How to Turn Your Holiday Volunteers into Year-Round Supporters

A Guide for Site Managers

During a season most often associated with family, food, and gifts in abundance, many well-intentioned individuals want to share with those who need a bit extra. But for nonprofits, volunteer engagement tends to wane by spring, and filling needs becomes increasingly challenging. So, how do you turn those once-a-year volunteers into long-term participants?

First and foremost, retaining volunteers starts with a positive experience. Here are some ways your organization can make the most of the seasonal rush, connect with your volunteers, and keep them coming back!

Welcome newcomers

During the holidays, it can seem like standard practice goes out the window. But don’t forget to welcome new volunteers as they register for the holiday opportunities. Reaching out not only lets your volunteers know that you’re grateful to have them on board, but it can also initiate engagement. You can set up an automated message to welcome new registrants. You can customize your automated message so your welcome email feels just a warm as a personal greeting. If you’re using a holiday initiative, you can give your customized message some festive flair!

Make it easy

Seasonal volunteers are more likely to return if they have a positive experience with your organization from the outset. In part, this means making registration simple and painless. Here are a few simple Connect features that will help you streamline your registration process so that your volunteers can focus on what’s important . . . volunteering!

  • Holiday Initiative: Your platform’s holiday initiative feature makes it easy for volunteers to explore and register for all your holiday-related opportunities. Volunteers can discover new interests and causes that will keep them engaged with your organization!
  • Spotlights: Your Connect site allows you to “Spotlight” your holiday initiative or other specific opportunities you think users will love. This cuts down on search time for all those users visiting your site.
  • Check-in Kiosk: Use the new check-in kiosk at your volunteer events. It’s quick, and it logs volunteer hours automatically. It’s super helpful during the busy months; you won’t have to approve hours later, and volunteers can watch their impact accrue in real time!

Use holiday benchmarks

Episodic volunteers tend to be motivated by recognition. Set up holiday benchmarks to reward volunteers who go the extra mile during the holidays. You can set benchmarks for a certain number of participation hours specific to the holiday months. When volunteers meet their goal, they will earn fun badges, which will appear on their profile. It’s a small gesture to recognize all their hard work this season and encourage further participation with your organization. (Families who volunteer with children especially love badges!)

Note: When you use your check-in feature, hours are automatically counted toward their holiday benchmark!

Encourage exploration

In this post, we recommend including a variety of opportunities for your holiday initiative. Popular events like toy drives fill up fast, so encourage eager helpers to explore other amazing opportunities that are still available. Let them know that by selecting your holiday initiative, they’re able to search through all your seasonal needs. You can also recommend opportunities based on their interests or skills (this information is available in their volunteer profile). Volunteers just may find something new to be passionate about — and they’ll be eager to engage with them again!

Tip: Episodic volunteers tend to enjoy task-based work when volunteering. Make sure your initiative includes plenty of hands-on projects to keep the experience fun and engaging. Projects can be as simple as making wreaths for senior living homes or sorting winter clothing items for the homeless. Even small gestures will bring much-needed joy to volunteers and recipients in your community alike.

Make an appearance

Occasional volunteers become long-term supporters when they develop a deep sense of connection with your cause. A great way to foster a connection with your holiday volunteers is to be present. Make sure your organization’s staff visit volunteers and thank them in person for their work. While you have their attention, talk about your cause and what it means to you to have volunteers like them there. Remind them that the community needs their help all year long. If you are partnered with a local government or school system, invite board members or everyone’s favorite principal to say a few words. Volunteers will feel like your organization is made of people who really care about the community you share.

In conclusion

A simple registration process or painless check-in system isn’t what your volunteers will remember for years to come. Yet a well-organized operation and accessible participation hours mean volunteers can more readily connect with your cause without being distracted by the nonprofit nitty-gritty. So, volunteers will remember (and treasure) the feelings of giving back, the abundant smiles, and the change-making — and they’ll continually look toward your organization to lead the way!