Practical Tips & Tools

Basic Literacy & Numeracy

Volunteer Recruitment and Retention: Encourage Volunteers to Spread the Word

March 4, 2024

In our previous blog articles about Volunteer Recruitment and Retention, we’ve discussed why people volunteer, the barriers that keep people from accepting a volunteer assignment, and how to keep volunteers engaged between assignments. We’ve considered structural changes that could make opportunities more appealing, like working with volunteer teams, offering on-the-job training, and rethinking what the time commitment looks like. Now that we’ve identified some changes that could help retain volunteers, let’s revisit how to recruit new people to fill those opportunities.

According to the 2000 National Survey of Giving, Volunteering, and Participating, these are the four biggest reasons people don’t volunteer.

In previous blog articles, we’ve talked about not having enough time and the unwillingness to commit a year. Now, let’s look at the fourth reason given: No one has personally asked. A separate study, Why People Volunteer by the Volunteer Centre Ottawa-Carleton, states that a satisfied volunteer is your best recruiter of more volunteers.

Most individuals who volunteer learn about the opportunity from personal contact. About 40% become involved because someone asks them and over 25% learn about the work from a relative or friend involved in the activity. Less than 20% seek out the activity on their own.

Those percentages tell us that while we can align our volunteer opportunities to match the different reasons people choose to volunteer and we can craft the best recruiting messages, we really need to rely on our existing volunteers to share their experiences. How do we do that?

Give Your Volunteers Branded Swag

This includes t-shirts, coffee mugs or tumblers, totes, or anything else a volunteer might wear or use around family or friends. Look at these items as conversation starters that will give your volunteer the opportunity to talk about their volunteer experience with people they know.

Use Social Media

Social media is a natural pathway into volunteers’ networks of friends and family. If your social media posts include plenty of pictures and stories tagging your volunteers doing great things, they’ll be inclined to reshare your posts on their platforms, and you’ll get the attention of their network.

Host Social Events 

They don’t have to be big events. Even something as simple as an open house at your literacy program will give your volunteers an opportunity to invite friends and family to come see what you (and they) do.

Connect to Volunteers’ Companies and Organizations

Your volunteers likely work for a company and belong to other community organizations. Ask them to introduce you to those organizations. Many companies and community organizations have programs that promote volunteering. If one of your volunteers can get you a chance to talk about volunteer opportunities at your program and they can share their own experience, there’s a good chance you will recruit new volunteers.

Share Your Recruitment Plan with Volunteers

Most importantly, make sure that your volunteers understand that they play a critical role in helping you recruit volunteers. Encourage them to follow your organization on social media, talk with them regularly about their volunteer experience, and encourage them to share their positive experiences with family and friends.

Think about how you might use these strategies to engage your volunteers. In the next blog we’ll look at some strategies for were to find new and diverse sources for volunteers.