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Are You Having a High Rate of Volunteer Turnover? Here's Why

It's normal to have some volunteer turnover.

People move. People have health problems. People enter a new season of life. People have changes in their job.

But if you are having a lot of volunteers leave each year and a high rate of turnover, then there are some deeper issues.

What causes volunteers to quit outside of the normal rhythms of life? Why are you having a lot of turnover? Why do you constantly have to recruit new volunteers to fill the holes of those who left?

Here are a few reasons why this is happening.

Your vision is not big enough. People want to be a part of something that is bigger than themselves. Do you have a clear mission/vision statement? If so, do your volunteers know what it is? Is it big enough to make their heart skip a beat? Do you remind them of the vision on a regular basis?

Remember - people are not drawn to desperation and they don't stay because of desperation. They stay because they are finding fulfillment in helping make a vision a reality.

You have renters instead of owners. You must help people "buy in" to the ministry. Invest in them and let them lead the ministry. The goal is to make it "their ministry" instead of "your ministry." With ownership comes commitment. With ownership comes growth. With ownership comes faithfulness. With ownership comes effort.

You are not saying and expressing your gratitude enough. Did you know that 65% of volunteers never hear the words "thank you." Don't be that leader. Say thank you every single week. Show your appreciation with small gifts, good training, encouragement and personal notes.

You are not giving them what they need to be successful. Are you setting them up for success? Do you have a job description to give them? What does a win look like for their role? Are you giving them proper training before they start or just shoving them in a room with 30 preschoolers?

You are not putting people in their sweet spot. Don't place people where you need them. Instead, place people where they need to be. You can do this by meeting with them before they start and finding out what their gifts, talents and passions are. Use this information to help them find their sweet spot. When someone is not in their sweet spot, they will burn out and quit. But when someone is in their sweet spot, they will thrive and go the distance with you.

You are not challenging them enough. Sometimes volunteers leave because of one simple reason...they are bored. They have been in a position for years and it's not challenging enough for them anymore. Challenge them to move to a different role that will be more challenging. Give them increased responsibilities. You could call it a "ministry promotion."

You are not caring for them. The truth about leading volunteers is this. You are a shepherd to them. They will come to you when they need prayer, are struggling, are sick in the hospital, are facing a life problem, etc. Be there for them.

I remember one of the times I failed at this. One of our key volunteers didn't show up to serve on a Sunday morning. I found out that his mother had gotten sick that morning and he had to rush her to the hospital.

On Monday, I called to let him know I was praying for his mother. When he picked up the phone, he said, "Hi pastor Dale, I'm sorry I wasn't able to serve yesterday, my mom got sick." Looking back on that phone call made me realize I wasn't caring for him properly as a volunteer. His first thought wasn't, "Pastor Dale is calling to check on my mother. Rather it was, "Pastor Dale is calling to see why I wasn't there to serve."

It was a wake up call for me and made me realize I needed to work on showing volunteers that first and foremost, I care about them as a person.

Remember...it's not about what you can get from your volunteers. It's about what you can do for your volunteers. Serve them. Invest in them. Be there for them. Do life with them.

Maintain an "open door" policy. Make sure people have the freedom to ask questions, express concerns and vent when needed. Listen to them and do your best to resolve any issues that arise.

Recognize and celebrate their faithfulness. Honor them on years of serving. Brag on them in front of other people.

p.s. If you haven't read my book "The Formula for Building Great Volunteer Teams," be sure to do so. It has been called the best book ever written on the subject. It contains lots of proven ideas and strategies for building and leading a volunteer team. It's available at this link.


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