5 Creative Ways to Encourage Returning Volunteers

Your nonprofit likely invests a lot of time, energy and resources into facilitating a positive, educational volunteer training experience. Your staff members take the time to get new volunteers up to speed on the skills they’ll need to help support your organization’s projects and programs.

To earn a return on this investment, you must maintain a high volunteer retention rate. Returning volunteers put their training to work by providing skilled experience and knowledge. These supporters are essential to your program’s success. So how can you successfully retain their involvement for the long term?

We recommend getting creative! When you infuse your volunteer engagement strategy with creativity and personality, you can better maintain volunteers’ support. Let’s review our top five tips for creatively encouraging returning volunteers. 

1. Highlight opportunities that match volunteers’ interests

Just like your nonprofit’s donors, volunteers like to feel that they have a special place within your organization. They don’t want to feel like just another number, but valued partners in working toward your nonprofit’s goals.

Show volunteers you’ve been paying attention by connecting them with volunteer opportunities and events that match their skills and interests.

Review the data stored in your volunteer management system, such as volunteers’ engagement histories, career information and giving data. Then, send emails with personalized recommendations for upcoming volunteer opportunities or events that you think each volunteer will be interested in.

For example, let’s say you know one of your volunteers is a busy working professional who typically attends your events on the weekends. This volunteer also has plenty of experience working with kids as a former camp counselor. You might send this individual a preview of your upcoming weekend volunteer opportunities, including your kid’s summer carnival.

Volunteers will appreciate your efforts to create a personalized experience. Plus, they’ll be much more likely to continue registering for opportunities that align with their interests and experience. 

2. Provide recognition with digital badges

Volunteers support your organization because they’re passionate about your mission, but it always feels good to be recognized for a job well done. You can show your appreciation and respect for volunteers by awarding them with digital badges.

A digital badge is a dynamic virtual credential that includes information about the organization that issued the award, what the person did to earn the prize and details about the competencies that the person exhibited.

Create a digital badge to celebrate certain milestones, such as when a volunteer attends their 20th opportunity or when they reach their first anniversary as a regular volunteer.

You can also offer digital badges or certificates when volunteers complete training courses. For example, you might award certificates for completing a first-aid or crisis de-escalation course. Volunteers can share these credentials on their LinkedIn profiles or resumes to show employers that they have achieved high-level skills. 

3. Send volunteers gifts 

Think about the last time you got an unexpected gift. Perhaps it wasn’t even your birthday, special anniversary or a holiday — just a random day where someone decided to show you appreciation.

Out-of-the-blue gifts are a great way to show volunteers that you’re grateful for them because they’re memorable and meaningful. Bloomerang’s guide to appreciation gifts recommends the following stand-out items:

  • Merchandise such as t-shirts, mugs or tote bags branded with your organization’s logo
  • Potted plants or seeds (these can be especially impactful for environmental-focused volunteer programs) 
  • A printed photo or a small photo album with pictures of the volunteer participating in your opportunities
  • Pins, magnets or buttons with your organization’s logo
  • Gift cards to local businesses or restaurants

These tangible gifts can supplement your digital recognition badges and other virtual appreciation efforts. Include a short handwritten note that mentions how much you appreciate their efforts and hope they continue engaging with your organization. 

4. Facilitate leadership opportunities

Some returning volunteers may be interested in opportunities to grow their involvement and provide even more support for your nonprofit. By offering opportunities for volunteers to develop leadership skills, you can empower them with valuable new experiences that can benefit them in their professional careers. 

Identify your most engaged volunteers using data from your volunteer management software and your observations during volunteer events. Then, invite these individuals to get more involved in roles like: 

  • Training leader. Equip experienced volunteers with the resources and information they need to lead new volunteer orientations. Provide training leaders with the flexibility to conduct in-person or remote training sessions. 
  • Small group leader. Allow long-time volunteers to lead small groups of three to five people during volunteer opportunities. Make sure volunteers know how to get in touch with a staff member if needed during these events.
  • Peer mentor. Pair experienced volunteers with new volunteers to act as peer mentors or buddies. Experienced volunteers can introduce new supporters to your mission, help them get up and running quickly, and provide valuable social connections. New volunteers will feel much more inclined to engage with your opportunities when they have at least one person with whom they feel comfortable. 

Help these volunteer leaders grow by offering coaching, training and constructive feedback. Add them to a Facebook group or email chain with other volunteer leaders to share advice and tips and meet fellow passionate volunteers. 

5. Create a specialized consultation group

Another way to show returning volunteers that you trust them to take on larger roles at your organization is to ask for their feedback. 

Invite volunteers to join a special consultant group. You might meet with this group for coffee once a month to get their feedback on how your volunteer program is going and opportunities for improvement. Or, you may create an online group where you communicate with volunteers via posts and comments.

These volunteers can provide feedback on all aspects of your program, including:

  • Recruitment strategy
  • Training and orientation process
  • Ongoing communication
  • Appreciation efforts

Ask what they think is going well and their suggestions for making your program more successful. Be sure to follow up after your meetings to summarize the discussion and outline the steps you’ll take to incorporate their input.

Your nonprofit’s volunteers should feel part of a tight-knit community where they have personal connections to their fellow volunteers and your organization’s mission. With these creative engagement strategies, you can show volunteers how much you value them and encourage more supporters to maintain their involvement over time. 

July 25, 2023

Keep learning with our free resources



Are Your Credentials Future Ready? Making the Case for Badges and Micro-Credentials

Facebook Live

Facebook Live

CommPartners Conversations: Badging and Certifications with Ginger Malin from BadgeCert

Blog: Our story

Blog: Our story

As we launch our new platform and website, here's the story behind our company’s inception

Learn more


Credentials & Micro-Credentials: Taking the Next Step (A Q&A session)


Discover what BadgeCert can do for your organization. Contact our sales team today.

Interested in bringing BadgeCert digital badges to your organization? Would you like to set up a 1:1 demo with our advisors? Fill out the form or contact us at:


Are you already a BadgeCert badge recipient / earner of a badge? Please do not contact us via this form, instead refer to the Earner FAQs as many of your questions will be answered there. If you need additional assistance, please submit the BadgeCert Earner Support formYour inquiry will be sent to the organization that issued your badge.

Contact us
Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.