I think the reason why volunteers leave isn't because they don't see a need. I think they leave because we haven't shown them a clear vision. Many leave because they simply don't feel invested.
When volunteers walk into our ministry, most of them want to do more than chaperone. They want to be a part of the excitement. They want to be a part of a story, a part of the life-change taking place in students. To allow them to be a part of all of this, there are a couple things you can do.
Paint the Vision
When you recruit adult volunteers, you'll discover that they may be serving for a number of reasons (i.e. want to be closer with their child, want to give back, etc.). No matter why they come to serve, you want to give them a reason to grow in that ministry. What you want to do is give them the reason your ministry exists. After a volunteer serves for the first time at one of our student programs, I like to have a personal chat with him or her. One of our point people and I talk with him or her about what we're looking to accomplish. I love to tell these folks that they're helping us create irresistible environments and a consistent opportunity to connect in authentic relationships.
My goal is to give our volunteers the vision of our ministry over and over again so that it becomes a part of their vocabulary. The more they think about our vision, the more they think of ways to fulfill it.
When volunteers take ownership of the vision, they become mindful of success. And you want your volunteers thinking of the different ways that your ministry can succeed. In fact you want to breed a culture that promotes that mindset.
At the three month mark, and again at the end of the year, we like to get the new volunteers together to help evaluate our ministry. There are at least two benefits to this process. The first is that we allow them to tell us (with fresh eyes) what is matching and not matching with our mission, goals, and vision. It also tells them that we care about their opinion. When you can paint the vision, they are going to think about how the entire ministry can win. If you encourage your volunteers to evaluate the ministry, they are going to want to own the problems and own the success. Volunteer ministers aren't chaperones, they are active investors in our programs. As such, we need to grow the number of investors we have and that comes from giving them clear vision and allowing them a piece of the investment.