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  • Writer's pictureSebastian Elawny

Volunteer Management and Engagement for Canadian Charities and Non-Profits

Updated: Jul 4

Volunteers for a non-profit organization

Volunteers are vital to charities and other non-profits. In recent years, volunteer recruitment and retention has become very challenging for many organizations. Non-profits that rely on volunteers should revisit their process for recruiting and retaining volunteers. More than ever, it is important to ensure that volunteers are fulfilled, motivated, and that they have access to a safe work environment. In this post, we will discuss some of the best ways an organization can retain its volunteers and keep them engaged with its cause.  

Best practices for managing your volunteers

There are several ways an organization can manage its volunteers to keep them happy and engaged. A good place to start is to understand what motivates each volunteer. There are no financial incentives for volunteers, therefore, it is in the organization’s interest to incentivise them in other ways. For example, if volunteers feel fulfilled by the work they are doing, there will be a higher chance they will return on an ongoing basis. An organization’s mission is one of the bigger factors that drives individuals to volunteer. Ensuring volunteers are guided by the mission and are aware of the difference they are making, can inspire them to keep coming back. 

Volunteers should be assigned to tasks that are aligned with their skills or with the specific services they offer to perform for the organization. This may seem obvious, but it can be easy for an organization to slip into seeing volunteers as generalists who are available to assist with any number of tasks. However, not all volunteers are willing to be assigned to any role. Additionally, volunteers may not always be available when they are needed, so providing flexibility will encourage them to help when they can without making them feel pressured. Communication is key to setting expectations about what tasks a volunteer will take on. Organizations should also provide adequate training and feedback. The main goal here is to ensure volunteers feel confident in their role, by giving them the tools they require. A clear onboarding and oversight process is also an important part of managing the organization’s risk. If volunteers have no guidance, they may be less inclined to continue volunteering or they may be unable to perform their assigned tasks. A strong onboarding and oversight program can provide a strong transition for new volunteers while refreshing and reengaging existing volunteers, and building a sense of community within the organization.  

Showing appreciation for your volunteers 

It is important to be realistic about volunteers’ commitment levels, especially given the financial and time pressures that families have been facing in recent years. Volunteers could be doing anything else with their time, but if they choose to spend it supporting organizations they believe in, organizations should be sure to not take them for granted. Showing appreciation to volunteers can be as simple as saying thank you, but it can also be done by holding events for volunteers or providing little gifts when they reach important milestones. Utilizing social media can be another great way to show appreciation. For example, posting about volunteer milestones or achievements can give them the recognition they deserve while also spreading the word about the organization and its cause. Anything an organization can do to recognize its volunteers and their efforts will go a long way in building better volunteer retention. When a volunteer decides that it is time to move along and focus on other things, organizations would do well to respond with gratitude and celebration, which can be used an opportunity to recruit new volunteers or reinvigorate existing ones.  


Volunteers are a major asset to charities and non-profits, and it is an organizations responsibility to foster an environment that will keep them coming back. Knowing what drives volunteers to help, providing non-financial incentives, proper training, building a sense of community, and showing appreciation for their work, are all great ways an organization can increase its retention of volunteers. This will allow an organization to reach goals and fulfill its mission more effectively.  

Outsiders Law has extensive knowledge in the social sector and helps charities and non-profits set up for success. If you are looking for advice on how to foster a better environment for your volunteers, including implementing volunteer agreements and policies, reach out to one of our lawyers; we will be happy to help.  


The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only. Nothing contained herein should be considered as legal, professional, or tax advice. Please contact us directly if you require legal assistance.

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