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Prevent the volunteer 'flake rate'

Posted Sep 14 2009 9:54am
We've all experienced it... volunteers are signed up and ready to go, and then when you need them most, they 'forget' to show up. The volunteer flake rate can be as high as 30% for some organizations, and not having enough volunteers on hand can be incredibly frustrating.

The two most common reasons volunteers don't show up?
  1. Forgetfulness
  2. "Something more interesting came up"
Luckily, both of these reasons are easy to tackle in advance, so let's address each in turn:
Forgetfulness
Especially when sign-ups occur far in advance, people just forget to show up. An effective reminder usually does the trick. You can rely on your team to send out reminders, but I prefer using a volunteer management tool ( VolunteerSpot is free and really easy!) or an automated service like a newsletter tool ( Feedblitz is great!). Both of these tools can be used to automatically send reminders to volunteers a few days before your event so that they remember to show up.

Something more interesting came up
If "something more important came up" it means that volunteers are not engaged enough with your cause. Even the most notable cause in the world will experience the flake rate if volunteers don't feel that 1: They are a part of something bigger, and 2: They are important to the cause. In a previous post, Volunteer Progression of Needs, I address the different needs of volunteers, as well as provide four tips to improve engagement:
  1. Listen
  2. Understand
  3. Recognize
  4. Ask
You can prevent the flake rate by better engaging your volunteers and by using free tools to make sure you have volunteers there when you need them the most.
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