It’s no secret that a strong community of dedicated volunteers is game changing for any nonprofit, but actually finding effective ways of recruiting and retaining a volunteer force can be a huge challenge. 

When you look at some nonprofits, it might seem like they’ve got some sort of secret formula or magical spell that helps them discover and retain qualified and loyal volunteers. Meanwhile, your organization, and countless others, are struggling to source new volunteers, especially those that are in it for the long haul.

If you relate to the scenario above, you’re not alone and there are solutions. While recruiting great volunteers might not seem easy, there are strategies you can use to make the recruitment process more effective and efficient.

Here are five volunteer recruitment tips and best practices that will help you source committed volunteers that will keep coming back to strengthen your program:

1. Create a strong Online presence

There are many websites that aim to connect volunteers with nonprofit organizations that align with their interests. These websites have sections where interested nonprofits can claim their organization and list volunteer opportunities for prospective volunteers.

One distinct advantage of using these websites is that the volunteers your organization will be matched with will be people who are actively looking for an opportunity to get involved in your organization’s mission whether that’s affordable housing, animal welfare, food and shelter security, education, mentorship and beyond. 

Before you spend a dime on other volunteer recruitment strategies, set up a profile on the following websites:

You might be surprised by how many qualified volunteers you receive.

2. Value your current volunteers

Volunteers are truly the backbone of nonprofit organizations, and they should be treated as such. 

They spend hours braving tough weather conditions to gather signatures for petitions or solicit donations on your behalf. They are the friendly faces that greet guests at your fundraising events. They play fetch with the dogs at your shelter. They file paperwork and keep your offices organized. They go around town hanging flyers to raise awareness for your cause. 

Without volunteers, running your organization and furthering its mission would be a lot more costly and time consuming.Unfortunately as a result of limited resources volunteers are not only forced to be unsung heroes, they might be treated as an afterthought or even a burden.

When volunteers are given impossible workloads, little to no recognition, and no opportunities to feel like they are truly integrated as a part of your organization, they cannot and will not feel valued. Volunteers feeling valued impacts volunteer retention and recruitment , the growth of your volunteer program, and ultimately the longevity of your organization. All of those impacts are tied to one another. 

If you’re already struggling to find good volunteers, pushing them away with poor volunteer management practices will only exacerbate your problem. Not only will this leave you with a shortage of volunteers, but it will also prevent you from finding new volunteers that can have a transformative impact on your organization.

People are far more likely to volunteer with an organization if someone they know is involved. If you alienate your volunteers with unfair expectations or poor communication, they will spread the word, which will inhibit your volunteer search.

On the contrary, if your volunteers feel valued, and they enjoy working with your organization, they will be able to help you recruit new volunteers by talking to friends and family members, giving you referrals, and enthusiastically sending out recruitment letters or emails.

3. Consider former volunteers

You may have had some rockstar volunteers in the past that are no longer volunteering with your organization.

If you utilize some form of exit survey, you may see that some of the reasons why these former volunteers left your organization are no longer issues anymore.

For instance, if a volunteer stopped helping out with your organization due to COVID-19 concerns in 2020, they might feel more comfortable helping now that vaccinations are available. You could reach out to this volunteer, explain your current COVID-19 protocol, and see if they are interested in helping out again.

Your former volunteers were at one point engaged and invested in your nonprofit. By reaching out to these volunteers, you might find that some are ready and willing to volunteer with your organization again.

4. Engage with your local community

Your local community can be a great place to source new volunteers. Sometimes nonprofit organizations are so busy thinking about how they can help serve their communities, they overlook the fact that their communities can help support them as well.

Check with local businesses to see if there are any that are actively looking for ways to give back to the community. Some businesses offer volunteer time off or other incentives to encourage their employees to get involved with nonprofit organizations. Some businesses have volunteer coordinators with access to a wide network of volunteers who can help your organization if you reach out and ask for support. Businesses can also promote your organization to their employees or connect you with corporate volunteering groups, expanding your reach and increasing the likelihood that you will recruit more volunteers.

Local schools can also help you find volunteers. Many schools have volunteer requirements for graduation or for membership in programs like the National Honor Society. These schools often have systems in place to help connect student volunteers with local nonprofits, so if you reach out to these schools, you can get your organization on the list for volunteers. Students are often curious and passionate about learning new skills and about causes they care deeply about. Engaging students is a great way to grow awareness about your cause amongst young people and build a long term retention funnel for volunteers who got involved with your organization early on in their lives. 

5. Create a volunteer page for your website

Many nonprofit organizations dedicate their websites to spreading awareness about their cause and encouraging more people and organizations to become donors.

While this is certainly important, dedicating and optimizing volunteer pages on your website for both resources and a recruitment funnel can be extremely impactful. 

A volunteer page that lists your nonprofit’s mission and vision as well as the work it is doing for the community will get prospective volunteers fired up and eager to be a part of the great work you are already doing. Including photos and volunteer case studies (specific, personal stories detailing volunteer impact) helps prospective volunteers gain a deeper understanding of what their role in the organization could look like now and in the future. 

Furthermore, when people who may not have originally had an interest in volunteering visit your website out of interest for your cause, they may decide to start volunteering if they have compelling examples, media, and available opportunities that demonstrate how they can get involved in contributing to your cause.

Your volunteer page should include all or some the following:

  • Photos and videos of volunteers actively participating in volunteer work
  • A volunteer spotlight highlighting a volunteer of the week or volunteer of the month
  • Contact information for your volunteer coordinator
  • A list of your available volunteer opportunities with detailed descriptions about the activity as well as the time commitment required
  • A sign up form for a volunteer newsletter
  • Best practices, expectations, and training materials for volunteers
  • Information about getting set up with your volunteer management software

With these five tips in mind, look forward to a boosted volunteer recruitment strategy for your nonprofit. Read more articles for best practices and pro-tips on recruiting and managing volunteers at on our resources page -