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Volunteer Retention: How to Make Your Supporters Stay


Do you ever feel that, regardless of your efforts, your volunteers fail to remain sufficiently engaged and lose interest in your organization after a short period of time? How can you ensure that people commit for the long term and not just when a crisis arises? How do you increase community engagement, motivate volunteers to stay involved and participate in everyday activities?

Increase Community Engagement with Creating Clear Tasks for Volunteers

As individuals with extensive activism experience, we understand that engaging in everyday activities, such as posting on social media or distributing leaflets, is just as crucial for effecting significant social change as participating in major rallies or protests. However, experience has shown that it's much easier for individuals to devote their time to volunteering when a crisis emerges or when there's a clear problem they believe they can address through their involvement. Yet, it's more challenging for them to engage with the grassroot organization's daily agenda, even when it clearly requires assistance and involvement.

The primary issue often revolves around the absence of a clear problem that people perceive they can help resolve. It's difficult for individuals to engage in abstract thinking and insert themselves into situations where there are no clear goals or deadlines. This is why we have developed our campaign management software — the Campaign Master. It allows you to meticulously plan the objectives your movement aims to achieve and share them with your supporters. Displaying the entire journey they need to undertake with you, mapped out in the app through various quests and quest chains, makes it simpler for people to comprehend what is expected of them. It also renders even the most ambitious goals more attainable.


Keep the Quests Versatile and Engaging

Versatility of tasks and quests is also crucial for upkeep supporter’s motivation. Even the most dedicated individuals will eventually become bored if they volunteer in the same way repeatedly. It's vital to keep tasks for your community members engaging and pique their curiosity. You know your supporters best, so just think about which types of quests would be the most intriguing for them.

In Qela, we categorize our quests into nine groups, ranging from tasks that can be completed without getting up from the couch — like reposting an important message or filling out a survey — to more time and energy-intensive activities like creating a performance or delivering goods from one place to another. Offering quests with varying levels of commitment, required skills, and expected outcomes allows people to select activities that match their preferences and abilities at a given time. It's essential to ensure that you always have a diverse range of quests available, so your supporters constantly feel they have options without going beyond their comfort zone or doing something that doesn't spark their interest.

Make Your Community Feel Like Its Opinion Matters

Of course, the gamification of features within apps is not a novel concept. Many other organizations in the field of volunteer management utilize it in their apps. However, from our experience, gamification alone is insufficient for community engagement and has a tendency to make people focus solely on their personal gains, rather than fostering a strong community of like-minded individuals. Our solution is to incorporate a couple more layers of incentives alongside gamification — like self-improvement and the distribution of power among supporters. When volunteers see that their contributions have a significant impact on your organization, they become more involved and interested in participating in its daily activities. The idea that they are responsible for running the movement and contributing to its development can be highly motivating, as we have seen in our prior experiences.

There are numerous methods to introduce the power distribution approach within your movement. In Qela, we implement this through "Vote Weight," a unique methodology that grants supporters greater influence over the organization's development as they complete quests and campaigns. As we have seen with our prototype, this transparent, motivation-based voting system proves to be an effective way to encourage supporters to actively participate in the grassroot organization's daily life while teaching them about the exercise of their voting rights. You can learn more about our experiences in creating and testing this model by clicking here.

Highlight the Benefits of Volunteering

Another factor affecting volunteers' motivation is the lack of clarity regarding how completing beneficial tasks for the organization can personally benefit them. Many people are ready to volunteer selflessly. But if they see a very clear way of how that can contribute to their own development, the motivation to commit to an issue and stick to volunteering will be stronger. Some organizations offer tangible rewards for points accumulated through in-app quests, such as coupons or event tickets. However, this approach tends to be transactional and consumeristic. We believe that people's interest in participating in social movements should be rooted in values rather than material rewards. Therefore, we offer a unique technical solution that allows users to develop their soft skills by engaging in quests. We suggest that each task should foster at least one of the following talents: fundraising, recruiting, endurance, eloquence, determination, originality, management, and savviness. Each quest awards users a specific number of talent points upon completion.

Talent points also serve as a valuable tool for categorizing supporters into groups based on their most highly developed skills, rather than using traditional criteria like age, wealth, or gender. This approach ensures that every supporter finds relevant and exciting quests in the app, helping them remain engaged and avoiding them falling through the cracks of the organization.

Celebrate Your Community

Last but not least, to ensure that your supporters are motivated to remain with your organization for the long haul, it's essential to encourage, commend, and celebrate their efforts. Even the smallest victories should always be acknowledged and celebrated!

Sustaining a dedicated and engaged volunteer base is a multifaceted challenge, but it's a challenge that can be met with the right strategies and tools. By offering a clear purpose, diverse tasks, self-improvement opportunities, and a sense of empowerment, grassroot organizations can nurture a passionate and enduring community of supporters. We believe that by implementing these approaches, you can create a vibrant, motivated, and resilient volunteer network that will help drive your organization's mission forward.


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