Managing a volunteer program is a complex task. Ask anyone who has done it, and they will likely tell you about the struggle to maintain a consistent and dedicated volunteer workforce. Chances are it is more than a lack of financial incentive that negatively affects your program. In fact, volunteer retention can often be increased through maintaining positive relationships.

What Are Psychological Contracts?

Generally speaking, a psychological contract is the behavioral expectations that define the emotional connection between volunteers and your organization. They are directly impacted by the feelings and beliefs of all parties involved. Importantly for retention efforts, these contracts are two-sided: A volunteer may expect a certain schedule or training s outlined in your recruitment materials while your organization may expect a certain set of behaviors from volunteers.

How Do They Impact Volunteerism?

Unlike all of the administrative contracts that you likely require volunteers to fill out, a psychological contract is often unspoken. That can lead to misunderstandings or disappointment. Creating clear expectations between a volunteer and your organization can help minimize dissatisfaction on both sides of the equation.

Developing a written set of expectations can minimize this problem. Defining what a volunteer should expect from you as well as what your organization expects from its volunteers; this may include training, scheduling parameters, acceptable behaviors, and other, similar, expectations.

Training volunteers can be a timely and expensive task, which is why improving retention is so important. One way to do that is to establish a written psychological contract that clearly lays out expectations.