Recruiting and Training Volunteers

December 2012
Presented by New York Campus Compact
Recruiting and Training Volunteers
Recruiting volunteers as an AmeriCorps VISTA is crucial to the success of your
program. But, all of the volunteers in the world won’t be useful if they aren’t
the right type of volunteer, aren’t appropriately trained, and aren’t apprised of
important information.
Recruiting Types 101
There are many ways that one can go about recruiting volunteers. But the first step is knowing
type of volunteers you are seeking. According to JoAnne Fritz, Rick Lynch and Steve McCurley,
authors of Essential Volunteer Management(Heritage Arts Press) suggest that there are three basic
ways to recruit:
Warm Body Recruitment
Targeted Recruitment
Concentric Circles Recruitment
Let’s look at each one individually, starting with Warm Body Recruitment.
When you need a large number of volunteers for a short period time and the
qualifications of the task are minimal, you might engage in "warm body recruitment." This involves
a broad dissemination of information, including:
• Distribution of brochures
• Posters
• Speaking to groups
• Notices in appropriate media
• Word of Mouth
Recruiting Types 102
Targeted Recruitment
The targeted campaign requires a carefully planned approach to a small audience. Use this
method when you are trying to recruit volunteers that need to have specific skills or not
commonly found characteristics.
A targeted campaign requires, at the outset, that you answer several questions:
• What do we need?
• Who could provide this?
• How can we communicate with them?
• What would motivate them?
Working through such questions will help you identify and locate the volunteers that you need.
Once you locate a source of such volunteers, simply take your recruitment message directly to
Recruiting Types 103
Concentric Circles Recruitment
This type of recruitment requires you to identify populations who are already in direct or
indirect contact with your organization and then to contact them with your recruiting message.
Such populations include:
• Your clients, their families and relatives.
• Alumni of your program/s.
• Friends of your current volunteers and staff.
• People in your organization's neighborhood.
• People who have been affected by the problem you are attempting to solve.
Concentric Circles recruitment involves people who are already familiar with your agency or
the problem you address, or who are connected through friends or staff members. It is more
likely that you will succeed in persuading them to volunteer than complete strangers. In sales
terms, there is a big difference between a "cold" call to a stranger than a "warm" call to an
acquaintance or a friend.
Recruitment Message
Your Recruitment Message
No matter which recruitment method you use, you must have a compelling message. Your
message explains why your agency is worthy of a potential volunteer's time. Make your
message short, simple, and direct, communicating the need for the volunteer's service and the
good he/she can do. Stress the need of the community for the service, but also delineate the
benefits the volunteer will receive. These include doing good, but there may be skills and
valuable experience that the volunteer will gain.
Other Recruiting Avenues
Finally, be sure to directly ask people to volunteer. The most effective way to do this is to
have your staff or volunteers ask their friends and acquaintances to volunteer. Be sure to
provide them with the information they need to make an effective "ask."
Recruiting Volunteers Online
While finding volunteers the old fashioned way through referrals and local contacts still
works best, the use of online volunteer matching sites is growing, and is a way of at least
doing a first quick cut of possible volunteers.
Here are the some of the most widely-used volunteer matching sites:
Network for Good
Volunteers of America
Points of Light
Be sure to check out sites that serve your particular locale as well.
New working title
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration complied
a phenomenal article concerning how to recruit and train volunteers, and
they suggest using the following model.
-Define Your Mission
- Assess Your Organization
- Develop Your Volunteer
- Describe Volunteer Positions
-Asses Your Image
- Decide How to Recruit
- Develop Your Message
- Find Volunteers
- Select Volunteers
- Screen Volunteers
-Develop Orientation Program
- Assign Orientation Leaders
- Schedule Orientation
- Develop Materials
- Conduct Orientation
- Train Volunteers
-Assign a Supervisor
- Communicate Regularly with
- Evaluate Volunteers
- Avoid Volunteer Burnout
- Recognize Efforts
Check out the next several slides for the in-depth scoop!
(“Successful Strategies”)
-Describe Your Program
- Design the Evaluation
- Collect Data
- Analyze Data
- Report Results
-Define Your Mission
- A sound mission statement will help clarify where volunteers fit into your
- Assess Your Organization
- Take time to understand your organization’s past history with volunteers.
- Recognize what volunteers mean to your staff, and what responsibilities might be
- Determine what work the volunteers will do, and what type of volunteers you
- Develop Your Volunteer Program
- Be sure your volunteers are supported with answers to questions, direction, and
- Coordinate regular communication between the board of the organization and
the volunteers
- Describe Volunteer Positions
- After deciding where in your program volunteers will work, you’ll need to develop
position descriptions. These will help you to screen volunteers and
place them in the appropriate positions.
- Volunteers who understand organization expectations will be more effective and
happier than those who are not oriented.
(“Successful Strategies”)
-Asses Your Image
- Demonstrate that your organization is worthwhile, and don’t assume everyone will
know all about your programs.
- Be prepared to answer questions about successes and failures, and consider showing
slides to give people a better understanding of your client base
- Make volunteers visible throughout the organization
- Decide How to Recruit
- Before choosing a specific method, consider the amount and time each one will take
as well as what time you have to give. Some options include:
- Network through current volunteers
- Use mailings (mass, personalized, or handwritten notes)
- Make announcements at services or events
- ASK!
- Develop Your Message
- Make sure your message is inviting and encouraging!
- Find Volunteers
- Use your networks! Ask people to volunteer, or ask them to refer people!
- Use volunteer referral services, students, and area businesses.
- Select Volunteers
- Determine what traits you are seeking, and hold an interview.
- Be sure to thank all applicants!
- Screen Volunteers
- Interview, do background checks, and get to know your volunteers.
- If necessary, request references
- Explore the need of a contract or volunteer agreement (“Successful Strategies”)
-Develop Orientation Program
- Orientation helps your volunteers see where they fit in the entire organization
- Volunteers help represent your agency to the public. You WANT them to be informed!
- Assign Orientation Leaders
- Determine which members of your staff are best equipped to lead orientation.
- Schedule Orientation
- Always set up and orient people before they begin volunteering.
- Try coordinating small group orientations for teams of people.
- Develop Materials
- Provide each volunteer with a policy guidelines handbook with the following headings.
- Background and history
- Organizational Structure
- Facilities
- Procedures
- Conduct Orientation
- Give a tour of the facility, introduce staff, essentially, orient your volunteers.
- Train Volunteers
- Give volunteers information specific to their individual roles
- Evaluate and periodically train
- Remember that training and orientation are ongoing aspects.
(“Successful Strategies”)
-Assign a Supervisor
-The supervisor is responsible for making sure other people can do their job.
- Make sure supervisors are people who can hold people accountable to expectations,
evaluate the performance, and have regular reinforcement and
- Communicate Regularly with Volunteers
- Ongoing communication is essential to building positive relationships.
- Check in about how the volunteer is feeling about their work and their involvement in
the organization.
- Evaluate Volunteers
- Evaluation shows you care about your volunteers and the work that they do.
- Evaluation could take the form of a trial period, performance appraisal, regular job
performance meetings, review of commitments.
- Evaluation gives the supervisor and the volunteer a chance to report on progress.
- Avoid Volunteer Burnout
- Treat volunteers with respect, they like feeling valued!
- Have meaningful work for ALL volunteers.
- The rule is that 20% of the volunteers are responsible for 80% of the work. Be aware
of signs of burnout: anger, hostility, loss of creativity or energy, sense of
- Recognize Efforts
- Recognize volunteers in an honest and heartfelt manner
- Give rewards in an ongoing basis
(“Successful Strategies”)
- Host regular recognition events each year.
-Describe Your Program
- Develop a succinct description of your program referencing the purpose, activities, and if
the program relies on volunteers. Include a needs statement, goals, resources,
and what stage of development you are in.
- Consider what type of evaluation would be helpful for your volunteer program as a
whole. Think also about an evaluation of your orientation program.
- Design the Evaluation
- To design an evaluation, follow these steps:
- State the purpose of the evaluation.
- Define the users of the evaluation.
- Define the uses of the evaluation results.
- Develop evaluation questions:
- Use process evaluation questions to document program implementation, such as number of people
receiving services, amount of money used, funding sources, staffing and use of volunteers, and number
of events.
- Use outcome evaluation questions to document short-term and long-term results.
- Use training evaluation questions to determine whether training is effective. Ask volunteers to rate the
activities from 1 to 5. If they give a rating of less than 5, ask them how the activity could be improved.
- Collect Data
- Your outcomes should be relevant to the goals you are aiming to achieve.
- Develop your collection instruments to ensure uniformity
- Analyze Data
- Be aware of factors that can influence results
- Report Results
- Report findings to the board
- Make accommodation to your programs.
(“Successful Strategies”)
The Dos and Don’ts of Volunteer Recruitment
So, we’ve heard about ways you can and should go about volunteer recruitment and training.
Now, let’s look at some definite no-nos.
Thomas W. McKee speaks of seven deadly sins you can commit to kill your project or
volunteer pool.
McKee has more than 40 years experience in recruiting and training volunteers, and is the
owner of, a leadership firm which specializes in volunteerism. See the
next slides about the seven “sins.” and read McKee’s words.
Sin One: Expect Announcements to Get Volunteers
We needed people in our organization to volunteer for a short-term project. I made the
announcement, wrote articles in our newsletter, had people who had been involved give a fiveminute plug in several monthly meetings, and did a special mailing demonstrating the benefits
for being a part of this special team.
The results were very disappointing. What was wrong? What had I done wrong? I thought that
the challenge would motivate leaders to get involved.
I went to lunch with a person who was a mover and shaker and asked him, "Why didn't you
volunteer for this project? I could see your name on it all the way." I'll never forget his
response. Bill said, "If you wanted me, why didn't you ask? I'd be happy to work with you on
this project, but I would never volunteer."
I learned an important lesson 20 years ago that I have not forgotten. Many people will never
volunteer. Why aren't people volunteering? Because people want to be asked.
Sin Two: Go It Alone
One of the most effective recruiters I knew was my father. He was an Eagle Scout as a
teenager. When he and Mom were first married, he was a volunteer scout leader. As I
was growing up, he was always active in volunteer organizations. To meet the demands
of active recruiting, Dad established a recruiting task force from the organization in
which he was recruiting. His team would meet once a month with a list of vacancies.
With organization directories open, they would brainstorm possible people who could
fill these positions.
Partnering is another effective way to recruit volunteers. Loaves and Fishes is a
successful agency in Sacramento that feeds the homeless. They run the Mustard Seed
School for the children of homeless families. This organization uses volunteers each
day to take care of the meals and school. How do they get this many volunteers? They
partner with local organizations—mostly churches.
Sin Three: Recruit Life-time Individuals
—Not Short-term Project Teams
Mary was asked to be on the strategic planning task force for her association. She was told that
the strategic planning committee would meet for a full day for training and development of
strategy. She would then have six months to work on the strategic plan and then her job would
be done. Mary not only said yes, but she volunteered to work with the implementation
committee of the strategic planning committee—which was another two-year commitment.
Recruiting teams rather than individuals is particularly effective with younger
volunteers. Many people are afraid of getting tied into a job for a lifetime and never being able
to get out of it. They get burned out and then quit the organization as a way to quit their
volunteer role. I accomplish three objectives when I put together a short-term project team of
new volunteers with a model leader:
Objective one: Volunteers are more willing to say yes to a short-term commitment with an enddate in sight.
Objective two: Volunteers have the opportunity to catch the vision of the organization because
they were working with a passionate leader.
Objective three: Leaders became mentors for future passion driven teams. We were always
looking for new leadership.
Sin Four: Assume That "No" Means "Never"
Timing is everything. When we get the courage to recruit someone and then they say "no," we
often feel rejection. I needed someone to be the head of our strategic planning committee and I
felt that Bob was the perfect person. But when I asked him, he declined. He explained to me
about a former business partner who was suing him, a teenage son who was giving him
problems, and his Mercedes that was leaking oil (poor guy). He just couldn't see doing justice to
the position. I asked Bob three years later and he was excited to fill the position.
Sometimes the "no" means, "not now." Sometimes it means that the prospect volunteer feels
that he/she would rather do something else. When the answer is "no," I often ask if there are
any positions in our organization that they would love to do, but were never asked.
Sin Five: Fall Into the BIC Trap
We often fall into the trap of following the BIC syndrome. Because we are in desperate
need for a volunteer and need them quickly, we plead our case to anyone who "fogs a
mirror" and at the last minute I get someone to be a "Butt In the Chair." Most times the
chair is better empty than filled with the wrong person who does nothing or is high
Sin Six: Be People Driven Rather Than Position Driven
Another variation of the "Butt In the Chair" method is just to say, "Please come and be a part of
our group. We have a great time and we need your expertise." But we don't tell the prospect
what we want them to do.
Joan was recruited by an after-school teen center in the inner city. She loved to do behind-thescenes work and pictured herself scrubbing floors, painting walls and stuffing envelopes. But
she was placed on the finance committee at the first meeting and was asked to go out and
raise money. Although she had a passion for the cause, she was overwhelmed, disappointed
and quit.
When I look at the volunteer team I think—"position." I ask, "What positions do I need to
accomplish our mission?" "What do I want the team members to do?" And then I look for
people who can fill those positions.
Sin Seven: Give the Position the Wrong Job Title
What's in a name? Plenty. We are calling our professional staff by the wrong name, and it is
sending the wrong message to our staff, especially when we hire them. They come to the
job with the wrong credentials and the wrong expectations. By the names we use for our
non-profit professional staff, we are telling them that volunteer administration is not their
primary job—which it really is. We are recruiting professional staff, but not professional
volunteer administrators. I see this in almost every non-profit organization. For example,
most environmental association professional staff are Ph.D. biologists who are passionate
about the environment. They look at themselves as environmental professionals who want
to get involved in restoring wetlands. But they have to spend most of their time recruiting,
motivating and training volunteers to raise money for wetland restoration. Graduate
schools don't train biologists to be volunteer managers. Perhaps their sub-title should be
"Manager for Environmental Services Volunteers."
Tom McKee is a leading volunteer management speaker, trainer, and consultant.
You can reach Tom at (916) 987-0359 or e-mail [email protected] Other
articles and free resources are available at
Fritz, Joanne. "Recruiting Volunteers - Three Approaches." Nonprofit Charitable Orgs.
About.Com Nonprofit Charitable Organizations, 6 Sept. 2012. Web. 15 Nov. 2012.
McKee, Thomas. "The Seven Deadly Sins of Recruiting Volunteers." Volunteer
Power, n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2012. <
“Successful Strategies for Recruiting, Training, and Utilizing Volunteers: A Guide for Faith- and
Community-Based Service providers: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Faith-Based and Community Initiative." U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Substance
Abuse and Mental Health Administration: Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. 05-4005. (2005): n.
page. Web. 5 Dec. 2012. <>.

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