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Volume 5, Issue 28

5 Reasons Volunteers Leave

Volunteers are key to many organizations' success. Not treating them as an asset is a key mistake, write a team of volunteer management experts.

"Volunteerism suffers from being thought of as something that is nice, but not necessary," write David Eisner, Robert Grimm, Shannon Maynard and Susannah Washburn, all of the Corporation for National and Community Service.

In their piece, The New Volunteer Workforce in the Stanford Innovation Review, they explore how organizations should take a talent management approach to working with volunteers. That means making the investment to "recruit, develop, place, recognize and retain" volunteer talent, they write.

This is especially important now as more baby boomers retire and search for fulfilling new opportunities. Millennials, too, are increasingly interested in making a difference, write the authors.

Volunteers leave organizations for these five reasons, they write:

  • Their skills aren't maximized. "Volunteers with valuable and specialized skills are often dispatched to do manual labor rather than tasks that use their professional talents," they write. Many of these volunteers end up not enjoying the experience.
  • Their contributions aren't celebrated. Volunteers should be honored and recognized for their time. The authors explain that organizations need to cultivate a culture that values volunteers.
  • Their value isn't measured. "Most nonprofits do not measure the dollar value that volunteers provide to their organization," write the authors. "This reflects the lack of seriousness with which many organizations view volunteers and tends to compound the problem."
  • They don't work with trained staff members. Volunteers need training, but too often, organizations' staff members are stretched too thin to recruit and manage volunteers well.
  • They don't feel inspired by leadership. Too many leaders don't place a high value on volunteer talent, the authors write. If volunteers don't see leadership from the top, their experience may be "poor or bland," giving them little reason to return, write the authors.

To maximize and support volunteers, write the authors, organizations should try to match volunteers to jobs that sync with their skills and talents. It's key to develop a bond between your organization and each volunteer, they advise.

This article is from the Advancement Weekly, Jan. 18, 2016 issue.

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