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Volunteer Recruitment – One Person Can Make a Difference

By September 5, 2018No Comments
A lot of my presentations focus on recruiting large numbers of volunteers for a big event. This is popular and important information, but I want to stop and recognize that many of you also utilize individual volunteers.These individuals often form strong relationships with your staff and the community. This includes your board members and interns who can be considered volunteers as they are giving their time without financial compensation. Whatever the role, individual volunteers are an important part of your organization.

It’s OK to Say NO:

It’s easy to advertise and bring in a large number of random people for a cleanup, but choosing the right fit for an individual can be a complicated thing. First of all, let’s dispel the myth that a volunteer must be taken in because they are giving you their time for free. Nothing is truly free and you do not want someone who does not fit your organization. This can create conflict and stress for both parties. Not everyone is a good fit and it’s okay to say, “No, thank you.”


Looking for a new board member? Need a part-time receptionist for the office? Searching for the local gardener to manage your butterfly waystation? How do you find the perfect fit? Let’s start with some advertising tips.

If you are looking for tons of random people to attend an event, you might canvas the town with various ads. If you are looking for a special volunteer to fit a certain niche you should be pickier. If you know what you are looking for, then target that audience.

Looking for a gardener or plant lover? Reach out to your local garden clubs, check local colleges with relevant study areas and place flyers at the nurseries in town. Looking for a receptionist/office help? Try an affordable ad in the local paper, place flyers in churches, libraries and community centers or even place a listing on your website and social media. Whoever you are out to attract, try to think of where they might be looking and make sure your ad is there.

If you are looking for a volunteer with special skills, you need to approach it like a paid job posting. Make sure you clearly state what that volunteer is expected to do, when and what skills they need to successfully do the job. The more specific you are the more relevant your applicant pool.


You should have a detailed application to help you in the screening process. Along with contact information, your application should ask relevant questions related to the job itself. What skills and experience do they possess? Allowing them to include a resume can be very helpful. What is their availability? Are they even able to work the dates and times you need them? Are they willing to commit to your organization long term? Do they need any special accommodations? Treat this experience as if you are hiring a paid employee. 

Job Description:

Along with your application, a clear job description will help you focus applicants and weed out those that would not be a good fit. It also allows you to decline volunteers that don’t match and gives you a credible explanation for anyone that might protest. Again, you do not have to accept them just because they are volunteering their time.It is okay to say no to someone who is not a good fit. For example, if the job description states that they must be able to lift up to 50 lbs and work outside 50% of the time, you can kindly explain to someone with back problems or heat issues that they would not be a good fit for the job. On a more positive note, it will allow you to help the right volunteer understand exactly what is expected of them and have their total buy in.


Always interview your applicants.You might start off with casual phone conversations. If you get a good feel for the person you might invite them to tour the organization and meet staff. It is completely acceptable and not unusual to interview volunteers.You should expect them to perform as any other interview by dressing appropriately, being on time and even bringing along a resume.

Make sure you include all staff that might be working with the volunteer.You might even have them return for a second interview if additional staff needs to be involved or you are trying to decide between two strong candidates.This is particularly important for interns.


When you find the perfect candidate, you should present it as a job offer. Make sure you go over the expectations of the position and even sign a document stating that both parties understand and agree. Have a handbook or orientation session with them to get them started and introduce them to your organization and team.

Use your orientation time to go over organization mission/vision, review expectations, provide guidance on scheduling, who to contact if sick or unable to attend, work space and tools. Give them a tour of the facilities and show them where to find what they need. Prepare them for success and enjoy your relief at having someone great to help you out! 


These volunteers are special to you and you should treat them as such. Provide them with a t-shirt or “uniform” and name tag. Allow them to attend meetings, pot lucks and other office activities. Make sure they feel like a valuable part of the family and not just the volunteer who shows up on Tuesdays. This will keep them happy and invested in your organization. This will make them an advocate and keep them with you for a long time.

Check out our Volunteer Board on Pinterest for more volunteer management tips, like fun and unique ideas on how to recognize your volunteers! 

​Blog post written by Karen Maldonado, Programs Coordinator.