How to increase volunteer engagement

Engagement may be a buzzword at the moment, but without it charities may find one of their most valuable resources losing enthusiasm, momentum and perhaps drifting away.

So how can personal branding help?

The Right Fit: Values and Qualities

Long-term relationships are best built with people who share the same values, and have the qualities you need.  Do you need someone who is retired, with a lifetime of acquired wisdom and specialist skills? Or are you looking for extroverts who can approach complete strangers with equanimity? Or perhaps well-connected individuals who can persuade their network to open their wallet and little black books?

Consider questions such as “Why volunteer at our charity?” or “What would your vision for our charity be?” and listen for passion and enthusiasm. Look for a personal connection to the cause, as you will often find the most committed have a link and context to what you are doing.

Be clear about the amount of commitment, training and level of support/supervision involved. If it’s not a fit, don’t be afraid to say no. People appreciate honesty and perhaps they might be better suited to a different position or even another charity.

Sense of Purpose

People need to feel connected with a vision as well as the mission of a charity.  Provide information and training on the exact services provided by your organisation, as well as a clear mission statement. It can also be powerful to meet those impacted by the charity, or see the charity’s work in action. Holding regular “volunteer meetings” in your office helps build a bond with a physical space, which can also help volunteers feel part of the “community” you are building.


Connection and a feeling of being heard goes a long way to feeling valued and recognised. This can be done via taking part in focus groups or just an informal phone call.  Ask for opinions on a new direction, campaigns and or just feedback on what the public are saying (volunteers are often the ones on the ground, talking to the public).

Tokens of recognition such a hand-written Christmas cards, or invites to the occasional function (as a guest) can really make a difference.

It’s especially important to recognise long-term volunteers who can be taken for granted, as well as feel a little out of touch when new faces come on the scene.

When things change from the top, whether it’s a new campaign or figurehead, make sure your volunteers hear it from you, not the press. Getting volunteers to “come along side” of organisational changes is critical for long-term engagement.

Dr Lisa Orban is a clinical psychologist and personal brand consultant