How Doing What Comes Naturally Leads to Amazing Volunteer Retention

Guest post by Elisa Kosarin, Twenty Hats

This post was originally published on Twenty Hats.

When a heart-centered approach becomes part of your program’s routine, your volunteers stick around

Heart-centered volunteer management - Twenty HatsDoes it surprise you that many − and perhaps most of the people who gravitate to volunteer engagement have studied things like psychology, sociology, or social work?

I know this because I once threw out a pop survey on my Facebook page asking what followers studied in college.

Just about everyone who responded majored in these people-oriented subjects, with a few nonprofit studies majors thrown in for good measure.

The results of my very non-scientific survey make sense, since volunteer engagement is such a people-oriented profession.

What we may not appreciate is that our gift for working with people is the very thing that help us create great outcomes in our programs.

I think of a program I talked with last summer when I was creating a webinar on volunteer retention for Girls on the Run (GOTR) International.

As part of my webinar prep I was asked to interview one particular program, the GOTR New Jersey North Council, because of their amazing outcomes − 80% of their coaches return from one season to the next. That’s like the holy grail of volunteer retention!

I wanted to know their secret.

As I spoke with the council’s program coordinator, Melissa Fagersten, it became clear that their success grew out of a heart-centered approach to managing volunteers. Melissa and her team focus on creating a culture of belonging within their program so that every volunteer feels that they are part of a community that values them.

Here’s the Important Part

The council does more than stress a personal touch with its volunteers– they incorporate their heart-centered approach into the program’s systems and practices.

Some examples:

  • When a coach burns out, they are not shown the door. Instead, they are transitioned into another volunteer position until they feel ready to coach again.
  • When new coaches are brought in for orientation, everyone is given time to explain who they are and why they chose to volunteer – even if that means the orientation takes longer. Volunteers report feeling inspired and safer because they have this space to become known to one another.
  • Melissa and her team stay on top of what’s going on for the volunteers in their work and family lives. If, say, a volunteer is scheduled for surgery, the surgery is entered as a task on the shared calendar so that someone is certain to reach out with sympathy and an offer of help.
  • The council runs a private Facebook forum where coaches share ideas and resources and strengthen their bonds with one another. When a coach was diagnosed with breast cancer, the forum users showed their solidarity by wearing orange – the ailing coach’s favorite color.

Leading a high quality volunteer program requires us to develop some skills that we may find challenging, like mastering strategic planning or tracking metrics. But those skills are most effective when they complement our natural ability to create meaningful connections and a sense of community.

To engage volunteers, it may just be that leadership means taking that what you know intuitively and ensuring that it becomes part of your program’s practices – and its culture.

Tweet this post! If you agree with my POV, feel free to share the following message:

When we create systems around our people skills, volunteer retention follows,

8 Actions You Can Take to Continue the Energy of National Volunteer Week

Happy National Volunteer Week! Throughout the week, we’ve been celebrating the amazing people who volunteer and make volunteerism possible by sharing easy ways to listen, learn, inspire, and act!

Up today: Act. As #NVW2016 comes to a close, we want to leave you with a variety of actions you can take to carry the energy of National Volunteer Week with you into the future. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Surprise Your Volunteers With Unexpected Recognition

Imagine you’re a volunteer, walking into your nonprofit’s office for a normal shift, on a random day. Greeting you is this:

VolunteerMatch's Volunteer Thank You Banner

My guess is you’d feel pretty special, right? Surprising your volunteers in unexpected ways can create excitement and foster a culture of appreciation.

Do you engage virtual volunteers? Send them a picture instead!

  1. Add Skills to Your VolunteerMatch Opportunities

Add Skills to Your VolunteerMatch listingsWhat types of skills do you seek for volunteers at your organization? Tag your VolunteerMatch opportunities with skills, and they’ll automatically get pushed to LinkedIn’s Volunteer Marketplace for added visibility.

  1. Text to Volunteer

Did you know potential volunteers can now find your volunteer opportunities via text? Give it a try yourself and find new opportunities near you. Simply text your ZIP code to (314) 282-8630 – it’s free!

  1. Treat Yourself

For International Volunteer Managers Day, we put together a list of ways to treat yourself. You don’t have to save this all for one day … make yourself feel special throughout the year!

  1. Give the Gift of Knowledge

Do you have friends, family, or coworkers who are also interested in volunteering? Share your passion with them by gifting them a copy of Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World. The book contains chapters from 35 industry experts, who highlight the latest trends in volunteerism and volunteer engagement, including shifts in strategy, technology, relationships, and more.

  1. Assess Your Program

With support from ConAgra Foods Foundation, VolunteerMatch has created a tool to help volunteer managers assess and improve their volunteer engagement programs. Unfortunately, it’s only available for hunger-fighting organizations right now, but if that’s you, you can evaluate your program today!

  1. Sign up for a Google AdWords Grant

If your nonprofit is not taking advantage of its Google AdWords Grant, it’s not too late to start! If optimized correctly, Google AdWords can be an effective, free tool for leveraging visibility for your volunteer program. Learn more.

  1. Do It Now: Say Thanks!

You can never say “Thank You” enough. To close out National Volunteer Week, do this right now: Find a pen and paper, click “compose message”, or pick up the phone, and tell a volunteer just how much their work matters.

Thanks for following along with us this National Volunteer Week. Together, let’s carry the energy of this week into the future.

Inspire Your Volunteers With These 18 Famous Quotes

We hope you’re enjoying National Volunteer Week! Here at VolunteerMatch, we’re eager to continue celebrating #NVW2016 by honoring the volunteers and people who make volunteering possible — you! Throughout the week, we’re providing fodder for your celebrations by sharing simple ways to listen, learn, inspire, and act.

Quotes to Inspire Your VolunteersIn today’s post, we’re highlighting ways to inspire your volunteers — through bite-sized, inspirational quotes you can share with your networks to encourage them to get out and volunteer. Here are some of our favorites.

(Quotes with a tweetable number of characters have a link – simply click the quote to share inspiration with your Twitter followers!)

Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.” — Muhammad Ali

Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.” — Elizabeth Andrew

“If our hopes of building a better and safer world are to become more than wishful thinking, we will need the engagement of volunteers more than ever.” — Kofi Annan

What is the essence of life? To serve others and to do good.” — Aristotle

We have to do what we can to help wherever and whenever it is possible for us to help.” — Jackie Chan

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” — Winston Churchill

If compassion was the motivating factor behind all of our decisions, would our world not be a completely different place?” — Sheryl Crow

Only a life lived for others is worth living.” — Albert Einstein

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” — Mahatma Gandhi

“Whatever community organization, whether it’s a women’s organization, or fighting for racial justice … you will get satisfaction out of doing something to give back to the community that you never get in any other way.” — Ruth Bader Ginsburg

If every American donated five hours a week, it would equal the labor of twenty million full-time volunteers.” — Whoopi Goldberg

As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands — one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” — Audrey Hepburn

Quotes to Inspire Your VolunteersI believe that every human mind feels pleasure in doing good to another.” — Thomas Jefferson

The unselfish effort to bring cheer to others will be the beginning of a happier life for ourselves.” — Helen Keller

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others?” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Our generation has the ability and the responsibility to make our ever-more connected world a more hopeful, stable and peaceful place.” — Natalie Portman

The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” — William Shakespeare

“Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.” — Unknown

Have a favorite quote about volunteering? Share it with us in the comments section below or tweeting to us @VolunteerMatch!

3 Ways to Boost Your Skills During National Volunteer Week

Boost Your Volunteer Engagement SkillsHappy National Volunteer Week! Throughout the week, we’re celebrating the amazing people who volunteer and make volunteerism possible by sharing easy ways to listen, learn, inspire, and act!

Up today: Learn. We’ll show you 3 ways to boost your volunteer engagement skills during National Volunteer Week 2016 and beyond.

  1. Join a Webinar

On Thursday April 14, 2016 at 11 a.m. PT / 2 p.m. ET, our in-house CVA and volunteer engagement expert Jennifer Bennett will explain how to effectively delegate volunteer engagement and management work to volunteers so you have the opportunity to “think bigger.” Learn more about this free webinar and reserve your spot today!

Can’t make it on Thursday or interested in different topics? Jennifer hosts multiple webinars each month. Check out this list of upcoming topics.

  1. Find Out Where You Stand

How does your volunteer engagement program compare with others? VolunteerPro recently released a volunteer management benchmark report based on a survey of 930 volunteer engagement professionals. Want to know if job title affects salary? How about the top volunteer engagement challenges? It’s all there and more.

Read about the report’s six most surprising findings or download the full report to get an in-depth understanding of the state of the industry.

  1. Read It From the Experts

What if you could get perspectives from 35 of the leading volunteer engagement experts under one book cover? Each chapter of Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World is written by an expert on a specific and important volunteerism-related topic. The book contains actionable advice on strengthening volunteer programs as well as broader explorations on the nature of volunteer engagement. Learn more and get your copy now.


Volunteer engagement professionals wear many hats, and spare time can be hard to come by. But by investing in some “me-time” to learn new skills and boost your volunteer engagement knowledge, you’ll in turn boost the impact and efficiency of your volunteer program. Happy learning!

Discovery Communications and VolunteerMatch Partner to Inspire Volunteerism

We’re excited to announce our partnership with Discovery Communications! Check out the press release below, followed by the PSA Discovery has created to encourage viewers to give back to their local communities!


VolunteerMatch and Discovery partner to promote volunteerism[April 12, 2016] – Discovery Communications, a purpose-driven company built on satisfying curiosity, entertaining and inspiring global audiences, is extending its partnership with VolunteerMatch, the web’s largest volunteer engagement network, as a national media partner to raise awareness and drive volunteerism. Coinciding with the 42nd National Volunteer Week (April 10-16), the partnership kicks off with a national Public Service Announcement (PSA) campaign. The PSA begins airing this week across all of Discovery’s 13 U.S. networks. To learn more, visit

Launching this week, Discovery has created the new PSA to encourage viewers to give back to their local communities through volunteerism. By leveraging the power and reach of its networks, the company will market VolunteerMatch to increase awareness in volunteerism to its passionate viewers.  VolunteerMatch technology will be integrated into Discovery Communications’ digital platforms to make it easier for viewers to find volunteer opportunities in their communities. Additionally, DCI’s network of other nonprofit partners will now be connected with VolunteerMatch to extend their reach to potential volunteers.

As a volunteer management platform service provider, VolunteerMatch has been an important tool in supporting Discovery Communications’ purpose-driven culture. VolunteerMatch works to bring “good people & good causes together” by matching individuals with a non-profit in need of skills.

“We are inspired by the Discovery team’s extraordinary commitment to help us share the promise of every volunteer finding their special opportunity to make a difference,” says Greg Baldwin, VolunteerMatch President.

“Our deepening partnership with VolunteerMatch and commitment to encourage viewers to make a greater impact builds off Discovery Communications’ 30-year heritage as a purpose-driven company,” adds David Leavy, Discovery Communications’ Chief Corporate Operations and Communications Officer.  “Volunteerism is in our DNA.  Every year, thousands of our employees donate their time through a number of initiatives that give back to the communities where we live and work. We are proud to pair our passionate fans with VolunteerMatch’s vast network of worthy causes and projects to promote volunteerism nationwide.”

Discovery Communications is dedicated to giving back in the communities where employees live and work. In 2015, the company’s employees volunteered 30,000 hours across the globe through the company’s annual day of global volunteerism, “Discover Your Impact Day.” Discovery’s other major initiatives include making prom possible for deserving teen girls and boys through “Say Yes to the Prom,” and igniting a global campaign about the plight of endangered species through RACING EXTINCTION and its accompanying call-to-action #StartWith1Thing.

About VolunteerMatch
VolunteerMatch believes everyone should have the chance to make a difference. As the web’s largest volunteer engagement network, serving 100,000 participating nonprofits, 150 network partners and 13 million annual visitors, VolunteerMatch offers unique, award-winning solutions for individuals, nonprofits and companies to make this vision a reality. Since its launch in 1998, VolunteerMatch has helped the social sector attract more than $8.5 billion worth of volunteer services. Learn more about VolunteerMatch at

About Discovery Communications
Discovery Communications (Nasdaq: DISCA, DISCB, DISCK) is the leader in global entertainment reaching 3 billion cumulative viewers in more than 220 countries and territories. Discovery satisfies curiosity, entertains and inspires viewers with high-quality content through global brands, led by Discovery Channel, TLC, Investigation Discovery, Animal Planet, Science and Turbo/Velocity, as well as U.S. joint venture network OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, and through the Discovery Digital Networks portfolio, including Seeker and SourceFed. Discovery owns Eurosport, the leading pan-regional sports entertainment destination across Europe and Asia-Pacific. Discovery also is a leading provider of educational products and services to schools, including an award-winning series of K-12 digital textbooks, through Discovery Education. For more information, please visit

Media Contacts:
Bree von Faith

Elizabeth Hillman
Discovery Communications