Recruiting, Engaging, and Maintaining Your Volunteers

Volunteers are an essential component to any nonprofit.  In the United States, 62.8 million people volunteered through or for an organization at least once from Sept. 2013 – 2014 which is an overall volunteer rate of 25.3%. That is an impressive number!

It is often said that donations are the life blood of a nonprofit; I think the same thing could be said of volunteers. Without volunteers many of the programs and services you provide would cease to exist or at the very least be dramatically reduced.  Churches this applies to you too.  A well ran volunteer program is perfect way to engage modern-day seekers who may enjoy working side by side with your congregation towards a common good vs. attending a traditional service.  For younger generations (that place a high value on civic and authentic efforts of philanthropy) this can be their bridge to attendance.

Andrew Stanley, Founder & CEO of VolunteerMark spoke at Cause Camp 2015 on the “Keys to Effective Volunteer Management”.   His hour long conversation with Cause Camp attendees focused on four areas:

  • Recruitment
  • Engagement
  • Recognition
  • Retention

I want to share with you an overview of his talk because I thought the information he shared was not only wonderful but is a great resource for those of you who might be looking to better manage and/or engage with your volunteers.


Are job descriptions available for each volunteer position? Attract the right volunteers for your organization by writing up a clear job description.  You want a one-sheet which you can give to a potential volunteer that gives them everything they need to make an informed decision about pursing volunteer work with your organization.  Volunteers become ambassadors for your mission.  Making sure you do this first step impeccably determines the lens they view your organization through.

Check to make sure the descriptions of each position cover the following:

  • Purpose
  • Commitment Level
  • Date, time, location
  • Staff contact person and how to reach them
  • Job description
  • Benefits to the volunteer
  • Prerequisites (training)

When you can provide a comprehensive explanation of the volunteer role in this manner you empower your volunteers to not only be excited about this opportunity, but they they are stepping into a role that is well conceived.  This is incredibly reassuring to a potential volunteer.

When a volunteer is ready to commit make sure the process to sign up is not arduous.  Really look at the information you asking for and ask yourself, “How will I use this information?”  For example, unless you are doing background checks that require social security numbers, don’t ask for it.  Less is more.

Andrew went on to state that often the best volunteers are those who have greater time commitments, already involved with other organizations, and they are asked by the organization.


Once you have your volunteers in place be sure to use email campaigns with a clear call to action that is optimized for mobile viewing.  ConstantContact and MailChimp are a couple examples of services that do this well.

Post opportunities online, the following sites are worth considering as you look for ways to increase your engagement:

How to use Social Media

  • Discuss issues you are dealing with as an organization
  • Weekly ask questions, share ideas, and be open to ways you can improve
  • Post video blogs, stories, and photos of people you serve
  • Provide direct contact info (phone, email, social media) for all key people
  • Create a least one shareable action on each page of your website
  • For example, “If you like this article, please share with your friends on Facebook”
  • Search social media content (posts/tweets) and comment/provide feedback on relevant conversations to your cause – in other words: engage with those who share your heart

As you engage through social media be sure to get to know your followers and learn from what others in your space are doing online.  You want to build relationships and engage with people, be a good resource to them, and connect with others.  When your social network has been cultivated you can aks your network to help support your cause.


Volunteering is hard work.  It’s work that pays its rewards in the experience itself and knowing you’ve done a good thing.  However, as with any work, lack of appreciation for what you do can go a long way to breading dissatisfaction and apathy.  Be sure you are acknowledging your volunteers in personal and sincere ways.  Below are some ways you can do just that:

  • Have a volunteer of the month where you highlight that individual and how they came to be involved with your organization and publically acknowledge the great work they do.
  • You can acknowledge your volunteers simply by listening to them, asking for the feedback on how the volunteer experience could be improved upon. Value all types of feedback: good or bad.
  • Host a volunteer appreciation party
  • Give simple awards to your volunteers
  • Show the impact of their work
  • Share pictures of volunteers on your social media accounts and tag them (With their permission of course)
  • Say “thank you” and “Happy Birthday”
  • Make a year-end video and feature peoples’ names
  • Include people by name in your newsletter

These moments of recognition can be used to network and connect volunteers together.  For example, you could organization a volunteer appreciation lunch.  By inviting a small group of volunteers together to be acknowledged they also have the benefit of connecting with one another as well.

As with any “thank you” don’t ask for anything.  Never thank a volunteer for their 6-months of service and in the next breath ask for more.  Remember to keep your thanks personal and sincere – those personal touches go a long way.

One attendee piped up at this point in the session and said, “Don’t give me anything I have to dust.”  She was saying that she did not appreciate plaques or trophies.  A good reminder to be sensitive to the money spent to acknowledge your volunteers and what they will truly value.



When you show sincere appreciation for your volunteers work, you are going to keep that volunteer healthy and valued.  The longer you can retain and care for your volunteers the strong your organization will be for it.  Andrew also provided some great tips on how to help ensure retention of your volunteers:

  • Maintain regular communication through varied channels (i.e., email, newsletter, meetings, etc.)
  • Have a skills bank that maps the competencies of your volunteers
  • Know and understand who they are and how they are contributing
  • Provide opportunities for volunteers to involve their friends and family
  • Provide career-building opportunities – develop a new skills set

To learn more about Andrew Stanley and his work at VolunteerMark, visit their website at