DickersonBakker Blog

The Secret to Keeping Your Volunteers Happy

At the organization I volunteer at, we have no problem recruiting volunteers. It’s keeping them that’s the problem. They aren’t getting paid to work there, so if they don’t feel appreciated or like they’re making a difference, they just leave. That is why the secret to keeping your volunteers happy is thanking them in a powerful way.

There’s always the handwritten notes, gift cards, and gift baskets. But, if you really want to “wow” your volunteers, thank them in their love language. Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages, asserts that there are five major ways people express and experience love: receiving gifts, acts of service, words of affirmation, physical touch, and quality time. According to Chapman, every individual has a primary or favorite language. All five are good, but when you “speak” a volunteer’s main love language, they will feel more appreciated than ever. (Not sure which one they are? Chapman offers a free test online. Check it out here.)

What is special to your volunteers? Maybe one gets excited by little gifts, but is “meh” about an affirming card. Maybe another really loves encouragement and praise in front of others. Maybe one just wants one-on-one time with staff or the executive director. Maybe one of your volunteers is a hugger. Figure out what their love language is, and then speak it. Here are some ideas:

Gifts: Dark chocolate bars, a Starbucks gift card, buying lunch, or flowers

Words of Affirmation: Have a “volunteer of the month” page on your website, admire certain things the volunteer is doing in front of staff or at an inservice, send them a personal card, or call them and personally thank them for their work

Acts of Service: Have them over for a thank-you dinner or deliver a meal on a busy night for them; if they like tea or coffee, have a cup ready for them when they come in; take out the trash from their office; or consistently ask, “How can I help?”

Touch: Give high-fives, pats on the back, or handshakes while thanking them for their service

Quality Time: Go out for coffee, go bowling (I know an executive director who does this), take them out to lunch, or ask them about their weekend (and listen)


Our consultants can help strengthen your volunteer program. Contact Dickerson, Bakker & Associates today to find out how.

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