How to Motivate Volunteers in your NGO: A Free Guide

Volunteers are the lifeblood of many organisations, indeed almost every non profit got started by either an individual or group of people volunteering their time. Even the biggest development organisations in the world such as the United Nations use volunteers from all around the world to increase their effectiveness. The question remains, how do you get the most of your volunteers and how can you motivate them to go the extra mile for your organisation? free guide will take you through a series of key strategies that will help your organisation to get the most from this critical but often overlooked asset. Whether you are a grassroots organisation just starting out or an organisation working across the world, a motivated volunteer force can make a tremendous difference to your organisations impact on its community.

Make them at Home: Your volunteers want to feel a part of your organisation and that their contribution is valued. There are thousands of different and organisations that they could be spending their free time with but instead they have chosen to work with you. Make them feel at home by providing them with somewhere comfortable to work, introduce them to other staff and volunteers and generally pay an interest in their lives. Volunteers are there primarily because they want to help but they also want to enjoy their time with your organisation. Make them feel included and keep them informed of what is happening including asking their opinion when it is appropriate. Volunteers may see an opportunity or a way to improve that others have missed, give them a chance to make a difference.

Understand your Volunteers: Every volunteer does so for a combination of different reasons. Understanding these motivations is the key to getting the best from them as well as providing them with the best experience that you can. Some volunteers may be working with you to gain experience in certain fields such as management or fundraising whilst others will be there solely because they want to make a difference to your cause. It is rare that you will find a volunteer who is only with your organisation for just one reason. Put yourself in their shoes, they have chosen to give up their free leisure time to work instead, why? Don’t be afraid to ask them, it is the only way that you can provide them with an experience that is truly valuable whilst ensuring that they make the biggest positive impact on your work as they possibly can. If you understand your volunteers you will know how to motivate them and keep them around for the long term.

Give Back: Your volunteers are giving up their time, skills, knowledge and experience to help your cause, you have a responsibility to give back to them and invest in them in return. For most volunteers, not all, they will need to learn how to do whatever job it is that they will be doing for your organisation. Even if it seems basic and obvious to you, it is courteous to walk them through it, answer any questions they have and ensure you are always around to support them in case of any problems, as well making sure that they do not feel abandoned. Treat your volunteer like a staff member, the better they are trained the better and quicker they will be at their tasks, allowing your organisation to do more, which is ultimately why you need and want them there in the first place.

Share everything you can: The more your volunteers know the more they will be able to help you to do your job better. Often volunteers are on the frontline and learn opinions and experience situations that management may be too far away and too busy to notice. They will notice the little things so its important that there is an open exchange between volunteer and manager. If your volunteer knows that you’re considering starting a new service, for example, they may well already have an idea what your beneficiaries think about it or know of potential challenges in service delivery that you haven’t considered. Share with you volunteers what you are working on, what the ultimate goal is and what your hopes are, get them to buy into what you’re doing and they will see how they are contributing to the bigger picture. Volunteers are time consuming to replace so you never want to lose one when you don’t have to, by sharing what is going on in the organisation you can help to integrate them further into your organisations vision and hopefully keep them involved for the long term.

Recognise their work: Volunteers, like any of us, will feel better about their work if they feel appreciated and that they are making a positive contribution. Remind them what a positive impression they are making and share with them what would happen if they weren’t there. Without volunteers paid staff would have far less time to focus on developing new projects, raising funds and managing the organisation.  We recommend trying to stop at least once a day to thank them for their work, especially at the end of the day so that they go home feeling like they have achieved something.

Thank and reward: Many organisations simply couldn’t survive or do anywhere near as much if they suddenly had no volunteers. Make sure that they understand their true value by finding an appropriate way to thank them. From volunteer thank you evenings to a simple thank you letter signed by all of the staff, it doesn’t have to cost money and the personal touch will always leave the best impression. If you’ve followed our other tips you will have done your best to get to know your volunteer and will be in a great position to arrange a little something that you know they will appreciate. Use your imagination and make your volunteer feel like a king at least once a year!

Be flexible: Volunteers give a great deal to organisations in their time, energy and expertise, but sometimes life crops up and they will have to stop for a moment. At these times it is important to be as understanding and supportive as you possibly can, even if it is going to cause you problems. Some situations can’t be helped but you can make a volunteer feel much better about letting you and your organisation down by being positive and helping them in anyway that you can.

A happy volunteer is a motivated volunteer. Make sure that you listen and respond to every volunteer individually and you will go a long way to keeping them motivated. Do you have any tips for motivating volunteers? What has worked for your and your organisation? Get involved in our comments section and let us know!


  1. Avatar Moses Ssemahunge says

    I am the ED of an NGO. My organization needs grants and so much is being expected from me. Kindly help me with a volunteer who can help me raise funds for my organization. I really need a volunteer to help me in the area of fund raising. Hope to get a quick response please. The name of NGO is SURE (Secure Uganda’s Resources and Environment) located in the oil rich region of Uganda that needs many issues of environment addressed.
    Many thanks

  2. Avatar Abdirisaaq Sh Ali ahmed says

    Volunteers are important To participate with community services,your personality will increase both experience or you humanity activation to understand different categories such as needy families,war effect people,other disasters,I Remember these events how I participated working voluntary in Somalia and I believe it’s o get compensation to assist needy families by free of your service like donors who pay their money,on behave Somali development foundation I would like to say international donors thanks your your great assistance to poor and needy families specially
    Somali people by two decades that saved thousands of children,women,elders or general the society destroyed by waring factions
    by Abdirisaaq Sh Ali director of small NGO Somali development that needs your humanity support and your chances guidelines and to make it you servants Tr partner as voluntary.Er

  3. thanks very much for you gives me much hints’ to get any help from you
    but now i want some most common interviews question any NGO ask to project manager can i get interview question with hint example answers for this tittle, if so help me

  4. I am the ED of an NGO. My organisation needs grants and so much is being expected from me. Kindly help me with a volunteer who can help me raise funds for my organisation. I need to keep my job so I really need a volunteer to help me in the area of fund raising. Hope to get a quick response please
    Many thanks

  5. Avatar Sylvestre Kisite says

    My organization is very much urgently in need of having two volunteers to work with us, on Administration and Finance. Interested are welcome to contact us.

  6. thank you so much for the grate work you are doing all over the world, we are small regisred CBO opperating in northern uganda in transforming the live of children from poor families through Education and our aim is to built a big secondary school since this is one of the reason why education are very expensive in Uganda especialy to those from the northern part due to the LRA insergency of over 20 years that has made many community very poor and we request for a support for this construction so that our children can stady with very law cost and get to earn a living in particulerly girls.

  7. What country are you based in?

    • Respected sir,.
      For many years I have seen and read about volunteers. My husband and I we are very much interested in helping and work as a family ( volunteers). We both are sports man and have the ability to do any kind of work. We will be highly obliged to assist.
      With regards
      Santa tomar

      • Avatar Sudhan Paudel says

        Respected Santa,
        Greetings from Nepal

        If you are interested to be a volunteer, we like to invite you Nepal in our community. Please write us about your interest and opinion. Thanks.

      • Avatar Juma Sadiki Ntakebuka says

        Hi Samnya, I am inviting you and your husband to come and work with us in our local Organization dedicated to Agro-Environmental Services.
        We are situated in Nachingwea district, Lindi Region, Southern part of Tanzania.
        Hopefully longing,
        Executive Secretary

      • Avatar robert osei says

        Hi samya
        we are a young organisation helping to improve the lives of children in deprive touristic communities in Ghana starting off with helping primary education in a village island communty.
        you and your husband i believe can help teach and support these children. we have also started with swimming and lifeguardship training for the children to help curb some incidents of drowning.i believe your expertise would be also much needed in this regard.

  8. Avatar MARGARET JUMA says

    Volunteers make a good impact on intended project work ,i realised the difference with
    a neighbouring school , impression ,tasks undertakings,etc. Am wishing come 2014 from feburuary
    interest volunteers to partner with our NGO :– FOUNDATION FOR YOUNG CHILD EDUCATION
    We have classes for valunerable child axccess Education for better life PRIMARY LEVEL.
    Best regards.

  9. Avatar vincent mwachi says

    Dear sir/madam,I hereby write to inform you that i have worked as a volunteer officer for the last 15years No Funds or sponsor for either our organization from either the government or any international donors around the world. I will be glad if i can be funded to support our community especially women and children rescue during the wave of post elections and ethnicity chaos period. am a watched dog fore the featherless b persons but no body appreciates my good job but i am happy that God will bear me witness i have my experience ref letters and field photos at work on different occasions thanks waiting to here from you.a concerned humanitarian assistant east and central African community Vincent.S.Mwachi .

  10. Avatar Sizwe Hlekiso says

    Thank you very much for helping Africa. We are a youth organisation involved in green activities we are very much concerned about environment. We are educating communities about importants of environment.

    • Sounds like very worthwhile work Sizwe. Good luck with your work and let us know if we can help.

      • Avatar Sizwe Hlekiso says

        Mother Soul Youth Development indaba
        NPO Reg: 097292
        N0. 2688 Tengo Street
        Ilinge Township

        Thank you very for your best wishes Robin we are a registered NPO youth organisation we would like to be assisted on Capacity Building and to sustain this initiative. We are also educating people in our community about environment and recycling. Your assistance will be highly appreciated by our district, organisation and the community.