Retaining Staff and Volunteers


In addition to having suitable policies and procedures regarding volunteer involvement, it is also important to acknowledge and reward volunteers for their commitment to the station.

Organisations do this in a variety of ways:

  • talk to them informally
  • remembering birthdays with a card
  • anniversary cards
  • volunteer Christmas parties
  • featuring the work of a volunteer in your newsletter or on your website
  • ensuring volunteers can access the freebies to movies, launches, etc.
  • free entry to station events
  • discounted station merchandise
  • skill development

Go back to what you have learned about what motivates people to volunteer and tap into those motivations in order to appropriately reward volunteers. Many rewards can be no cost or low cost, but do require people managing volunteers to be conscious of what would be appreciated by their volunteers.

One of the key rewards is recognition.

Some tips on recognition:

  • give it
  • give it often
  • give it via a variety of ways
  • give it honestly – be sincere
  • give it to the person not the work
  • give it appropriately to the achievement
  • give it consistently – don’t have favourites
  • give it on a timely basis – at the point of achievement
  • give it in an individual fashion – appeal to what they’d like
  • give it for what you want more of – encourage positive behaviour

The benefits of making the effort includes:

  • happy volunteers
  • positive work environment
  • good performance and commitment
  • retention of volunteers
  • minimising the frequency of recruitment
Retention of Volunteers and Staff

Retaining volunteers and staff is becoming more challenging for community organisations. With near full employment rates in Australia and many competing demands for people’s time, it gets more difficult to hang on to good staff and volunteers. It is suggested that generations X and Y do not stay in jobs for longer than 18 months to 3 years.

When considering how to retain staff and volunteers, go back to looking at what motivated them to get involved in the first place. Stations need to create an experience for volunteers that allows the individual to meet their motivational needs in ways that are productive for the organisation and satisfying for the individual. Each person has a different combination of needs and these needs can change over time.

Station Culture

An environment most likely to make a volunteer feel good is one that bolsters the volunteer’s self-esteem. When the work experience boosts a person’s self-esteem, they feel good about their job, be it paid or volunteer work, and they look forward to going to the workplace. In order to improve self-esteem, people need to feel a sense of connectedness, a sense of uniqueness and a sense of power. This suggests a lot about how an organisation’s culture is significant in retaining volunteers and staff.

Develop a station culture that:

  • values training and encourages people to continue to improve their skills and/or become trainers themselves
  • encourages a sense of belonging, inclusiveness and interaction
  • thrives on a common goal and values
  • treats people fairly and equally
  • respects diversity, difference and individual talents and quirks
  • recognises people’s individual skills
  • encourages individual development toward group goals
  • links tasks to outcomes and makes people responsible for results
  • allows people to do their jobs their own way
  • invites participation in decision making
  • gives people a sense of control over their work and involvement
  • is a safe, healthy and positive place to be

Retention of staff and volunteers begins at the recruitment stage. The things that need to be clear and in place from the beginning include:

  • expectations of the person and the role
  • work agreements or staff contracts of employment
  • appropriate and meaningful work for volunteers
  • good induction or orientation to the role and the organisation
  • sufficient supervision and support
  • availability of training and skill development
  • involvement in the organisation
  • resources available to effectively do the job
  • performance review or evaluation processes
  • a capacity for role adjustment to meet changing volunteer needs
  • recognition of the individual in the organisation

As part of the station’s planning and evaluation processes, you should include evaluation of volunteer roles, expectations and how the organisation is meeting them. Keep volunteer management on the agenda!

If you do manage to retain volunteers for long periods of time, they are more likely to notice if good volunteer management practices are not in place, which could lead to dissatisfaction – so ensure they are.

Thanks to the Community Media Training Organisation for this resource.