Boost Your Business with eCards

Create customizable eCards to impress your audience! Choose a design, add your logo and message, and let your audience share them with their friends.

Spread Love and Raise Funds with eCards

Show your supporters how much you appreciate them with our heartfelt eCards. Our platform allows you to collect donations directly through the eCard, making fundraising easy and effective.

Celebrate Your Employees with eCards

Empower peer-to-peer recognition with customizable eCards that enable employees to appreciate and recognize each other’s hard work. Foster a culture of appreciation.

Thank Your Donors with eCards

Recognize and thank your donors with heartfelt eCards that also streamline the giving process by collecting donations directly through the eCard. Show your gratitude and make a meaningful impact with our convenient solution.

Other Popular Use-Cases :   Customer AcquisitionEvent InvitationsCelebrate HolidaysRecognition eCardsGreeting Card SoftwareCelebrate Team-Member Anniversaries And more

Imagine this: You’re in elementary school and the teacher instructs the class to arrange themselves in groups of four people to complete a group project. You likely pair up with your closest friends. Why? Because you know them, and working together will be easy and fun.

In the same way, working in a nonprofit environment can be easy and fun when members of the team know each other. The longevity of volunteer involvement cultivates a close-knit community and healthy organizational culture within your nonprofit. Plus, retained volunteers have the experience to master the tasks that further your organization’s mission.

In this guide, we’ll answer basic questions about volunteer retention and cover the best strategies to keep your volunteers coming back:

  • What is volunteer retention?
  • How to measure volunteer retention
  • What are volunteer retention strategies?
  • What tools can help retain volunteers?
  • 5 best volunteer retention strategies

To see the benefits of volunteer retention, you’ll first need to familiarize yourself with the practice and implement effective retention strategies into your nonprofit’s daily operations. Ready to get started? Let’s begin with understanding volunteer retention basics.

Click this graphic to learn how eCardWidget can help nonprofits retain volunteers.
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What is volunteer retention?

Nonprofit employees and donors are easy to identify—they’re the people who work for your nonprofit and support it with charitable donations, respectively. Volunteer positions combine these two roles. They’re donating their work to your organization via their time, talents, and efforts.

This graphic shows how a nonprofit volunteer’s roles mimic an employee’s work and a donor’s contributions.
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When you walk into your nonprofit’s building, do you see familiar faces? Are there certain volunteers who you trust with the responsibility of training new volunteers? Think about the people whose volunteer t-shirts are worn, who can answer any question about your nonprofit, and who have volunteered at your organization the longest. These are likely your retained volunteers.

Volunteer retention refers to a nonprofit’s efforts to encourage volunteers to return and continue volunteering. Retained volunteers, then, are the volunteers that come back and continue donating their time and efforts year after year.

It’s no mystery that retention efforts are important to fuel a nonprofit’s work. Through volunteers’ generous donations of their work, they often take charge of the day-to-day operations that fulfill your nonprofit’s mission.

For example, a volunteer at an animal shelter might be in charge of cleaning dog kennels, feeding the animals, and helping visitors fill out adoption paperwork. When these volunteers come back, your organization receives access to a consistent source of valuable work.

If your nonprofit depends on volunteers’ reliable work to fulfill its mission, you’re likely grateful for their contributions and eager for them to come back. Familiarize yourself with your current retention rate to evaluate your current retention efforts. Then, you can adjust as necessary and develop a retention strategy that will guarantee your volunteers’ return!

How to measure volunteer retention

To calculate volunteer retention, divide the number of returning volunteers by the number of total volunteers, then multiply this number by 100. To better understand this formula, here’s an explanation of what each of these numbers means:

This graphic shows the formula for calculating a nonprofit’s volunteer retention rate.
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  • Returning volunteers: These are the volunteers who were consistently involved in your organization throughout the previous year and are still involved at the time of the calculation.
  • Total volunteers: This is the total number of volunteers who currently donate their time and efforts to your organization.

For best results, calculate your retention rate using your organization’s start date. This is the date that your nonprofit considers the “start” of the year and can vary from organization to organization. It’s important that you choose a consistent start date to record the above metrics accurately before calculating the equation.

For example, you might gauge your retention rate from January 1 of one year to January 1 of the next. Every time you calculate the rate, consider January 1 of the previous year to be your start date.

Keep in mind that this formula is dependent on accurate volunteer recording. Some volunteers may have contributed once in the previous year, but aren’t active enough to be considered “returning volunteers” in the present year.

Keep accurate records and time logs of your volunteers’ involvement. Inactive volunteers shouldn’t be included in this calculation since they aren’t still contributing to your cause and can inaccurately affect your calculations.

What tools can help retain volunteers?

Once you’ve calculated your volunteer retention rate, you may be wondering: “What do I do with this number?”

We’ll discuss retention strategies later, but before you can plan your strategic approach, you’ll need to collect the necessary tools and resources to maximize your efforts. Many of your existing digital tools can aid your retention efforts, but you can also create specific resources for your volunteers, such as:

This graphic lists four tools that nonprofits can use for volunteer retention.
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  • eCards: A major part of retaining donors is engaging with them and showing your appreciation for their work. You can show your intentional efforts to connect with volunteers by sending eCards for various occasions.
  • Volunteer management software: Your nonprofit will need tools to organize schedules and communicate with volunteers for the sake of efficiency. Streamlining these essential tasks can also engage your volunteers and encourage them to return since they’ll have full confidence that their roles will be efficiently managed.
  • Event tools: Retention isn’t just about the way you manage or interact with your volunteers—equipping them with the right tools can make their jobs easier, encouraging them to continue getting involved. For example, if you’ve recruited volunteers to manage check-in at your charity auction, find auction management software that offers tools to help them efficiently carry out that task.
  • Handbook: Create a volunteer handbook that clearly outlines the roles, responsibilities, and expectations for your organization’s volunteers. Volunteers will be more inclined to commit to future involvement when you provide transparency about the context of their role.

Your nonprofit may already leverage these tools for other operations. For example, you might implement charity eCards on your website as a fundraising initiative for donors to purchase and send. Instead of investing in completely new tools for volunteer retention , consider how you can repurpose your existing resources to engage your volunteers.

What are volunteer retention strategies?

Much like your fundraising and marketing efforts, retention requires an organized strategy to effectively keep volunteers coming back. Volunteer retention strategies are just that—plans to retain volunteers. However, the key is to standardize the process for volunteer retention by implementing tactics into an organization’s overall strategic plans.

A nonprofit strategic plan is like the blueprint your organization follows to fulfill its mission. It’s an actionable plan for accomplishing your goals, including efforts such as:

This graphic shows how nonprofit strategic plans, which include volunteer retention, are structured to fulfill the organization’s mission.
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  • Fundraising Campaigns
  • Marketing and PR
  • Donor Engagement
  • Community Partnerships
  • Volunteer Retention

When your nonprofit understands the impact of retained volunteers on its mission, you’ll be able to construct retention strategies that ensure your volunteers stick around for the long haul. Plus, communicating this impact to volunteers will make them feel important and necessary to fulfilling your mission—you couldn’t do what you do without them!

5 best volunteer retention strategies

Now that you’ve seen how volunteer retention can be streamlined with tools and integrated into overall strategic plans, it’s time to build your own strategy. Volunteer retention is a combination of engagement and appreciation efforts—which ultimately means connecting with volunteers to empower them to do their best work. Invest in your volunteers, both professionally and personally, through the following five best retention strategies.

This graphic lists the five best volunteer retention strategies for nonprofits, which are explained in more detail in the text below.
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Send eCards

Whether you plan to retain your volunteers by thanking them or directly asking them to return, the most obvious way to engage them is by sending them a message!

While there are numerous ways to reach out, your nonprofit’s marketing team can likely attest to the fact that creative communications are critical to capturing our audience’s attention. That’s why eCardWidget is the premier communication tool for retention of all types.

eCards are fully customizable, digital greeting cards that can be sent via email. They not only provide endless possibilities for design and messaging, but they’re also easy to use. Your nonprofit can start creating eCards in four simple steps:

This graphic lists the four steps nonprofits should follow to start using eCards for their volunteer retention efforts.
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  1. Register with eCardWidget
  2. Select a template
  3. Customize your eCard
  4. Add it to your website

Remember when we said that eCards were effective for all types of retention? That’s because adding your customized eCards to your nonprofit’s website allows anyone with access to start sending them. Your nonprofit’s leaders can send them to volunteers, volunteers can send them to each other, and donors can send them to spread awareness for your cause—the possibilities are endless!

Since they can be used for a variety of purposes, sending an eCard can engage and retain volunteers in multiple ways, including:

This graphic lists five of the many ways eCards can be used to retain volunteers.
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  • Appreciation messages: A pillar of effective appreciation strategies is timeliness. Just as you’d quickly thank a friend who gives you a gift, you should also show your appreciation for volunteers in a timely manner. Transform your thank-you letters into eye-catching digital cards that thank each individual for their specific contributions. The card will pop up in the volunteer’s inbox in seconds, making them feel prioritized and appreciated.
  • Holiday wishes: Throughout the year, your nonprofit will have opportunities to show volunteers that you value them and need their continued support. Many holiday seasons, such as Thanksgiving or New Year’s Eve, remind people how fortunate they are and encourage them to give back to their communities. Send a digital holiday card to remind volunteers of the importance of giving.
  • Birthday cards: Have you ever spent 30 minutes at the store looking for the right birthday card to buy a friend? The ability to fully customize eCards makes them a great solution for showing volunteers that you not only remember their birthdays but also key details about them that you were able to include in the card. The card’s design, contents, and even animations are up to you!
  • Peer-to-peer recognition: Your nonprofit is a team—every donor, board committee, staff member, volunteer, and other contributor works together to make your mission a reality. Allow them to share their appreciation for their peers by branding eCards to your nonprofit and making them accessible on your website or volunteer portal.
  • Event invites: Retention is all about getting volunteers to continue their involvement, so invite them with an eCard! Send an invitation with specific details about an upcoming event to your current volunteers to secure their support in the future.

Whether you’re thanking volunteers or inviting them to an upcoming event, you can ultimately use eCards to show them how valued they are by your organization and encourage them to stay involved. Plus, taking advantage of eCardWidget’s peer-to-peer capabilities can boost your organization’s overall culture, making it a positive place that volunteers will keep wanting to come back to.

The bottom line: eCards can be used to communicate almost any message, which is why they can supplement whatever retention strategy your nonprofit pursues. Once you’ve invested in eCardWidget, all that’s left is to let your inner creativity run wild! It’s a tool you can use for many purposes for years to come.

Click this graphic to get a demo with eCardWidget, which can be used to help your nonprofit retain volunteers.
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Offer other ways to get involved

Your volunteers are likely only able to contribute in specific ways depending on their availabilities, qualifications, and interests. However, sharing creative opportunities for them to expand their involvement can generate more interest in your nonprofit.

For example, a volunteer who has served food at a local food bank for five years might want to try meal planning instead or help collect food donations. By promoting these opportunities, your nonprofit will not only keep volunteers around but also deepen their engagement with your organization.

Draw attention to new volunteer roles with marketing channels such as:

  • Your website: Include details about volunteer roles on a designated page of your website. This should be the hub of all information about volunteer opportunities for your organization since many of your other channels can link to your website. As an added bonus, you can promote this page (and others) using Google’s Ad Grant program so that internet searchers find your volunteer roles, even if they were searching for something else.
  • Social media: Create eye-catching social media posts to capture your followers’ attention and direct them to new volunteer positions. Use urgent language and visually-appealing content to encourage existing volunteers to sign up for another event!
  • Direct messages: Whether you leverage text communications or send physical flyers in the mail, you can speak directly to your volunteers by sending them information about new volunteer roles. To get even more personal, explain why you think the recipient would be a good fit for the role and how their continued involvement could impact your organization.

Get creative with the new roles you present. If you’re not sure how to expand on current volunteers’ involvement, ask them! They likely have some good ideas for tasks they want to get involved in. Plus, this will help you make sure the roles you present fit their preferences.

Secure commitments for future involvement

Along with sharing new ways to get involved, you should also secure a commitment from volunteers to take part in your new initiative. For example, include a call-to-action in your email newsletter that urges volunteers to “register today” for an upcoming event! Receiving their commitment to participate offers your nonprofit the assurance that your volunteers will return.

Show appreciation

This guide has briefly covered the importance of making your volunteers feel valued, but it can’t be overstated. Recognizing their work can signal how important they are to your cause, which will ultimately encourage them to continue coming back to help.

While there are numerous ways to show your appreciation, here are three surefire ways your nonprofit can thank its volunteers:

This graphic lists three ways nonprofits can show their appreciation to boost volunteer retention.
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  • Volunteer of the Month program: Reward a specific volunteer for their outstanding work by developing a Volunteer of the Month program.
  • Gifts: Award your volunteers with tangible gifts to thank them for their hard work. Merchandise that’s branded to your nonprofit can further remind volunteers of the point of the gift.
  • Appreciation events: Celebrate your volunteers with an event in their honor. Consider providing a catered meal, entertainment, and highlights of volunteers’ accomplishments.

Effectively showing your gratitude will not only make volunteers feel important but will also create an environment in which they’ll be happy to continue working.

Offer career opportunities

The main goal of volunteer retention is to show your nonprofit’s current volunteers that they have a future at your organization. Some volunteers will be especially interested in long-term involvement through a full-time position.

When a position needs to be filled at your nonprofit, look to volunteers first. Prioritizing their applications is like offering a “perk” to reward them for their dedicated work. Also, knowing that future career opportunities are on the line can motivate your volunteers to show up consistently and deepen their involvement.

Incorporate your volunteers into the hiring cycle with the following steps:

This graphic shows how including volunteers in the nonprofit employee hiring cycle can boost retention.
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  • Announce role opening internally
  • Interview volunteers
  • Open applications to the public
  • Review potential outside hires
  • Fill the position

Converting volunteers into full-time staff members could also result in creating a team of highly dedicated and knowledgeable employees. Since your volunteers were willing to donate their work to your organization, they’ll likely be highly engaged in employee roles. Plus, their experience with the day-to-day volunteer tasks will help guide their decisions as staff members.

Conclusion and Additional Resources

Volunteer retention is critical to maintaining a positive organizational culture and fueling your nonprofit’s important work. For more information on retention strategies and maximizing the donations given by all types of supporters, check out the following resources:

Click this graphic to learn how you can use eCards beyond your volunteer retention strategies.
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