Volunteer Recruitment - Strategies

People who volunteer want to connect with others and make a difference.

  • You need volunteers to keep your organization running.
  • Volunteers save you money.
  • Volunteers have the potential to boost donation revenue.
  • A planned program is more effective than just advertising for volunteers.
  • Prepare for Recruiting (Evaluate your volunteer program, Review Volunteer Roles and Training – Remember to check out our sections on this website for Volunteer Retention and Volunteer Program Evaluation).
  • Create Community Connections.
  • Build Volunteer Stories.
  • Develop messages to attract volunteer prospects.
  • Re-Evaluate Your Existing Volunteer Program2 (Also see our section on Volunteer Evaluation on this website)
  • Volunteer Roles: Review Volunteer Roles and Create Job Descriptions
    • Create Volunteer Job descriptions: They should reflect your volunteer needs – Clean up help, setup for events, basic office work, writing and research. Do any tasks require physical effort? Click here for a Volunteer Position Description template from Rural Volunteer.org.
    • Varied Times for Different Jobs: Can you provide more opportunities by separating jobs by the time required for them (Daily, weekly, once-a-month)?
    • Virtual jobs? Evaluate whether some volunteer tasks can be accomplished virtually, such as thank you cards, thank you phone calls, research, writing, etc.
    • Number of Volunteers Required: How many people do you need to accomplish the various programs that you have?
  • Volunteer Training
    • Do you have an orientation program for new volunteers to learn about your organization?
    • Solicit existing volunteers to help new recruits “learn the ropes”.
    • Are there any tasks that require special training?
    • Do you have a process to check-in with volunteers throughout the year?
  • Accessibility for Mobility Challenges3
    • Can your nonprofit facility accommodate people with mobility challenges? Is your space accessible for people with disabilities?
    • Can you help by providing a walker or wheelchair?
  • Transportation4
    • If transportation is an issue, can an existing team member help one-on-one or is carpooling a possibility?

Where Can You Get a List of Volunteer Prospects?

  • Develop a volunteer prospect list from:
    • People your volunteers know – their friends and family.
    • Ask your donors if they know of anyone who might be a good prospect.
    • Ask your staff and Board members.
    • Are any of your repeat donors interested in volunteering?

Use Word-of-Mouth Recruiting But Create a Plan

  • Build Connections through Stories
    • Collect Volunteer Stories to Share: Ask your volunteers to think of stories or anecdotes about their experiences with your nonprofit that could have a significant impact.
  • Do Your Volunteers Have Good Volunteer Experiences?5 – (Also see our section on Volunteer Retention on this website)
    • Be organized (volunteer work schedules, how-to’s for tasks, partner volunteers, when necessary, etc.).
    • Remember to train volunteers. Don’t let them navigate tasks alone.
    • Do your volunteers feel like they’re part of your nonprofit “family”?
    • Make sure that the tasks they are doing match their interests and skills.

  • Develop a Message that Your Volunteers Can Use
    • For a consistent message, you need to give your volunteers the language to talk about your nonprofit.
    • Do you need to tailor your message to a specific group of people?
    • Does the message communicate your needs effectively? 

  • If You Have a Social Media Account You Should Use it
    • If you have social media followers, engage them. Respond to them through your social media channel, find ways to start conversations.
    • Share information about your organization and volunteer opportunities. Invite supporters to join your efforts. Share good news and positive experiences. 

  • More Word-of-Mouth Ideas
    • Host a volunteer event like a lunch or picnic6
    • Have a “Invite a Friend” Day where your volunteers invite someone to join them for the day at your organization.
    • Create photo opportunities with your volunteers’ friends and family members.
    • Have a Volunteer Family Day where the volunteers bring family members to help.

Other Important Recruiting Strategies

  • Use the Contacts That You’ve Developed
    • Prospective volunteer contacts from your volunteers, staff, board members and donors.
  • Explore Partnerships7
    • Can you build relationships with other nonprofit organizations or other local groups (churches, schools, civic groups)? Ask if they might be interested in distributing your volunteer opportunities to people within their organization.
    • Are there other nonprofits you can work with on volunteer recruiting who have similar needs? Are there any volunteer sharing opportunities?
  • Reach out to Past Volunteers
    • Especially if you’ve made changes to your program(s) since they’ve volunteered. Invite them to return for the new experiences.
  • Utilize Your Local Media 

  • Develop an email campaign to your volunteer prospect list that you’ve created and the messaging that you’ve built. Use your volunteers’ stories that are exciting and have an impact. 

  • Use Different Recruitment Strategies8
    • People are different. The same recruitment strategy may not work for everyone.
    • Think about the volunteer positions you need to fill. Relevant age groups.
    • Evaluate the amount of time needed for your various positions.
    • You would probably use a different strategy for reaching out to repeat donors than you would for inactive volunteers or working professionals with specialized skills.
  • Match language with the Volunteer Job: In your ads for volunteer positions, match language usage with the skill level of the volunteer job. For instance, you would write a volunteer ad differently when recruiting volunteers for packing food boxes or park clean up than you would a volunteer ad for more skilled help such as those for grant writing or technology services. Common language is the most useful, just keep in mind your audience.

  • Don’t Use Your In-House Language – acronyms, nicknames, abbreviations that are specific to your organization may not be understood prospective volunteers.
  • Instead of “Volunteers Needed”: Emphasize the task/assignments related to that volunteer service. Recruit for the specific volunteer job(s). 

  • Using Photos for Recruiting? Make sure they depict the environment that you want to reflect – Volunteers at work; Is the attire casual; Do the photos show volunteers of various ages, men and women, etc..

  • Following Up on Volunteer Inquiries:
    • Do you have a process for handling volunteer inquiries? When someone expresses interest, what happens?
    • If on a voicemail does someone follow up on a timely basis?
    • If in-person, is the information passed on to the right person for follow-up?
    • If you have an application, does someone respond that your nonprofit has received it and the time frame for contacting the applicant after application submission?

Pulling It All Together

The message here is that a volunteer recruiting program is valuable because it improves a nonprofit’s chances of getting volunteers who will likely be a good fit. Planning your volunteer recruiting is important. It means you’ll be looking at your existing volunteer program and determining if your volunteers are happy about their experiences and have provided useful service. If the answer is yes, then you have something to build on. Use your volunteers, staff, board members and donors to develop your volunteer prospect list. Collect the positive experiences your volunteers have had to create your stories that will become part of your messaging. Determine the messaging that works best for your organization. Don’t forget that your volunteers can play an important role in spreading the word about your organization.

1 https://gettingattention.org/volunteer-recruitment/ – A Smart Guide to Volunteer Recruitment: 16 Proven Strategies 2 https://gettingattention.org/volunteer-recruitment/ – A Smart Guide to Volunteer Recruitment: 16 Proven Strategies 3 https://bloomerang.co/blog/volunteer-recruitment-plan/ 4 https://bloomerang.co/blog/volunteer-recruitment-plan/ 5 https://www.galaxydigital.com/blog/word-of-mouth-volunteer-recruitment 6 https://volpro.net – 3 Ideas to Recruit Volunteers (That You May Not Have Considered) 7 https://gettingattention.org/volunteer-recruitment/ – A Smart Guide to Volunteer Recruitment: 16 Proven Strategies 8 https://bloomerang.com – How to Create a Recruitment Plan: 5 Strategies 9 https://www.energizeinc.com/art/barriers-volunteering-hidden-messages-your-recruitment


Toolkit for Working with Rural Volunteers – Access their complete toolkit and case studies at https://ruralvolunteer.org

Get Connected by Galaxy Digital https://galaxydigital.com – “Word of Mouth Recruitment: How to Leverage Volunteers to Promote Your Program”

Tobi Johnson & Associates (a new vision for volunteerism): https://tobijohnson.com – “Your Complete Guide to Word-of-Mouth for Superior Volunteer Recruitment”.

Bloomerang – https://bloomerang.co/blog/volunteer-recruitment-plan/ “How to Create a Recruitment Plan: 5 Strategies”.

NonprofitPro – Volunteer Recruitment and Training Best Practices for Nonprofits

501Commons – Barriers to Volunteering: Hidden Messages in Your Recruitment

Volunteer Pro – https://volpro.net – “Pro Roundup: 3 Ideas to Recruit Volunteers (That You May Not Have Considered).

General Resources and Links

VolunteerMatch – https://www.volunteermatch.org/
An online service that connects volunteers with opportunities to serve. Nonprofits can post their volunteer needs, browse volunteer profiles, and use their free recruitment toolkit.

Create the Good – https://createthegood.aarp.org/
Powered by AARP, this site caters to baby boomers looking to contribute their skills, time and experience. Nonprofits can use it to target this demographic.

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