Retention and effective communication
One concern for many people working with volunteers is how to retain their volunteers once they have invested time in recruiting, training, and supporting them.
The key to volunteer retention is communication. Ensure that you are being clear about expectations before volunteers start, and when they are matched to a role; give them clear information about training, induction, support arrangements and ensure they are appropriately supported. Link their motivations to their role and the potential for them to learn and develop within it – and ensure you are regularly checking with them on their progress within this. A personal development plan is a useful tool to do this with.
Provide feedback to show volunteers that their role is valued. If they require debriefs, ensure they get them – especially when supporting volunteers with vulnerable groups or in challenging environments which may at times be stressful.
Ensure that you have an expenses policy and that volunteers get their expenses on time – no volunteer should be out of pocket, and for young people they may struggle to continue to participate if their travel expenses are not quickly reimbursed, due to potentially low incomes.
These are all basic principles of good volunteer management, and it is important to get in place this volunteer-centred approach to take good care of your volunteers as they are a valuable asset.
Case Study – Boccia England – retaining volunteers long-term
Case Study – Retaining Volunteers Long-term
Boccia England are the national governing body for the Paralympic sport of boccia. Boccia is a disability sport whereby players propel balls to land close to a target ball. Sounds simple? It might be at the start, but the tactics of the sport offer both tension and excitement as the game plays out! For many athletes with severe physical disabilities, boccia is the only sport they can play.
We rely heavily on the involvement of volunteers across the sport – without them boccia simply wouldn’t happen. Some of the common volunteer roles that we recruit are;
- Officials – referee, lines person, time keeper
- Classifiers – medical and technical
As a relatively small and unknown sport, we often experience challenges with attracting new volunteers to get involved in boccia. But once we’ve recruited them we work hard to retain them.
We currently work with a team of around 100 active volunteer officials, coaches and classifiers to support the Boccia England delivered competitions, events, academies and camps. Beyond this, there are hundreds more boccia volunteers out in community sessions, clubs and settings.
All our volunteers link closely to Boccia England’s Workforce Development Officer – a dedicated individual that know they can liaise with and contact for advice and support. Primarily we support our volunteers by providing quality training and development opportunities – we are always looking for new methods to upskill individuals but some of the techniques we currently use include;
- On the day briefings for one-off volunteers
- Formal awards and courses ranging from 1-5 days
- Annual conferences
- Mentoring programmes
- Start of season workshops
- Social media Q&A sessions
- Video updates
Each year we recognise our volunteers through our Annual Awards programme. Nominated by members, these awards acknowledge outstanding dedication and commitment to the sport. We also nominate individuals for relevant external national awards and often see our volunteers being recognised locally for their work.
We celebrate our volunteers by promoting their achievements through our various marketing activity – e.g. social media and enewsletters or through partner organisation campaigns such as #VolunteersWeek.