We hear it often in the nonprofit sector, but volunteers truly are the lifeblood of an organization. From their support with administrative tasks to fundraising events to service delivery, they undertake various duties, all equally important.

Senior-level volunteers, however, are often the driving force behind a nonprofit’s success. Many leadership volunteers play an important role in communication efforts either with their roles on committees, as spokespeople, or even board members who take a strong interest in a nonprofit’s communication activities. But early engagement strategies and clearly defined role descriptions are not enough to keep volunteers committed and dedicated. The challenge is: how do you keep these important volunteers motivated and attached to your cause? The answer, as always, starts with communication.

Here are five easy ways you can ensure your communication to senior-level volunteers is keeping them engaged and not letting them slip away.


1. Remind them why they are here

People choose to volunteer for a number of reasons (to give back, to gain experience, to feel good) but they usually choose where they will volunteer based on the cause. Once they have accepted a board or committee role, the cause often becomes secondary to more immediate objectives such as meeting fundraising goals or developing strategic plans. Don’t let your mission take a back seat. Start each board or committee meeting with a presentation or discussion about a recent program or client success that directly ties back to your mission. Not only does this give them valuable information about your organization but it could also be an anecdote they can share with others. To ensure this item has a place in your board meeting, include it in your written agenda to reinforce its importance.


2. Give them a memorable experience

As important as mission storytelling is, an experience will make a lasting impact. Find time to bring your senior-level volunteers to the front lines, whether it is a hospital, a food bank, or a children’s after school program, to have them experience for themselves the difference your nonprofit is making in a community. If this isn’t possible due to distance or other issues, show them videos of their support in action. Seeing these outcomes will surely deepen their attachment to your organization.


3. Capitalize on their skills

Most senior-level volunteers are asked to join boards and committees based on the skills and experience they can bring to an organization. Take advantage of what they are bringing to the table and assign them roles and tasks that enable them to use these skills. Volunteers with financial experience might not necessarily feel comfortable acting as social media ambassadors but they might be open to helping plan advertising budgets or evaluate return on investment of marketing activities. Although it is important to include all volunteers equally, select and assign tasks that match a volunteer’s expertise. And to keep those activities interesting, continue to assign more challenging opportunities to ensure your volunteers stay involved.


4. Share the impact of their efforts

Just as it is important to share your organization’s impact with your donors, your volunteers also want to hear about the impact of their efforts. Let your leadership volunteers know the media impressions that were earned with your press release or how your social media followers are growing. If the results were not positive, don’t be afraid to be honest with them. What matters is following up with them and discussing what worked and what the next steps will be.


5. Recognize their contributions

Finally but most importantly, don’t underestimate the value of a thank you. Tell them in person, thank them publically, praise them in your annual report – do all of this and more. Your leadership volunteers are giving your organization their time, energy, and expertise and asking for nothing in return. Show them how grateful you are and let them know, you simply could not do what you do without their support.


How do you keep senior level communications volunteers engaged and motivated? Please share your thoughts on these tips and add your own in the comments.


Suzanne Hallsworth

Suzanne Hallsworth

VP, Development & Communications at Oakville Hospital Foundation
Suzanne Hallsworth is the VP, Development & Communications for the Oakville Hospital Foundation. In her role, she leads the annual giving, community fundraising, and special events teams and develops marketing communication strategies to help the Foundation reach its fundraising goals. Suzanne has been working in the nonprofit sector for more than a decade following an earlier career in the book publishing industry.
Suzanne Hallsworth
Suzanne Hallsworth