Volunteers are often the heart of an organization. The Independent Sector estimates that each hour of volunteer time in 2012 was worth $22.14. Considering that Americans volunteered a total of 7.9 billion hours in 2011, it's not hard to see how donated human capital can quickly add up. Retaining good volunteers can be a challenge for nonprofits. Yet in order to reap the maximum benefits of using volunteers in your nonprofit, it's important to keep them coming over the long term.

Ask volunteers at the outset what they'd like to get from their experience, and look for ways to satisfy that. Start by giving each volunteer some formal training. Explain the work of your organization and the volunteer's place in it.

Thank your volunteers. Show appreciation in varied ways and always mention volunteers who make your organization successful. Share your volunteers' success stories to demonstrate the importance difference they make. Showcase your volunteers and how their time and talent contribute to your organization's growth.

Seek their input. Because they are often new to the agency, volunteers are uniquely suited to recognizing opportunities to enhance services or internal systems. Be sincere in trying to understand volunteers' point of view.

Have volunteers write newsletter articles or blog posts about their experiences. When other volunteers read these articles, it reminds them why they are involved as well.

You probably already know that Facebook is a great tool for engaging with your volunteers. But there are countless other social media sites that your nonprofit could be taking advantage of. To connect with your volunteers where they are, you'll want to consider: Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn.

Let volunteers know about grants. Did you know that there are companies out there that will donate money to your organization for every hour that your volunteers give of their time? Here's a list of top companies that provide this kind of grant.

When you are told what to do, when to do it, and how to do it all the time, any task or project starts to feel like a job. Rather than just assigning mediocre tasks to volunteers, put them in charge of the task.

Here are some additional tips for engaging volunteers:

  • Reach out to volunteers at your next live event.
  • Get to know your volunteers better through mobile.
  • Give your volunteers the heads-up about grants.
  • Say thanks!
  • Provide incentives: A reward system is a great way to recognize dedicated volunteers.

Volunteer websites and places to find volunteers.