The great (volunteer) resignation: An evidence-based strategy for retaining

Vivien W Forner*, Djurre Holtrop, Darja Kragt, Anya Johnson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Book/ReportReport


• 44 per cent of the global volunteer workforce stopped volunteering over a four-year period, from 2018 to 2021, a loss equivalent to 48 million full-time volunteers.
• To enable more effective turnover monitoring and management, there needs to be a revised definition and measures of turnover that are suitable for volunteer involving organisations. We recommend the following definition of volunteer turnover be adopted — “Turnover occurs when a volunteer withdraws their participation with their current organisation out of their own free will” (Forner et al., 2022). To measure turnover, we suggest volunteer involving organisations; 1) calculate turnover rate with organisational data, 2) track volunteer participation – if a volunteer is not present at any event or activity over 1 year, we would consider the person has withdrawn their participation with the organisation, or 3) assess turnover intentions.

• Our systematic review and meta-analysis of volunteer turnover research identified four factors that prevent volunteer turnover; 1) support from paid staff, supervisors, and peers, 2) affording volunteers autonomy, 3) roles where volunteers feel they are contributing productively, and 4) preventing burnout.

• Evidence-based recommendations for key actions that will have the greatest impact on minimizing turnover rates in volunteer involving organisations include:
• Increase social support – create stronger social connections and encourage
support from staff, supervisors, and other volunteers. • Improve the experience of autonomy – when possible, grant volunteers decision making authority, and when not possible, provide a clear rationale. • Help volunteers feel productive – design volunteering tasks to be stimulating and clearly related to organisational goals. • Minimize burnout – regularly check with volunteers if they have enough
social, cognitive and physical resources to deal with their task demands.

• This paper is intended to inform and guide the volunteering sector, national
volunteering strategy and government policy to address the serious and ongoing
decline in volunteer numbers.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationAustrallia
PublisherVolunteering Australia
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Publication series

Namethe Volunteering Research Papers Initiative
PublisherVolunteering Australia


  • Volunteering
  • Turnover


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