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Volunteer engagement advice – How to keep them motivated

Published: Aug 8, 2017

The bulk of a campaign’s work is completed through volunteer action. Yet, they are not tied to the campaign the same way as the staff. They do not face the same stakes or are united by the same line of work.

Volunteers, however, bring a lot of energy to the table. This is because volunteers have their own genuine causes that drive them. Depending on the kind of work they get involved in, this positive vibe may dwindle and die out. That would be disastrous for the campaign.

So you have to put some thought into keeping your volunteers motivated. The tasks you assign, how you train and indulge them and what they get out of it all come into play in building volunteer motivation.

Check out some methods below which are useful in motivating volunteers.

Smooth flow of information

Volunteers do not generally add much experience to the effort. Their work is driven more by their will to perform. Without proper training and a smooth way to integrate them into the workforce, they would stay detached. There must be a proper flow of information so volunteers can get the hang of the campaign before their eagerness dies.

If they face any hurdles in the work assigned to them, there must be a way to relay it and get help. If they wish for information related to the campaign, there must be a chain of command to follow. Volunteers should be provided knowledge of the other departments and overall campaign processes to understand how and where they fit in.

A community environment

At the start, volunteers may feel uneasy about opening up and offering input on any matter. To get the maximum out of your volunteers, you have to make sure they ease up. Getting to know the inner working of the campaign definitely helps.

Beyond that, you have to foster a feeling of community among the entire staff. Hold events that are exclusive for campaign workers, ask for opinions and take their views into account when making group decisions. Make them feel they are part of the community and not just workers for a campaign.

Fulfill their inner goals

Like I mentioned, all volunteers are motivated by different causes, even though they participate in the same effort. They offer to volunteer because it fulfills some baser desire.

They would only stay on if the campaign satisfies that inner desire. Someone could be volunteering because it offers an opportunity to go out and meet like-minded people. Some could be motivated to do good in the world while others may be peculiar about the issue at hand. Yet others may be volunteering just to pick up on new skills.

You have to recognize these personal goals and give them tasks that fulfill their desire.

Give a chance to grow

A volunteer working on the same task for an extended period may lose their motivation as well. So you have to take care their work doesn’t get repetitive. Switch volunteers between teams and assign them different responsibilities as the campaign progresses.

Create opportunities for growth within the campaign. Set goals so that the volunteers who get comfortable are able to take on bigger roles. Open position for experienced volunteers to fill in the organization or campaign.

Measure their progress

When you are on the path toward a larger end goal, it is hard to know whether your work counts for anything. Volunteers who came on board all motivated may lose their will to continue if the progress isn’t evident.

Make sure to let the volunteers understand how their contribution adds to the campaign’s development. Set weekly or monthly announcements for volunteers to help them grasp that the work is not fruitless. Give them incremental targets to work toward. A little recognition goes a long way in building motivation.

Introduce fun challenges

You know what they say about all work and no play, right?

The campaign may be a serious effort, however, there should be a light headspace at work for your volunteers to thrive. Create an environment so your volunteers feel like participating.

Keep a leaderboard to measure volunteer activity. A little casual competition allows your volunteers to socialize and fit in with one another. Give away small rewards to volunteers who perform well. It could be an actual prize or something intangible like a paid day off.

It has been found that a chemical called dopamine is tied to motivation. When we feel rewarded or come close to achieving goals, the brain gets a dash of dopamine release. Dopamine keeps us motivated and focused on the positive work. The processes above are all tied to dopamine release in the brain and great for keeping volunteers motivated. Integrate them into your campaign so your volunteers stay charged up.


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