Tips for Retaining Volunteers in Your Local SHICK
In many ways, SHICK naturally supports the goal of keeping volunteers involved in the program. That's because it offers various types of meaningful work. For those who like to help people one-on-one, it has a direct service component in its counseling program. For those who enjoy public speaking and being out and about in the community, it offers community education and outreach. For those who enjoy the challenge of problem solving, it offers the chance to work through regulatory and systemic challenges that sometimes frustrate beneficiaries and their caregivers. People often appreciate the work that SHICK volunteers do, and many express their gratitude in very heartfelt ways. In all this, SHICK provides opportunities for learning and personal growth.
As much as volunteering for SHICK brings its own rewards, Coordinators can also promote volunteer retention in several ways. Here are some ideas.
- Make it easy for volunteers to do their work: Give them the resources they need, including business cards, brochures, stationery, and current publications. If you have other job responsibilities, let them know a good time to reach you. If a volunteer has a question you can't answer, share your contacts. Open the door through a quick three-way call with the contact person, volunteer, and you.
- Keep volunteers in the loop: Volunteers appreciate your efforts to keep them informed about your program's development, including the response to outreach efforts, the need for their services and recent program activities. They also appreciate the chance to give feedback on ideas or plans that affect them. Trust them with your questions and concerns about the program, and they'll reward you with their buy-in. SHICK volunteers are likely to stick with the program during lean and difficult times if you keep them posted on your efforts to respond to the problem.
- Recognize volunteers for their service: Most people appreciate a pat on the back for a job well done. Staff coordinators can contribute to a volunteer's motivation through both informal and formal means of recognition. Regardless of the method—an oral or written thank you or an award presentation at an annual banquet—recognition is most effective when it is timely, specific to the task or achievement, honest, generous, and personalized. It's also a good idea to keep an open ear to the volunteers as they talk about their motivations. Find ways to recognize them on their own terms.
- Use a recognition planning calendar: It's a good idea to take the time to look at a calendar and write in volunteers' birthdays, anniversaries, and special events like National Volunteer Week, Older Americans Month (May), Medicare milestones, and community-wide volunteer recognition events (for example, RSVP's Annual Dinner). Decide on the recognition methods you prefer and can afford to use, and plug them into the calendar. Will you send a Hallmark card, or call to extend good wishes, on a birthday? Will you create a special award for exemplary service in your local program, or rely on existing award programs?