The Secret to Recruiting Volunteers: Create Value

Whether you recruit, train, or schedule volunteers, anyone involved in volunteer management knows that getting new volunteers on board is difficult. Finding the right individuals who care about your organization’s mission and vision and are willing to give of their time and talents to help out can sometimes feel like looking for a needle in a haystack.

With all the challenges associated with recruiting new volunteers, keeping the volunteers you have becomes imperative. So, what can you do to attract new volunteers? The answer is simple: create value.

Although meaningful volunteer opportunities vary from person to person, looking at volunteer stages of life can create a framework to determine different approaches your organization may want to take. Consider some of the following ideas as you map out your recruitment efforts.

Student Volunteers


Has your nonprofit ever hosted volunteer interns? There may be tremendous value in offering an internship program as part of your volunteer recruitment and retention strategy.

Make sure you develop a clear plan for managing interns before advertising this type of opportunity. Once you’ve developed a plan, reach out to local universities and colleges to find out how you can advertise among students. By allowing college-aged individuals to become deeply involved in your organization early in their adult lives, you may find that they remain dedicated to your organization for years to come.

Letters of recommendation

College-aged volunteers may request a letter of recommendation for their service. Having a recommendation letter from you nonprofit could provide tremendous value as they seek out employment or educational opportunities. With short resumes, their experience at your nonprofit could be one of the core indicators of their reliability, follow-through, and communication skills.

Determine if your organization would be willing to write recommendation letters, and, if so, create a structure and process for letter requests and fulfillment so you can offer this during volunteer recruitment.

Hands-on experience

Can you provide valuable, hands-on experience for student volunteers who wish to learn more than just basic tasks, like stuffing envelopes or making scripted phone calls? Perhaps they could learn more about the ins and outs of your organization’s programs or operations. Assign them meaningful tasks such as taking notes in a strategy meeting, preparing slides for a presentation, proofreading documents, drafting social media posts, or creating a budget for a small project. By giving students the opportunity to do work-related tasks, you’ll create a meaningful experience that will benefit them throughout their careers.

Working Adults

Volunteer benefit hours

More and more often, companies are giving their employees volunteer days as part of their benefits package. Reach out to businesses in your area to find out if there are local corporate programs that pay employees to volunteer. Then, find ways to share the work your organization is doing with those businesses. Learn what’s required of your organization to partner with businesses and get ready to host volunteers taking advantage of their work perk.


While many adults are employed and have a history of references, others may be in a phase where an additional, positive reference could be of value to them. For example, as adult volunteers switch careers, they may benefit from a reference outlining their capabilities or new skills. Keep this in mind when recruiting and retaining adult volunteers, as completing a short- or long-term volunteer project could help them acquire the reference they need to move forward in other areas of their lives.

Awards, certificates, and recognition

For many working adults, awards, certificates, or recognition for any trainings or projects they complete may prove beneficial. Often, these recognitions indicate that the individual is willing to go above and beyond for their community, which may be looked upon favorably during future job interviews. Volunteers can list these recognitions on their resumes and LinkedIn profiles, giving them great value while costing your organization very little.


Regularly scheduled opportunities

For those retiring out of the workforce, a routine or structure to their day may prove valuable. By creating regularly scheduled volunteer opportunities, you’ll give retirees a rhythm that often disappears when traditional employment is complete. Find tasks that need to be done on a regular basis, like greeting guests at the door, writing thank-you cards, or stocking the break room, and set up a volunteer schedule so they can fill open slots as needed.

Pro-bono consulting

With more time on their hands, and decades of professional experience, retired individuals may want to contribute their knowledge and expertise to your nonprofit. Start by determining if your organization has any consulting needs. Could you use expert eyes on your finances, legal work, human resources, marketing materials, or project management workflows? Think through ways you could utilize the skills and knowledge of a retired professional and identify ways to give retirees a way to meaningfully give back.


Often, retired adults find their family and friends still busy with work and school obligations. As a result, they may be looking to expand their social network. By creating a community within the volunteer group at your nonprofit, you’ll provide real value to those who want meaningful ways to connect with others. Could you host regular lunches, create ways to connect your group online, or plan regular volunteer events during business hours? By promoting a strong volunteer community, you will attract and retain those who wish to benefit from connecting.

To easily recruit and retain volunteers, offer a meaningful experience that adds value to their lives. Think through simple strategies and identify any missed opportunities to help your organization and volunteer community thrive.