Volunteer retention is an art that we all need to learn to master. Volunteers are the heart and drivers of AFS. Retaining people, talent and knowledge is key to our existence.

Retention is not a one-time action, but the outcome of constant effort. Creating an inclusive volunteer engagement and development strategy is a start. Our organizational culture needs to be inclusive and foster diversity. We need to make sure that we are flexible and match our volunteers’ interests and time availability. Coaching and empowerment are of utmost importance to encourage innovation and success. Providing our volunteers with tailored feedback and appropriate appreciation and recognition will help keep them motivated. Whilst our volunteers may excel at certain tasks over time, we need to keep two rules in mind.

  1. We need to proactively prevent burning out.
  2. Human beings change and evolve. We need to recognize and act on this change to cater to our volunteer’s needs and interests in the long-term.
What are motivational drivers?

Motivational drivers give a general overview of the most common reasons why one volunteers. And especially, why they decide to keep volunteering.


The Volunteer Journey helps us facilitate the volunteer experience. If we learn to incorporate the motivational drivers into our volunteer engagement actions, we can make that experience even more valuable.

During the Engagement Stage, we can strive to adapt our recruitment and invitation messaging to increase our chances of gaining diverse talent. We can also have new volunteers fill out a motivational assessment survey.

Once we move on to the Participation Stage, these survey results will help us to find the right career paths for our new volunteers. Sharing them with the local chapter leadership can ensure that everyone contributing to the development of the volunteer has the full picture. We can also make use of the drivers to review whether our training palette is inclusive enough. When giving individual feedback, or recognizing a volunteer, remember what motivates them and adjust your approach accordingly. If you are no longer able to provide meaningful engagement opportunities, let the volunteer innovate. Allow them to create new roles and projects that could enable continuous learning and motivation.

When we get to a volunteer wanting to disengage, the motivational drivers come in handy, yet again. Often the reason behind someone disengaging is to be found in a shift of their motivation. We might have taken the right approach and offered roles and tasks to them that fit their initial reasons to volunteer. However, over time, these might have changed. Encouraging the volunteer to take on new roles that better fit them now can be your solution to retention.

Each AFS organization counts a large number of non-active volunteers and alumni they still occasionally keep in touch with. Learn how to adjust your communications and consider various motivations. This way, you may gain them back as active volunteers.