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  • Writer's pictureNonprofit Learning Lab

Volunteer Recruitment & Building a Leadership Pipeline


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Think about the first time you volunteered. Do you remember how old you were at the time? Do you recall the organization where you volunteered? Or even the tasks you did at your first volunteer experience? When volunteers give of their time at your organization, how do you create meaningful experiences for them? Volunteer recruitment isn't just filling slots; it's about cultivating a vibrant community for your nonprofit. Recruitment is an opportunity to nurture potential leaders and offer opportunities for growth and community. 


Why Volunteers Give Their Time

Volunteers give their time to nonprofits to build community, give back, learn new skills, make friends, serve others and foster connection to the place where they live. As you recruit volunteers, do you know a volunteer’s why? Do you ask volunteers this question on their registration form, intake process or during the volunteer training? 


Understanding why volunteers give their time helps to place volunteers in roles that will support volunteer retention. Connecting a volunteer’s why to a volunteer position provides volunteers with a more meaningful experience. 


Creating Volunteer Involvement

As volunteers get more involved in an organization, it is important to explore how to build a sense of leadership inspiring volunteers to get more involved in the organization. Interactions with volunteers such as recruitment, appreciation events, the task they do, training and programs provides continued experiences for volunteers. As volunteers get more active, it is important to assess and reflect on the volunteer’s leadership trajectory. 



Below are some strategies on how to build volunteer involvement: 


Personalized Outreach: Are you trying to grow your volunteer base? Spend the time to reach out individually to volunteers to understand the volunteers interests, skills, and availability, and match them with relevant opportunities. In the growth phase, personal relationships are key to building out a volunteer base. Nonprofits are competing with many priorities in a volunteer's life. Spend the time to get to know volunteers so that they are more willing to support your organization.  


Training and Skill Development: Offer training and professional development opportunities for volunteers so they can enhance their skills and support the work of the organization.


Volunteer Appreciation: Recognize volunteers for their contributions through thank-you notes, awards, or events to create a sense of belonging  and appreciation.


Flexible Opportunities: Provide a variety of volunteer roles with flexible time commitments to accommodate different schedules and preferences. This will allow volunteers to slowly build a commitment to longer shifts as they get to know the organization. 


Leadership Opportunities: Offer opportunities for volunteers to take on leadership roles, such as leading projects, mentoring new volunteers, or joining volunteer committees.

As volunteer commitment builds, it is critical to think about a volunteer leadership pipeline. 


Building a Leadership Pipeline 

What is your organization’s volunteer leadership pipeline? Is it clear to a prospective or active volunteer how they can continue to engage with your organization? Are there opportunities beyond one time volunteer shifts? Exploring ways to build a volunteer leadership pipeline can support retention of volunteers. How does each step in the pipeline support volunteer retention, engagement, building community and leadership development?


volunteer leadership pipeline flow chart

This is just a sample. Some organizations may have 12-15 phases. Some volunteers may stop at phase 2 , phase 5 or phase 6.


A volunteer leadership pipeline can support retention for nonprofits by fostering engagement, empowerment, skill development, recognition, succession planning, accountability, and community-building. By investing in volunteer' leadership development, nonprofits can cultivate a dedicated volunteer base that remains committed to advancing the organization's mission over the long term.


A leadership pipeline helps ensure continuity and stability within the organization by identifying and developing future leaders. By proactively identifying volunteers for leadership roles, nonprofits can mitigate the risks associated with turnover and succession gaps. Volunteers who see a clear path for advancement within the organization are more likely to stay committed for the long term. Take some time to reflect on what a volunteer leadership pipeline looks like for your organization. 



Interested in more resources or strategies related to volunteer management?

The content in this workshop is applicable to one time volunteers, recurring volunteers, leadership committees, chapter based organizations, affinity groups, alumni groups and more.


Use our code friend10 for $10 off or become a member for discounted and free access!


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