Recruiting Volunteers for a Nonprofit - Volunteer Recruitment Strategies to recruit nonprofit volunteers 

Recruiting Volunteers for a Nonprofit - Volunteer Recruitment Strategies to recruit nonprofit volunteers 

While fundraising and donations are often the main focus for many nonprofits, let’s not forget without the al who are actually doing the work, because without them, all your fundraising money just sits idly by and in the end doesn’t help anyone. It’s the ‘boots on the ground’ people that make the difference. The people who run the daily tasks to keep your organization moving forward, the volunteers that do the actual work to further the cause, the people that believe in your mission and do all they can to see your goals manifest. They are literally the lifeblood of nonprofits which makes recruiting competent individuals is an extremely important endeavor.

For them, it a personal passion for a cause that they feel their involvement in can make a real difference in some meaningful way. A way to give back, to become part of something greater than themselves. Being a volunteer is often very fulfilling to those that give tirelessly to a cause they feel passionate about. And for some, it can even offer a opportunities like a place of acceptance, camaraderie and a chance to be around like minded individuals.

This all becomes the perfect symbiotic relationship for your nonprofit. These people are not only the individuals that bring your charity’s vision to life, they also bring a ton of different experiences, new passion for projects and a plethora of different skill sets to you cause. And they do it all for their own personal reasons without any want or desire for any sort of monetary recognition.

But what makes a volunteers give of themselves so freely, and what can you do in order to attract these types of individuals to your own charity? This article goes into the essential strategies of volunteer recruitment, not just to bolster your numbers, but to help cultivate a thriving ecosystem where every volunteer’s contribution brings about a step towards your organization’s collective goal. In the end, you’ll understand recruiting volunteers has to do with nurturing relationships with these special individuals that is rewarding for both the individuals and your organization, and how to set up a volunteer recruitment process that can be used again and again.

Laying the Foundation for Volunteer Recruitment Opportunities 

When it comes time to recruit volunteers, the first thing you’ll need to assess is your nonprofit's needs and how recruitment can fulfill these. Once that’s complete, then it’s time to move on to coming up with a compelling reason for individuals to volunteer for your nonprofit. Both of these steps are equally important and we’ll go into more depth on each one below.

Understanding Your Nonprofit's Needs

It’s no use just grabbing a bunch of volunteers if you don’t even know what you need them to do. Rather, look at the needs of your nonprofit before you start recruitment and see what opportunities or tasks you can assign each recruit that can help grow your nonprofit in a strategic way. Begin by revisiting your nonprofit's mission and vision statements. These are your building blocks and should influence every decision, including the roles volunteers will play. Ask yourself, how can volunteers further our mission? What aspects of our vision can they help bring to life?

Once this is finished, conduct a thorough review of your current operations and programs. Where are the gaps that a recruit could fill? Perhaps you need some accounting help, someone to follow up with donors, or just people to hand out flyers for your next event. Once you genuinely know your needs, it’ll be far easier to assign tasks in a way that benefits both your organization and your volunteer. Don’t be afraid of asking your board, management and current staff to get involved in the assessment process for role fulfillment, they have a lot of insight on how you run daily operations and what’s required to continue them. They’ll also be aware of the gaps on a more personal level and can have ideas you may have never thought of.

And while you’re assessing your current needs, you should go a step further and be sure to also access your future needs while you’re at it. This way you can see what needs are on the horizon so as you gather more people to help out, you’ll be able to better match their particular talents with the specific jobs they’ll do best at. Trust us, all of this planning is important, so grab your management team and take the time to really suss it out!

Crafting Your Volunteer Value Proposition

Crafting a compelling volunteer value proposition takes a little understanding of psychology and why people do the things they do. Don’t worry, you don’t need a PhD or anything, we’ll explain everything in detail. But it is important to understand an individual’s personal motivations for volunteering so that you’ll know how to craft targeted messages for them in order to spark an interest in helping out your organization.

This all begins with a “value proposition” that articulates the unique benefits volunteers will gain by contributing to your organization. Although it may sound a bit selfish, you need to be able to answer the question: "What's in it for me?" from a potential volunteer's perspective. This is about their wants, desires and needs, not yours! Your proposition should clearly demonstrate the tangible and intangible rewards of volunteering for your charity in such a way that is targeted specifically towards your potential volunteers motivations and interests.

Start by understanding why people volunteer. Each individual is unique, and motivations can range from a desire to give back to the community, to developing new skills, to meeting new like minded individuals and making social connections. Try conducting surveys, focus groups, or one-on-one interviews with current and potential volunteers in order to understand their motivations so that you can become more aware of what is really driving them to get involved.

Then all you need to do is simply give them a value proposition that will motivate them to join you in your cause. For example, if a potential volunteer is looking to expand their skill set, you can point out all of the training you charity provides, and all the unique skills they could learn from helping to run a nonprofit firsthand. Everything from sales to computer literacy is involved, and running any organization is the same as running a for-profit business with a few minor differences.

Another thing to keep in mind is the culture of your cause. Many people seek volunteer opportunities because they feel they are helping something larger, creating a positive change in the world. This can create a culture of promise, positivity and a feeling of personal importance and satisfaction, all things that any volunteer would most likely want to become a part of. So be open and make sure your volunteer gets to intimately know your charity’s culture as it can be a great closing point for those on the fence.

Once you really understand your potential volunteer's motivation, start writing down some value proposition ideas that you can use in your volunteer recruitment process. This is often called your elevator pitch. What you’d tell someone in an elevator about your company with seriously limited time that would get them interested enough to want to know more. This means it needs to be crystal clear and extremely concise! Really test your proposition by putting 60 seconds on a timer and telling someone your proposition. Then ask them, after what I said, would you want to know more about our nonprofit. If the answer is yes, then you’re ready to move to the next step.

Strategies for Effective Volunteer Recruitment

Today’s strategies for effective volunteer recruitment require a blend of digital savviness and grassroots community engagement to create a complete multi-faceted approach. With the assistance of digital and online strategies, the old style word of mouth strategies can be amplified to reach a global audience if necessary, appealing to a diverse pool of potential volunteers. Through leveraging the strengths of both digital platforms and community networks, nonprofits can continually push their messages in front of their prospects, creating an ongoing recruitment campaign that can continually bring in new volunteers on a regular basis.

Digital Recruitment Tactics for Recruiting Volunteers 

With all of the technology available to us today, it’s crazy not to use these indispensable tools to their maximum potential when it comes to volunteer recruitment. Social media, job boards, and email marketing have literally changed the way most nonprofits seek not just donors, but how volunteers seek volunteer opportunities as well.

Social media platforms, with their massive user bases and sophisticated targeting capabilities, offer all of us an extraordinary opportunity to reach potential volunteers unlike any other. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram allow nonprofits to share stories, volunteer opportunities, images and videos of your nonprofit that shed light on your mission and cause in a personal and relatable way. Behind-the-scenes and background glimpses of your nonprofit's daily activities and management and the impact it is having on your community can be very powerful motivators for individuals to give their time or even a donation.

This is due to the fact that it’s possible to build virtual communities around your nonprofit through engaging with users through comments, shares, and likes, and all the interactions they offer. The more people engage with your charity online, the more they feel as part of the group and over time they can feel comfortable enough to want to join in and become a part of your cause. This sort of interaction is great as perspective volunteers can get to know your organization at their own pace, and when they want to engage rather than old style interruption marketing tactics.

And with a few of the best online platforms like PayBee that can integrate with all your social media channels as well as offer a backend to support and run your entire organization for you, it’s never been easier to harness the power of the internet in such a way that most of these daily tasks can be completely automated giving you and your staff more time to work on solutions to your cause rather than the daily grind of tasks. Just check out our demo here to see how we can solve many of your daily inconveniences as well as our volunteer management software solution, it only take a minute.

But social media isn’t the only way to reach perspective volunteers or post volunteer opportunities! Believe it or not, old style job boards have also proven to be a fertile ground for volunteer recruitment as well. Specialized websites such as Idealist and VolunteerMatch are dedicated to connecting individuals with nonprofit organizations in need of volunteer support. All you need to do is post the exact needs you’re looking for and the location and there’s a good chance you’ll get a response. And while these sites may not have the breadth of social media, they should still be part of your overall volunteer recruitment plan.

Then there’s the often overlooked potential of email marketing. With all the excitement of social media and other opportunities, email marketing has taken a backseat yet it’s still a very powerful tool when it comes to your recruitment message. Remember, someone has given you their email, meaning they want to hear from you. This is a significant gift, so use it wisely! These prospects are asking you to convince them your charity is worth their time. They want to be persuaded. And the best part, since your list is targetted specifically on volunteering, you can create and entire email sequence that can answer every question they have all on autopilot!

Community Engagement and Word-of-Mouth for Nonprofits

While digital strategies can greatly enhance your charity’s reach, there is still nothing more potent than good old community engagement and word-of-mouth for both fundraising and volunteer recruitment. After all, it’s one thing to read a bunch of stuff or watch a ton of videos, it’s completely different when a peer says they are involved in your organization and they love every minute of it.

One of the best ways to demonstrate this is by getting involved in local events where it’s possible to showcase your work and interact with potential volunteers on a face-to-face basis. Whether it's a community fair, a local dance festival, or a charity run, participating in community events allows your organization to build real personal connections with the attendees in a way that can’t be replicated in the virtual world.

These intimate interactions are the perfect opportunity for sharing your organization's mission, the impact of your current volunteers, and the volunteering opportunities you currently have available. Speaking to people face-to-face often leads to a deeper understanding of your cause and its potential affect on the community as well as receiving a more impactful commitment from your potential volunteers.

This is because the power of word-of-mouth, expressed by current volunteers hopefully, cannot be underestimated. Satisfied and engaged volunteers are the best ambassadors for an organization bar none, as their genuine testimonials about their experiences can inspire friends, family, and acquaintances to consider volunteering as well as people they don’t know but are already interested in your cause. Encouraging your current volunteers to share their stories and invite others to join your volunteer recruitment can lead to a ripple effect, as each person touched can then inspire their personal circle of friends and family.

Community boards, both physical and online, are another way to widen the reach of your grassroots volunteer recruitment. By posting flyers and announcements in community centers, libraries, and on local online forums about your volunteer recruitment, you’re able to reach people passionate about community service and your specific cause but may not be active on social media or job boards. This can be really helpful for those looking for volunteer opportunities in their local community but don’t have a specific organization or cause in mind. This often happens with today’s youth as many students are now required to do some sort of community service to beef up college applications, or fulfilling actual school requirements.

All in all, using both digital and word of mouth tactics at the same time is often the best approach to reach the largest amount of people that may be interested in helping out your own charity. By combining old as well as new marketing tactics, you should never be left with a shortage of potential volunteers!

Creating Engaging Volunteer Listings and Communications

When it comes to getting people involved in your cause enough to be willing to donate their time and skills, they need to feel something for your organization and cause. A potential volunteer needs to be engaged and inspired in some way. And one of the first points of contact for many will be either your social media campaigns, or through the more traditional volunteer listings or community bulletins.

These initial interactions set the tone for the volunteer experience and can significantly influence an individual's decision to engage with your nonprofit. That means your communications need to do a lot more than just inform someone, they need to directly inspire, motivate, and connect with potential volunteers on a very personal level so they feel compelled to act and become involved.

Writing Compelling Volunteer Listings for your Organization 

As the adage goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression, so get serious about your communications and what they’re trying to achieve while at the same time always remembering the idea of “what is in it for me?” from the volunteer’s point of view. You need to communicate not just the positions your charity is trying to fill, but also the broader vision and impact the volunteer role will have on your cause and its importance.

This all begins with clearly communicating your organization's mission and the critical role your potential volunteer will play in achieving it. Your communications need to connect the responsibilities of the volunteer role to the larger impact on the community or your cause. For example, rather than simply listing the positions available, frame them within the context of the difference these actions make and their positive impact. If volunteers are needed to tutor children, highlight how their contribution will help improve a disadvantaged child’s educational outcomes and build them brighter futures.

You should also be highlighting the benefits of volunteering with your organization. While for some volunteers just the prospect of helping out is enough to get them on board. But for others, they are also looking for some sort of extrinsic benefits like skill development, networking opportunities, or being part of a supportive community. Clearly showing potential volunteers “what’s in it for them” is a great way to increase the likelihood of attracting individuals looking to grow personally and professionally and not just those looking to “do good’.

The last thing you’ll want to include in all your communications is the understanding of how their time and effort will contribute and support your organization's overall goals. People should see themselves involved in a bigger picture so they can envision the fruits of their labor. They can see how getting involved in your cause can truly help. Some of the best ways to convey these sorts of ideas are to include testimonials or stories from your current volunteers about their own experiences with your charity and the outcomes of their efforts. This not only humanizes the role but also provides tangible evidence of the value volunteers add to your mission.

Effective Communication Strategies and Management to Recruit Volunteers 

Once your engaging volunteer listing has captured the interest of potential volunteers, you’ll need to continue their engagement through effective communication strategies such as email, social media, and in-person interactions. Continual interactions with these individuals can significantly influence a potential volunteer's decision to commit to your organization.

With email communications you’re able to write directly to the individuals in a personal and provocative way that makes them feel noticed and valued. Always be sure to address them by name and reference any specific interests or skills they may have mentioned in any of your previous interactions. Don’t fluff out your emails, keep them short and concise. Explain clearly how they can get involved and how important their involvement as a true member is to your cause. Sending out regular updates about upcoming volunteer opportunities, events, and the impact of your current volunteers' work will keep them engaged and remind them of the value they bring to your cause.

This can also be expanded to social media channels as well. The best part of using social media is you can now do so much more like offer behind the scenes shorts or clips of the daily activities of your operation. Or share videos and images of recent work your charity is involved in and how each volunteer makes a difference. You can even include interactive content, such as live Q&A sessions, polls, and behind-the-scenes glimpses of volunteer activities to really get people involved. Encourage your followers to share their own experiences and reasons for volunteering, this helps leverage the power of social proof to attract even more new volunteers.

And while in-person communication may not have the same reach as virtual communication platforms offer, there is still nothing better than speaking directly to someone whether at events, info sessions, or through day-to-day interactions to spark passion and sincerity in ways that digital communication cannot. When you speak to people directly, they’ll feel your own passion for your cause, and that is highly contagious when it comes to infecting others with a desire to help. Just be sure to listen attentively to what your prospects are saying so you can offer a personalized approach to meet their needs and expectations.

Onboarding and Training Volunteers for Success

Once your recruitment process pays off and you finally get a volunteer to commit to helping your organization, the next step is onboarding and training them so they can become effective tools for your organization. This usually starts with a welcome process, or onboarding. This is when you’ll welcome the new recruit to your organization and offer them the information they’ll need to clearly understand their own particular role in your organization.

It’s best to sit down with any new volunteer and speak to them directly. This gives them a feeling of being included and valued right from the start. At the initial meeting be sure to offer some sort of welcome package that identifies what your organization is all about, as well as what’s expected for anyone connected to it. Be sure to introduce them to all your staff and other volunteers so they feel at ease and know who else is involved and who to go to when they need a guide or advice on something. All of this can make a significant difference in how new volunteers perceive their entry into the organization and how dedicated they’ll be moving forward.

Following the initial welcome, the next step should involve a comprehensive orientation session that covers the history of your nonprofit, its bylaws, its mission, values, and the impact of the work its done. Furthermore, detailing the structure of the organization, introducing key team members, and explaining how volunteers fit into the overall mission and what support is available to them helps volunteers see the big picture and understand the importance of their role.

And finally, the onboarding process should include a feedback mechanism that allows new volunteers to share their own thoughts and impressions and a chance for them to ask any pertinent questions regarding everything you’ve covered thus far.

Once the onboarding process has finished, the task of training your new volunteer begins. Of course how you will do this training and what a training program will look like has a lot to do with their new role in your organization. What’s important is to be sure they receive enough volunteer program training that they’ll have the skills required for completing their tasks successfully.

For example, volunteers working directly with a donor or the community may require training in communication skills, cultural sensitivity, and confidentiality. Meanwhile, those involved in administrative roles might need training in database management or specific software applications.

Incorporating a variety of training methods can often make it easier for people to digest the information they’re given and allow them opportunities to learn in ways in which they best grasp the information given to them. Interactive workshops, online modules, shadowing experiences, and hands-on practice sessions can all be valuable when coming up with a comprehensive training program.

Ongoing training and development opportunities are also important, especially as your organization grows and becomes more complex. They not only keep volunteers engaged and up-to-date with new practices and policies, but also show the organization's seriousness about its investment in their growth and success. This again helps to make volunteers feel important and a part of something special, thus keeping them committed to your mission and cause over time.

Retaining Your Organization's Volunteers Through Engagement, Recognition and Support

Volunteers are essentially the heartbeat of many nonprofit organizations, offering their time, skills, and passion to drive forward missions they believe in. But keeping volunteers, especially over the long term can often be very difficult and lead to dwindling resources over time if you’re not careful.

One of the best ways to keep your volunteers happy and excited about your mission at all times is to create a sense of community and belonging. When things are personal, and you have real relationships with everyone you’re working with, it’s far more difficult to leave. Especially if the organization also actively recognizes your contributions and let’s you know your importance to its overall effectiveness within the community.

One way this all can be accomplished is to hold regular meetings and social events for everyone involved with your nonprofit. These gatherings provide volunteers with the opportunity to connect, share experiences, and support and guide each other. Whether it’s a monthly meeting, a yearly retreat, or casual socials, thee events strengthen bonds among volunteers, making them feel part of a cohesive team and not just another name in the system.

Open communication is another helpful tool to help volunteers feel inclusive. Often they have a lot to say, and some of their comments can be quite valuable as they are the real boots on the ground. And giving them channels of direct communication can allow them to feel as though they aren’t just part of the team, but they even have a voice and possibly even a sense of ownership. Whether through regular surveys, suggestion boxes, or open forums, encouraging dialogue shows that the organization values their input and is committed to improving their experience.

Another crucial element to pay attention to is to encourage open communication. Creating channels where volunteers can voice their ideas, feedback, and concerns fosters a sense of ownership and inclusion. Whether through regular surveys, suggestion boxes, or open forums, encouraging dialogue shows that the organization values their input and is committed to improving their experience.

And while building a community is crucial, equally important is recognizing and rewarding volunteers for their continuing contributions. Everyone needs a pat on the back sometimes, and in doing so it motivates them and others in your network to continue their involvement.

The best way of recognizing and rewarding volunteers is by creating personalized appreciations for each person specifically. Taking the time to understand what motivates individual volunteers and tailoring recognition accordingly can have a profound impact on volunteer management. This could be as simple as a handwritten thank you note expressing how their specific contributions have made a difference.

Public recognition is another powerful tool. Featuring volunteers in newsletters, on social media, or during public events shines a spotlight on their hard work and dedication in front of all their friends, family and peers making them feel important and a necessary part of your nonprofit.

You could even have awards and special recognition events like annual volunteer awards ceremonies, where volunteers are recognized for their dedication, innovation, or impact. Sometimes these types of events are the highlight of the volunteer experience. These events not only serve as a formal thank you but also as a celebration of the collective achievements of the volunteer community.


What digital platforms are most effective for volunteer recruitment?

Specialized websites such as Idealist and VolunteerMatch are most effective in order to recruit volunteers as they were specifically created with the nonprofit organization sector in mind. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are also important due to their reach and the amount of people that use them. It’s best to use as many platforms as possible to understand which ones give you the best return on your time investment.

How do I leverage social media to attract more volunteers?

One of the best ways is to share the personal stories of other volunteers and show how they make a real impact on both your cause and on your charity as a whole. Then as organizations recruit volunteers, you can continually update and show off your new supporters even when fundraising.

How can I create a training program that both educates and engages volunteers?

Start by incorporating interactive elements such as role-playing, simulations, and group discussions that allow for hands-on learning and real-world application. Blend in digital tools, like e-learning modules or video tutorials, for flexible, self-paced learning options. Ensure content relevance by aligning training with your nonprofit's mission and the specific roles of volunteers, highlighting the impact of their contribution. Finally, invite experienced volunteers to share their stories and insights and offer support, fostering a sense of community and connection to the cause.

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Bill Allen

Bill Allen is an expat that has been travelling the world for the past 25 years. He received his MA in writing in New York too long ago to remember, but has been writing on all sorts of subjects far varied publications ever since. When he isn't writing he enjoys meditating and working on his own website, UpscaleDrinks.com. Feel free to connect with him any time.

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