Finding and Retaining Top-Notch Volunteers

What organization couldn’t use more dedicated volunteers? Whether you need to increase your numbers, diversify your membership or find someone to fulfill a specific need, we have some tips for recruiting and keeping fantastic, dedicated volunteers.

Have an “elevator pitch” for your organization ready to go at all times.

You should be able to quickly summarize the mission of your nonprofit in a few short sentences to any interested party, since you never know when you might have an opportunity to recruit new volunteers or members.

Take stock of your weaknesses.

Many organizations find that they have an abundance of retiree volunteers, but a lack of younger people or volunteers with specific skills. Create a list of your greatest labor and knowledge needs and estimate how many hours would be required weekly, monthly or annually for the right person to adequately complete these functions. Later on you will need to brainstorm how best to reach and recruit the right people for these roles.

Write out detailed job descriptions.

You will recruit better volunteers that stick with you longer if you are clear about their duties and expected time commitments. Volunteers are giving freely of their time, they are not employees. Don’t expect them to stay around if they find the expectations change drastically after they have started working. If they will have to deal with challenging people or situations, be transparent about that. Create titles commensurate with the responsibility given. Some people use volunteer positions to pad their resume and would enjoy being able to add something that sounds impressive like “Donations Coordinator” or “Technology Manager.”

Ensure that you have a formal process for onboarding volunteers.

First of all, you want to retain these folks, so have them fill out some paperwork so you can reach them in future as the need arises. Public-facing roles may also need to be background-checked. And there may be occasions when you need to reject an applicant if they are abrasive or don’t get along with others. Having a formal process that proceeds like a paid job interview will also help weed out unserious and unreliable candidates.

Determine who might be a good fit for the roles you are seeking.

One position might be a great fit for a stay-at-home parent or a retiree, another might be perfect for a high school or college student looking to gain some real-world experience. You will likely use different media and outreach types to recruit different types of volunteers.

Consider having a volunteer video made.

Videos get much higher engagement on social media than plain text posts. If you can have a quick video put together that shows volunteers at work and also highlights the impact that they have in the community, that can be a great selling tool. Be sure to ask your network to share it widely.

Pro tip: On Facebook, upload the video directly to your Facebook page rather than just sharing a YouTube link. It will attract much more attention that way.

Encourage your current volunteers to recruit friends.

Your current volunteers can be one of the best sources for recruitment. They will likely have family and friends with similar values to themselves who might be attracted to your mission as well.

Host a big one-time volunteering event.

This will allow interested persons to “try out” your nonprofit on a risk-free basis. An example might be hosting a one-day clothing drive and recruiting extra people to come in and help sort the clothes for an hour or two. Have them all sign in and leave their contact info. Follow up with a thank you email and invite them to join your volunteer team.


You and your volunteers may have already hit up your family and close friends to join the organization, but it’s helpful to expand out and consider other avenues. Some options you may not have considered for advertising your volunteer openings:

  • Professional associations related to your field;
  • Churches – Requests for volunteers can be shared via flyers, the church bulletin and social media;
  • Alumni associations;
  • Recreation centers;
  • Bulletin boards at local grocery stores and coffee shops;
  • Local news – Stations are often seeking to profile people and organizations doing charitable work;
  • High schools, colleges and universities;
  • Businesses – Many businesses host a day of volunteering for staff. You can create special projects for businesses to come in for a day and work with you;
  • Volunteer Match;
  • Related nonprofits – Offer to help them promote one of their events in exchange for doing the same for your organization;
  • Clubs and amateur sports leagues;
  • …and more. Get creative!

Once you’ve got those volunteers interested and signed up, you need to keep them. Check out the following articles for more advice on managing your volunteers and avoiding volunteer burnout.

Need some assistance with volunteer management and recruitment? Contact us at J&M Business Solutions for a variety of different types of support that we can provide your organization to help you grow.