on building strong relationships with volunteers and making them feel appreciated and valued while ensuring their intrinsic motivators are being satisfied.

Prioritize funding for volunteer manager positions

Allocate resources to fund dedicated volunteer manager positions, facilitating personalized support and communication and increasing consistency across the organization.

Develop structured onboarding and training

Create a comprehensive onboarding and training program based on a needs assessment, fostering a sense of belonging and fulfillment for volunteers. This provides consistency and understanding of expectations across the organization.

  1. Personalize and prioritize role matching.
    Invest time in matching volunteers with roles aligned with their skills and interests, increasing long-term commitment and satisfaction.
  2. Establish regular methods of recognition and appreciation.
    Implement regular recognition initiatives such as “Volunteer of the Month” awards, holding annual awards ceremonies, and sending personalized cards of appreciation to boost morale and motivation, and increase a sense of belonging.
  3. Provide ongoing training and development.
    Offer continuous training and professional development opportunities, enhancing volunteers’ confidence, productivity, and satisfaction. Offering various methods for training, including optional and mandatory modules, will cater to the diverse volunteer base. Encourage ongoing training and professional development and provide access to resources and support.

Volunteer satisfaction is integral to nonprofit success, impacting retention, service delivery, and community support. High turnover rates decrease productivity and can result in inconsistent service. Donor confidence is lower. Recruitment costs are higher. Organizations experience missed opportunities for collaboration and have reduced community trust. The impact of volunteers on nonprofit organizations is significant and notable. Satisfied volunteers provide significant cost savings, directly impact service delivery and funding, and increase outreach within their community. Volunteer satisfaction should be prioritized as an integral part of the volunteer management strategy to improve the volunteer experience and maximize the impact of volunteers’ contribution to the organizations mission.

Julie Venis is a 2023 graduate of the Masters of Nonprofit Leadership and Management
program at Arizona State University and a member of the Omicron Delta Kappa National
Leadership Honor Society. Julie also holds a master’s degree in social work from Boston
University and a master’s degree in health leadership from Western Governors University. For
the last five years, Julie has served as the Director of Mental Health for an Indiana-based
correctional healthcare organization where she oversees program development, policies and
procedures, and staff leadership for more than 75 county correctional facilities in the Midwest.

Image by Lillian Finley


Make the most of your volunteers by becoming an accredited Service Enterprise

Service Enterprise accreditation signifies that organizations have the capability and management expertise to strategically use volunteers to improve the performance of their organization.

For every $1 invested in effective volunteer engagement, organizations can expect $3-$6 in return through more effective program delivery. Service Enterprises are significantly more adaptablesustainable and better resourced to do their work.

Julie Venis


ASU Lodestar Center Blog