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4 Steps to Successfully Recruit and Retain Volunteers

4 Steps to Successfully Recruit and Retain Volunteers

Maybe you’ve never had to plan a major fundraising event before and recruit volunteers, and now you’re wondering where to start, or maybe you’re just looking for a little inspiration to streamline your existing volunteer program. Even if you’re a volunteer management veteran, you might find some of the following recommendations helpful to up your fundraising game. Whatever the case, the following are four steps to successfully recruit and retain the right volunteers for your charity.

Step 1: Prepare a handbook.


Create a handbook stating the plans and policies of your organization to help volunteers catch your vision and prevent them from becoming liabilities, should something go awry. You will want to clearly lay out your policies on things like discrimination, substance abuse, harassment, dress code, and everything related to your volunteers that could affect your mission.

For more on this subject, 501 Commons has an excellent article with resources for crafting the perfect hand guide that you’ll definitely want to check out.


Step 2: Round up the right people for your cause.


Find volunteers that will help you fulfill your mission, and the right manager to make them shine.

  • Volunteer management staff - Recruiting the right person to manage your volunteers is key. To find this person, be sure to create a detailed job description that clearly spells out employee expectations and work benefits.
  • Creating volunteer positions - Focus on matching the volunteer’s interests and experience with the needs of your organization. Be as specific as possible in your application description about what you are looking for, and be sure to share what the volunteer can expect to gain from the experience. Having your staff help create the volunteer roles will help make sure your volunteers feel valued by everyone involved when they get hired.
  • Recruit and manage volunteers online - When you are ready to start recruiting volunteers, streamline the process with quality software that enables sharing volunteer opportunities online. Your website should strongly communicate your mission and be inviting potential volunteers hoping to share their time and skills. You should also have a module that allows supporters to easily register and confirm their participation and schedules directly on your website. Making this process as smooth as possible is vital to recruitment success.

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Step 3: Turn your recruits into team members.


It’s not just about training your volunteers, it’s retaining them long-term as sharers of your organization’s vision.

  • Orientation - Provide the same training for everyone on the team to keep your volunteers united in vision and purpose, and consider hosting a workshop or event to focus on volunteer integration. Creating multimedia material for instruction will likely prove a worthy investment for maintaining the quality of your volunteer’s service.
  • Volunteer retention - Communication is key. Keep your volunteer’s goals in consideration when delegating tasks, and swiftly respond to their requests when they are made. Check-in on your recruits regularly, and if you notice them getting burned out, give them a new task or lighten their load. Further, streamline the process by finding an application that automatically sends confirmation emails and reminders to your team. With the right CRM system, maintaining your connection with your volunteers can be simple.

Step 4: After events, thank your staff and demonstrate impact.


As important as it will be to focus on your constituents after an event, your staff will require some attention as well if you hope to retain them. Make sure to recognize the accomplishments of your volunteers--not just as a group, but as individuals, for the specific work they completed.


Also, keep a detailed record of everything done by volunteers, and share the collective achievements of your volunteers not only with your staff but with your community. Never thank your volunteers for working five hours and call it a day; if they fed 230 homeless people, or collectively raised over $3600 at the carnival fundraiser, publicly celebrate that. This will not only reinforce your relationship with your current supporters but catch the attention of the ones looking for places to make an impact with their time and resources in the future. Thank you emails are also important and can be easily sent out utilizing the right fundraising software.

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And remember: you will do better next time.


Ask your volunteers for feedback to gain insight into the strengths and weaknesses of your program. Volunteer management is a science and an art, and what works best for you might be a little different than what works for the next Joe. Every time you practice planning for an event, your insight will grow and your skills greatly improve as you continue to make reflective amendments.


Learn more about volunteer management and event planning strategies here.