Keeping Volunteers Happy

This week is National Volunteer Week so we thought it would be appropriate to have a blog post on the topic. Now in its 26th year, this special week is dedicated to celebrating volunteers and volunteerism in Australia. Over six million Australians volunteer across our country and this week provides an opportunity to highlight their role and to say thank you.

Here at Fish, we are delighted to have this guest blog from Adrienne Picone, the CEO of Volunteering Tasmania:

In a period where community organisations are expected to get more results on less money, the onus on attracting volunteers and keeping them engaged and happy, will be even greater. How do organisations ensure that they are ‘filling up the volunteer’s tanks’ and not just depleting them?

This year’s theme for National Volunteer Week, Give Happy, Live Happy shines a spotlight on the benefits of volunteering for the volunteer, with 96% of volunteers saying that it ‘makes them happier’.

The reality is that volunteers may give time without expectation of financial reward but they still need to get something in return for their efforts. Here are 5 tips to ensure your volunteers are happy:

1) Understand why they are there

Broadly speaking volunteers fall into two categories – those that are called to your organisation because they are attracted to your cause, and those that want to learn or contribute skills. Volunteers that are motivated by a connection to the mission will want to hear about impact of their work. However, volunteers that are motivated by skill need to know that they are adding to their resume or are utilising their existing skills.

2) Provide feedback

Weeks such as National Volunteer Week provide opportunities for some high profile appreciation but every single day provides opportunities for gratitude. Whether it is through words, actions, certificates or involvement in planning, tell volunteers the difference they make.

3) Speak and listen

Effective, respectful and authentic communication is at the heart of every relationship. Ask them about their preferred communication style, is it telephone, face to face, social media or email? Be prepared to be creative in the way that you both provide and receive information.

4) Volunteer development

Provide regular and meaningful opportunities for volunteers to grow and develop.

5) Be prepared to let them go

At the core of every great volunteer experience is the power of choice. The pressure on organisations to get quality results on limited resources can mean that once we have a group of volunteers we can be desperate to make sure we keep them. The most effective programs take a volunteers needs into account and allow them flexibility to leave at any time knowing that the door is always open.

The focus is often on what the community gets from the volunteer effort, but this year during National Volunteer Week spare a thought for what we can give the volunteers and how we can keep this essential workforce motivated, happy and thriving.

Some fabulous advice here for all charities from Adrienne. Let’s try and look at things a little differently when it comes to our volunteers.

See you in the pond,

The Fish Chick

VT logoAdrienne Picone is the CEO of Volunteering Tasmania (VT) and is responsible for the day to day management of the organisation and ensuring that they deliver on their strategic goals. Adrienne reports directly to the VT Board. She is passionate about all things volunteerism and strives to ensure that volunteering is universally acknowledged as being integral to the social, economic and cultural cohesion of our community. You can contact Adrienne at

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