How to Recruit Volunteers for a Nonprofit

Volunteers are the backbone of many nonprofit organizations, providing vital support and expertise to help organizations achieve their missions. However, recruiting and retaining volunteers can be a challenge, especially for smaller or newer nonprofits. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore proven strategies for attracting, engaging, and retaining volunteers to help your nonprofit thrive.

Understanding Volunteer Recruitment

Before we dive into specific recruitment strategies, let’s take a moment to understand what motivates people to volunteer. Research has shown that people volunteer for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Desire to make a difference in their community or the world
  • Passion for a particular cause or issue
  • Opportunity to gain new skills or experience
  • Chance to meet new people and build social connections
  • Desire to explore career options or gain work experience
  • Fulfillment of school or work requirements (e.g., service learning or corporate volunteering)

Understanding these motivations can help you create volunteer opportunities that appeal to a wide range of individuals and showcase the benefits of volunteering with your organization.

How to Recruit Nonprofit Volunteers 

Before you start recruiting volunteers, it’s important to have a clear strategy in place. Here are the key steps to developing an effective volunteer recruitment strategy:

Step 1: Define Your Volunteer Needs

Before starting the recruitment process, nonprofits should thoroughly assess their current volunteer needs. This involves evaluating existing volunteer roles, identifying skill gaps, and determining the specific requirements for new volunteer positions. To do so, consider the following: 

  • Evaluate current volunteer roles and identify skill gaps
  • Determine specific requirements for new volunteer positions
  • Engage staff, board members, and current volunteers in assessing needs
  • Analyze data from previous events and programs to identify where more support is required

Step 2: Develop Clear Volunteer Roles 

Once the volunteer needs are identified, nonprofits should create clear and specific job descriptions for each volunteer position. These descriptions should outline the primary responsibilities, required skills, time commitment, and any additional qualifications needed.

When describing volunteer opportunities, use language that is inclusive and welcoming to a diverse range of individuals. Avoid jargon or technical terms that may be unfamiliar to potential volunteers, and focus on the benefits of volunteering, such as gaining new skills, making a difference, and building social connections.

Step 3: Establish a Strong Online Presence 

Having a strong online presence is crucial for effective volunteer recruitment. Nonprofits should develop a user-friendly volunteer recruitment platform on their website and actively utilize social media channels to promote volunteer opportunities and engage with potential volunteers.

  • Make volunteer opportunities easy to find on your organization’s website 
  • Utilize social media channels to promote volunteer opportunities and engage with potential volunteers
  • Share through email newsletters 

Step 4: Create a Simple and Accessible Application Form

Your volunteer application form should be easy to find and complete, with clear instructions and a user-friendly design. Consider using an online form builder, such as Google Forms or Typeform, to create a mobile-friendly and accessible volunteer application template.

Be sure to ask for only the information you need to assess a volunteer’s fit for your organization, such as their contact information, availability, skills and experience, and motivation for volunteering. Avoid asking for sensitive information, such as social security numbers or bank account details, unless absolutely necessary.

Step 5: Develop a Volunteer Recruitment Plan

With your volunteer needs, target audience, and compelling opportunities in place, it’s time to develop a plan for reaching and engaging potential volunteers. Your recruitment plan should include a mix of strategies, such as:

  • Leveraging your existing networks and partnerships
  • Utilizing social media and online volunteer recruitment platforms
  • Hosting volunteer fairs and open houses
  • Partnering with local schools, universities, and community organizations
  • Engaging corporate partners and employee volunteer programs

Be sure to set clear goals and metrics for your recruitment efforts, such as the number of volunteer applications received or the number of new volunteers onboarded, so you can track your progress and adjust your strategy as needed.

Step 6: Use Volunteer Management Software

Using volunteer management software can help simplify the recruitment, onboarding, and ongoing management of volunteers, creating a better experience for your nonprofit’s staff and volunteers. The best volunteer management software will include the following features: 

  • Centralized volunteer database
  • Automated scheduling and reminders
  • Online registration and application forms
  • Tracking of volunteer hours and impact
  • Communication and engagement tools

Recommended: Check our list of the best volunteer management software for nonprofits

Step 6: Conduct Interviews and Background Checks

Depending on the nature of your volunteer positions, you may want to conduct interviews and background checks for nonprofit volunteers to ensure they are a good fit for your organization and have the necessary skills and experience to succeed in their roles.

When conducting interviews, be sure to ask questions that assess a volunteer’s motivation, skills, and experience, as well as their understanding of your organization’s mission and values. Provide them with a clear description of the volunteer role and expectations, and give them an opportunity to ask questions and express any concerns.

If your volunteer positions involve working with vulnerable populations, such as children or the elderly, be sure to conduct thorough background checks to ensure the safety and well-being of those you serve.

Step 7: Hire and Communicate 

Once you’ve found volunteers for your organization, the next step is to onboard them and ensure you’re providing effective communication to retain your volunteers. This includes providing ongoing support and recognizing hard work. Consider implementing volunteer award programs, personalized thank-yous, or organizing volunteer appreciation events to keep your volunteers involved. 

Where to Find Volunteers for a Nonprofit 

Once you’ve developed your volunteer opportunities and recruitment plan, it’s time to start spreading the word and attracting potential volunteers. Here are some effective strategies for finding potential volunteers.

Social Media 

Social media and online platforms are powerful tools for reaching a wide audience of potential volunteers. Here are some tips for using these channels effectively:

  • Create engaging social media posts that highlight your volunteer opportunities and the impact volunteers have on your organization and community. Use eye-catching graphics and compelling stories to grab people’s attention.
  • Utilize hashtags and tagging to reach a wider audience and connect with like-minded individuals and organizations.
  • Share your volunteer opportunities on online volunteer recruitment platforms, such as VolunteerMatch, Idealist, and Catchafire, to connect with individuals actively seeking volunteer opportunities.
  • Create a dedicated volunteer page on your website that showcases your volunteer opportunities, highlights the impact of your volunteers, and makes it easy for people to apply.

Your Existing Networks

Start by reaching out to your existing networks, including your staff, board members, donors, and current volunteers. Encourage them to share your volunteer opportunities with their own networks and provide them with easy-to-share messaging and graphics to make it simple for them to spread the word.

Volunteer Fairs and Open Houses

Hosting volunteer fairs and open houses can be a great way to connect with potential volunteers in person and give them a firsthand look at your organization and the impact they can have. Consider partnering with local schools, universities, and community organizations to host joint events and reach a wider audience.

Local Schools and Universities

Partnering with local schools and universities can be an effective way to reach younger volunteers and tap into the energy and enthusiasm of students. Here are some ideas for partnering with educational institutions:

  • Reach out to service learning coordinators and student organizations to promote your volunteer opportunities and explore potential partnerships.
  • Offer internships or work-study positions to give students hands-on experience and expose them to your organization and mission.
  • Participate in school-sponsored volunteer fairs and events to connect with students and promote your volunteer opportunities.

Corporate Partners and Employee Volunteer Programs

Many companies offer employee volunteer programs as part of their corporate social responsibility initiatives. Partnering with these companies can be a great way to tap into a pool of skilled and motivated volunteers. Here are some tips for engaging corporate partners:

  • Research companies in your area that align with your mission and values and have a history of supporting nonprofit organizations.
  • Reach out to corporate social responsibility or employee engagement coordinators to explore potential partnerships and volunteer opportunities.
  • Offer customized volunteer experiences that align with the company’s goals and values and provide meaningful opportunities for employee engagement.

Onboarding and Training Volunteers

Once you’ve selected your volunteers, it’s important to provide them with a comprehensive onboarding and training process to set them up for success. Here are some key components of an effective volunteer onboarding and training program:

Orientation and Welcome

Start by providing new volunteers with a warm welcome and orientation to your organization. This can include a tour of your facilities, an overview of your mission and programs, and an introduction to key staff and volunteers.

Consider creating a welcome packet that includes important information, such as your volunteer handbook, organizational chart, and key policies and procedures.

Training and Skill Development

Provide volunteers with the training and skill development they need to succeed in their roles. This can include both general training on topics such as diversity and inclusion, communication skills, and problem-solving, as well as specific training related to their volunteer duties.

Consider using a variety of training methods, such as in-person workshops, online courses, and shadowing opportunities, to accommodate different learning styles and schedules.

Ongoing Support and Feedback

Provide ongoing support and feedback to help volunteers feel valued and engaged in their roles. This can include regular check-ins with their supervisor, opportunities for peer support and mentoring, and performance evaluations to help them identify areas for growth and improvement.


Recruiting and retaining volunteers is essential for the success and sustainability of nonprofit organizations. By developing a clear and compelling volunteer recruitment strategy, creating meaningful volunteer experiences, and providing ongoing support and recognition, you can build a strong and dedicated volunteer base that helps you achieve your mission and make a lasting impact in your community.

Remember, volunteering is a two-way street – by investing in your volunteers and providing them with opportunities for growth, connection, and impact, you’ll not only benefit your organization, but also enrich the lives of those who generously give their time and talents to support your cause.

Frequently Asked Questions 

How do nonprofits recruit volunteers?

Nonprofits recruit volunteers through a variety of methods, such as leveraging their existing networks and partnerships, utilizing social media and online volunteer recruitment platforms, hosting volunteer fairs and open houses, partnering with local schools, universities, and community organizations, and engaging corporate partners and employee volunteer programs. The key is to develop a clear and compelling volunteer recruitment strategy that targets the right audience, showcases the impact of your volunteer program, and makes it easy for potential volunteers to get involved.

How to increase volunteer non-profit?

To increase volunteer participation in your nonprofit, focus on creating meaningful and engaging volunteer opportunities that align with volunteers’ interests and skills. Provide a positive and supportive volunteer experience, with clear expectations, training, and recognition. Build a sense of community and belonging among your volunteers through social events, affinity groups, and opportunities for collaboration, and offer opportunities for growth and leadership, such as skill-building workshops, special projects, and mentoring roles.

How do I create a volunteer recruitment plan?

To create a volunteer recruitment plan, start by defining your volunteer needs and identifying your target audience. Develop compelling volunteer job descriptions and create a mix of outreach strategies, such as leveraging your existing networks, utilizing social media and online volunteer recruitment platforms, hosting events, and partnering with local organizations. Set clear goals and metrics for your recruitment efforts, and regularly track and adjust your strategy as needed.

How do you recruit a team of volunteers?

To recruit a team of volunteers, start by identifying the specific skills and experience you need for your project or initiative. Develop a clear and compelling message about the impact and benefits of volunteering, and create a targeted outreach plan to reach potential volunteers through your networks, social media, events, and partnerships. Provide a streamlined application process and conduct interviews to ensure a good fit, and once you’ve selected your team, provide comprehensive onboarding and training to set them up for success.