Practical Tips & Tools

Volunteer Recruitment and Retention: Keeping Volunteers Engaged

December 11, 2023

In our previous blog articles about Volunteer Recruitment and Retention, we learned why people volunteer and how we can eliminate the barriers that prevent them from accepting an assignment. So, let’s assume you’ve implemented some new strategies outlined in those articles to recruit some great new volunteers who have started working with students. The new tutors are loving it, the students are loving it, and everything’s great until a student’s job schedule changes, meaning she can no longer meet with her tutor.

You’re now faced with a new dilemma: How do you keep this tutor engaged until they have another student to work with?

6 ways to keep tutors engaged

  1. Offering a range of small group, large group, and classroom instruction is one way to ensure a tutor is never without a student. If you’re using teams of tutors to provide group instruction, consider adding this tutor to a team until you have a new student for them.
  2. Consider creating a place at your program to offer “lab-based” instruction—where a group of tutors gather to help any students who drop in. This is a great way for a tutor to use their skills while they are without a student of their own, or for any tutor looking to experience working with students of different levels and learning styles. You could designate a room or computer lab where a small group of tutors is available on specific days for students to stop by for additional help, homework assistance, or to have their questions answered.
  3. Have the tutor lead short-term, small group instruction on topics of interest, such as financial literacy, writing a resume, preparing for a job interview, filing taxes, or creating a book club. Limit these to about four weeks in length, especially if the tutor wants to return to 1-1 tutoring. This will give you time to find another student for them to work with. If the tutor is unsure about teaching a certain topic, you can design the groups as learning circles in which the content is provided by an online course.
  4. Create a pool of substitute tutors. Every tutor will have times when they’re not able to make their session. If you know ahead of time, you can recruit one of your “out-of-work” tutors to fill in. This way the student doesn’t miss out on instruction and the tutor can stay engaged.
  5. Assign the tutor to an existing tutor-student pair. Find a pair that meets consistently, with a student who would like more instruction and a tutor who is unable to meet that often. Let the currently unassigned tutor fill that need and provide an extra night of instruction for the student.
  6. Use them to perform other duties for your organization. If the tutor is really into being involved with the instructional side of things, consider asking them to handle intake, assessment, and onboarding of students. While it’s not instruction, these tasks have a direct impact on the start of a student’s learning journey.

Use these ideas to create an infrastructure that engages and utilizes volunteers in many ways. In the next article we’ll look at how to recruit new volunteers into your program.