Retention Strategies

Volunteer retention is an important component of volunteer management. After all, it takes much more time and effort to find new volunteers than it does to keep the volunteers you already have.

Volunteer Canada’s Management model outlines how careful attention to each facet of the model: planning, recruitment, training, support, and recognition, work together to improve an agency’s ability to retain volunteers.

CLO research shows that Ontario’s literacy agencies are doing a good job of retaining their volunteers. On average, volunteers have been involved with their agencies for 3.5 years and report high levels of satisfaction with what they are doing. It remains true however, that attention to retaining volunteers must remain a priority in the changing world of volunteerism.

Retention Strategies Used By Literacy Agencies

Agency responses from the Value Added survey indicate that as rule literacy organizations have an accurate picture of what they need to do to keep their current volunteers.

Strategy for Volunteer Retention Frequency of response (%)
Offer ongoing support from agency staff 92%
Provide opportunities to meet with other volunteers 81%
Offer training to strengthen skills 79%
Hold regular meetings in person/over the phone 74%
Provide opportunities to learn new skills 68%
Offer new opportunities/tasks to challenge and encourage growth 53%
Provide employment experience 49%
Survey volunteer needs 49%
Assess and review volunteer performance with them 42%

To learn more about specific retention strategies used by literacy practitioners, just click here.

Volunteer Scorecard
One simple way to gauge how well your agency is doing with volunteer retention is to conduct a simple audit using the tool below. To increase the usefulness of the tool, ask several different people who fill different roles in your agency to complete an audit.


  1. Assign a score from 1 to 5 for each retention category using the following scale:

1- poor      2- fair      3- good      4- very good      5- excellent

Volunteers Need How Well Do We Provide our Volunteers with… Score
Resources …adequate resources to do their job? _____
Rewarding Opportunities …opportunities that match their original motivations for volunteering? _____
Responsibility …enough Responsibility (the first six months with an organization are the most critical for retaining volunteers. It is important to provide opportunities that allow responsibility without giving volunteers cause for fearing burnout. _____
Recreation …fun opportunities to meet other volunteers? (Many volunteers have reported that one of the main reasons they stay with an organization is because of opportunities to meet with other volunteers, e.g. workshops, idea sharing, etc.). _____
Recognition …recognition in a way that is appropriate and meaningful? _____

Total your score. If you scored 18 or more, your agency is doing very well at retention. If you scored between 13 and 17, your agency is probably doing well, but has some areas for improvement. If you scored 12 or below, you may want to examine your retention practices closely to see where you can improve.