Volunteer Recruitment Guide: 5 Strategies to Attract & Retain Support

Group of volunteers taking donations

Volunteers are an integral component of many organizations, especially nonprofits that strive to foster positive change with limited resources.

Research shows that 23% of Americans — more than 60.7 million people – formally volunteered with organizations between September 2020 and 2021. Those volunteers collectively served about 4.1 billion hours, valued at $122.9 billion.

When it comes to building an impactful team, volunteer recruitment efforts are just the beginning. You’ll need to ensure that the right people are joining your effort, incentivise them to stay on board, and support their personal and professional growth.

In the blog post, we’ll explore important aspects of volunteer recruitment and proven strategies to keep those volunteers committed.

The Importance of Volunteer Recruitment [Volunteer Value]

Investing in meaningful volunteer recruitment efforts is incredibly worthwhile, allowing you to add human capital — diverse skills, perspectives, and resources — to sustain and grow the mission of your nonprofit organization.

The right approach will ensure a well-rounded and dedicated team that:

There are certain strategies, however, that can help you recruit the right people for your organization.

How to Recruit Volunteers for Nonprofit Efforts [Volunteer Recruitment]

Recruiting volunteers for nonprofits requires a thoughtful approach. These five strategies can help ensure an impactful and dedicated volunteer base, saving you from repeated efforts that come with turnover.

1. Ask questions of your organization’s leaders that will help you fully understand goals and needs, such as:

2. Highlight your organization’s needs in a clear and concise way to ensure that volunteers are aligned with your objectives from the get-go. Utilize the following:

Remember, volunteers give their time and resources for no financial compensation. A desire to make a difference or have a positive impact is the top priority for many people.

3. Create engaging opportunities by writing out descriptions that clearly define the role of a volunteer. This should include the skills that are required, but also unique aspects of the experience, such as:

4. Build your social network with creative and authentic content that will attract your ideal volunteer. About 47% of volunteers who participated in a recent national survey said they found opportunities through volunteer websites, cell phone applications, or on social media. The more people you connect with, the greater your reach for prospective volunteers.

5. Advance your education in order to stay up-to-date on strategies and best practices that will guide the future of your organization. In order to balance existing responsibilities with meaningful education, USD offers relevant online courses in Attracting and Retaining Volunteers and Marketing for Nonprofit Essentials. Both programs are designed to empower nonprofit professionals or industry hopefuls to enhance their skills, adapt to the changing nonprofit landscape, and plan for a meaningful future.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some common challenges in volunteer recruitment?

Finding the right volunteers — with appropriate skills and commitment — is one of the biggest challenges that nonprofits face. Doing so with limited time and resources is another hurdle to overcome. Once volunteers are acclimated to the role, the issue becomes retention.

When should I recruit volunteers?

Take into account your resources and any tasks at hand. If there is a special event or especially large undertaking forecasted, it could be beneficial to have volunteers to ensure it runs smoothly. Be sure to allow enough time to recruit and train anyone new.

What are the most effective types of volunteer recruitment efforts?

There are many useful strategies to recruit volunteers, but some of the most effective are to ask questions in an effort to clearly understand your organization’s needs; highlight and define those needs so they are clear to prospective volunteers; build your social network; and advance your education to stay up-to-date on industry trends.

How often should I revisit my volunteer recruitment strategy?

This will vary depending on your organization’s unique situation. More volunteers will be useful when your organization grows, goals change, and maybe even when you’re in need of fresh ideas and perspectives. Another approach is to set a regular review, either monthly, quarterly, or annually to assess needs.

What are the best social media networks to recruit volunteers?

Social media platforms draw countless users, but some are more effective than others depending on the audience you’re trying to reach. Today, 72% of Americans use some type of social media. YouTube and Facebook are the most-widely used online platforms, while smaller shares of Americans use sites such as X, Pinterest, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Age demographics vary for each. For example, younger adults tend to gravitate toward Instagram while older generations are more active on Facebook.


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