Blog Post: Why Volunteers Quit: How to Retain Them

Why Volunteers Quit: How to Retain Them

Why Volunteers Quit

There are many reasons why a volunteer may stop giving their time. It is up to your organization to identify the cause and re-spark the passion.

According to AmeriCorps, the national average volunteer retention rate is 65%. In other words, 1 out of 3 volunteers stop providing their time sooner than expected. Because your organization relies on the support of volunteers, it is critical to try and optimize volunteer retention rates. In order to optimize volunteer retention rates, you need to understand what is causing volunteers to quit in the first place.

Here are the top 5 reasons why volunteers quit and how you can address each cause.

Time Pressure and Lack of Flexibility

Juggling obligations is challenging, even for the most seasoned volunteer. Volunteers are naturally passionate about the causes they support, but lack of flexibility can push them out the door. It is up to your organization to provide volunteers with opportunities that work around their schedule.

Being flexible is a must. Optimize your volunteer program by providing volunteers with a variety of opportunities ranging in time. For example, offering micro-volunteer opportunities is a great way to engage and retain volunteers who have very limited time to devote towards volunteerism, but want to be involved. Generally, micro-volunteer opportunities take 30-min or less to complete.

Your organization can also reach a wider range of potential volunteers by offering virtual volunteer opportunities for tasks that can be accomplished anywhere. Just imagine all of the volunteer prospects your organization could reach if geography wasn’t a factor.

Appeal to more volunteers by offering a variety of ways to give.

Insufficient Training

Training sets the bar for your volunteers and either puts them on the right track or causes confusion. Make sure that adequate training is a priority. Your training program should outline expectations, responsibilities, tasks, and procedures. It should also reinforce your organizations mission and provide volunteers with an outlet to ask questions.

If you are interested in learning more about volunteer training, here are 7 elements to a successful volunteer training program that you should check out.

The Wrong Opportunity in the Right Organization

Get to know your volunteers! Why are they volunteering? What are they hoping to gain from their experience? Understanding motivations will help you better match your volunteers with opportunities that provide them with personal value, increasing retention.

One of the best ways to ensure that volunteers are registering for opportunities that they will enjoy is by providing as many details as possible in the opportunity description. Make sure volunteers fully understand what they are committing to and what to expect.


Burnout is a real problem and it effects people and organizations every day. According to a Work and Wellbeing Survey, performed by the American Psychological Association, nearly 3 in 5 people report negative impacts of work-related stress, including lack of interest, effort, motivation, or energy.

Recognizing burnout in volunteers takes awareness and open communication. Training volunteer coordinators on identifying the warning signs can help.

Here are a few volunteer burnout warning signs:

  • Missing or canceling scheduled shifts.
  • Increased irritability.
  • Loss of enthusiasm around mission.
  • Decreased satisfaction.
  • Self-doubt.
  • Difficulty concentrating.

Here are a few ways to help volunteers overcome burnout:

  • Provide breaks during shifts.
  • Look for ways to create meaningful experiences.
  • Encourage volunteers to try new things.
  • Be supportive and open to communication.
  • Try to identify the source of burnout.
  • Allow volunteers to take time off.

We compiled additional tips to help your organization identify and combat volunteer burnout, check them out here.

No Rewards or Recognition

Some volunteers quit because they do not feel recognized….

Rewards and recognition can make your volunteers feel appreciated and increase engagement. In fact, according to a Workhuman study, people who are recognized are 4X as likely to be engaged in their work. Implementing an effective reward and recognition program can increase retention, productivity, and satisfaction.

Effectively rewarding and recognizing volunteers does not need to be expensive.

Here are a few ways to reward and recognize volunteers:

  • Send thank you emails to volunteers after each shift.
  • Highlight and communicate volunteer impact.
  • Promote volunteers and give them new responsibility.
  • Invest in volunteer recognition events and outings.
  • Provide volunteers feedback and on-the-job praise.
  • Leverage VolunteerHub’s Gamification feature.


Unfortunately, volunteers quit for a variety of reasons and some are beyond our control. It is important for your organization to identify causes of turnover and create strategies to address them. Remember, on average, a volunteer hour is worth over $28. Increasing retention is worth the effort. Some of the most common reasons why volunteers quit include time restraints, lack of efficient training, burnout, mismatched opportunities, and feeling unrecognized for personal contributions.