20 Ideas to Recruit and Retain Nonprofit Volunteers
Updated: Aug 29
Volunteers are essential for nonprofit organizations to implement their programs and services. Nonprofits depend on volunteers to carry out their mission. It is crucial for nonprofits to prioritize recruiting volunteers as an ongoing task. Finding volunteers can be difficult, so it's important to be open to new approaches, plan ahead, and gather fresh ideas. Here are over 20 suggestions to help you think more strategically about recruiting volunteers.
1. Attend a community fair: Recruit potential volunteers at relevant community events aligned with your nonprofit's mission. Often there are community fairs related to family resources, the environment, arts, housing and education. If your mission aligns with thair, find out if you can have a booth to recruit potential volunteers. Have a sign up sheet, flyers, candy, volunteers who can share their experience and branded items such as stickers, bookmarks or magnets so that people remember your organization.
2. Tap into your local university or college: College students seek out volunteer opportunities to enhance their job market readiness. Reach out to the volunteer or community engagement department at your local university or community college. Volunteer centers on campus often list volunteer opportunities so students can prepare for the job market.
3. Organize Twice a Year or Quarterly Volunteer Info Sessions: Organize a volunteer info session to showcase how to volunteer with your nonprofit and potential ways to get engaged. Coordinate an information session prior to a volunteer event so that if people are interested they can also participate. Ask volunteers to help promote the info session to their networks, share details with folks that have indicated an interest in volunteering and promote this via your email list, social media and website.
4. Social Media Ambassadors: Use your current volunteers to recruit prospective volunteers through the social media channels where they are whether it is TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat. Create social posts that your volunteers can share, provide them with images, links and text to highlight upcoming volunteer opportunities.
5. Flexible Volunteer Options: Offer flexible volunteering options to accommodate various schedules and commitments. When creating flexibility in volunteer shifts, think about the day of the week, start time and length of the volunteer shifts or even micro-volunteering options. Examples of micro-volunteering options may include: securing supplies, delivering supplies, help with setting up events or other volunteer opportunities that may not require a long intake process.
6. Dedicated Volunteer Page On Your Website: Create a dedicated volunteer page on your organization's website with detailed information about available positions. On the dedicated page include upcoming volunteer opportunities, volunteer testimonials, photos of current and past volunteers and showcase the impact your volunteers have made at your nonprofit.
7. Bring a Friend Day or Month: Pick a day or month to encourage your volunteers to bring a friend or colleague to come volunteer. The process of Informing your volunteers about the need for additional volunteers often helps with recruitment effort because your more dedicated volunteers are aware of the need.
8. VolunteerMatch and Idealist: Using online volunteer platforms such as Idealist.org or VolunteerMatch to connect with potential volunteers can be a helpful way to find new prospective volunteers. Often folks are looking on these well known volunteer recruitment websites for local volunteer opportunities. VolunteerMatch has a free and paid option to recruit volunteers. In a pinch for volunteers and have an event coming up? Pay for a month of promoted services on VolunteerMatch.
9. Skills Building Opportunities: People seek out volunteer opportunities to build new skills that can be transferable to their personal or professional life. Brainstorm a list of skills that volunteers may develop through recurring shifts, leadership opportunities or by serving on committees. Use this list of skills in your recruitment materials.
10. High School Collaborations: High school students are often looking for volunteer opportunities in preparation for graduation. Some high schools have a requirement of volunteer hours to graduate. Connect with your local high school to see if there is a way to promote your volunteer opportunities if you allow high school students to serve as volunteers.
11. Virtual Volunteer Opportunities: Offer virtual volunteer opportunities to find prospective volunteers who may be interested in supporting your organization but don’t have a flexible schedule. Some individuals also prefer virtual options because it is more accessible. What opportunities might you be able to offer when it comes to virtual volunteer opportunities? Some virtual volunteer opportunities may include: committee work, editing, social media support, recruitment, marketing, event planning, helping to plan volunteer events, etc. You could even brainstorm a list of virtual volunteer opportunities with your staff or other volunteers.
12. Chamber of Commerce and Rotary: Members of the Chamber of Commerce and Rotary often seek out organizations to support and volunteer opportunities for their members. Some tips to build a relationship with a Rotary Chapter or Chamber of Commerce include attending a meeting and giving a presentation about volunteer opportunities. This process often starts by doing an initial outreach to a Rotary Chapter or Chamber. So, put it on your calendar and start networking. It may take a few months to get some members but often these types of organizational relationships can lead to stronger partnerships in the future.
13. Share success stories and testimonials: Gather your current and past volunteer and ask for testimonials from them about their volunteer experience. Collect testimonials that demonstrate the relationships volunteers have built, skills they have learned and how they benefited from the volunteer experience. SHare these testimonials on yoru website, social media and in your recruitment materials. Volunteer testimonials can be gathered over the phone or via email. It helps to guide volunteers with some examples so that they know what to provide and give the questions in advance so volunteers can prepare. Your current volunteers can inspire others to get involved.
14. Promotional One Sheet: Create an eye-catching flyer to post in coffee shops, community centers, libraries, and local businesses. Include the following on the flyers: phrases such as “volunteer opportunity” or “get involved”, your organizations name, logo and a few details (1-2 sentences) about volunteer opportunity including phrases such as serve as a volunteer tutor and support elementary school students, serve as a volunteer coach and build the skills of athletes, etc. The description doesn’t need to be too long. INclude a photo and your contact information.
15. Volunteer Recognition Event: Organize a volunteer recognition event or awards ceremony to show appreciation for current volunteers. Allow your volunteer to bring a friend. Naturally if your volunteers know they are going to be recognized for their efforts they will want to invite a friend or family member. Volunteer recognition events can be a great method to spread the message about the work your organization does. It is a good idea to honor several volunteers so that you are generating buzz and creating a more lively event.
16. Faith Based Organizations: Collaborate with local faith-based organizations to promote volunteer opportunities to their members. Generate a list of synagogues, churches and mosques that are in your local community and connect with their staff members to see if there is interest to volunteer.
17. A mentorship program: Develop a mentorship program where experienced volunteers can guide and support new volunteers. A volunteer mentorship programs serves the purpose of relationship building. Volunteers often give of their time to build relationships and be part of the community. A mentorship program can help volunteers build relationships with one another and reduce the training and orientation load on staff members. Your mentorship program could be a combination of shadowing, phone calls, once a month meetings and/or support as needed.
18. Volunteer Recruitment Plan: A volunteer recruitment plan can help you with strategically thinking about all the different ways you want to recruit volunteers. A plan helps your brainstorm ideas, talk with colleagues and other volunteers and then determine the best strategies that align with your organization for recruitment. A plan also helps you stay focused when we can easily be distracted or at capacity. Here is a template for the following: Volunteer Appreciation & Retention Action Plan and a Volunteer Recruitment Action Plan. Get started today!
19. Collaborate with Youth Organizations: If you are able to recruit volunteers in middle school and high school this is a great way to build your volunteer base. Often, when middle or high school students volunteer you build relationships with their family and the organizations that they are part of in their community. Connect with the following youth organizations to recruit volunteers including Girl Scouts, 4-H, Boy Scouts and clubs at local high schools.
20. Volunteer Position Descriptions: A volunteer position description helps potential volunteers understand their role, tasks and volunteer impact. A well written volunteer position allows a prospective volunteer to imagine themselves in the role. Be descriptive when writing a position description including relevant information for the volunteer. If the role requires greater commitment in terms of time then the position description can be 1-2 pages. Some items to include in a volunteer position descriptions include: key responsibilities, impact, training (if required), time commitment, skills and qualifications required.
Are you looking for additional volunteer recruitment strategies? Check out our upcoming trainings on volunteer management including: