Quick Tips on a Variety of Volunteer Subjects

Encourage volunteers to post reviews that answer the up-front questions potential volunteers might have such as “will I feel welcomed,” or “will I get proper training?” Publish testimonials, endoresements and recommendations on social media and your website, see Volunteer Reviews: Our Overlooked BFF

Create volunteer ads that appeal to modern volunteers by showcasing the benefits they will receive versus asking for “caring” volunteers. See Those Adjectives that Turn Off Prospective Volunteers

Today’s volunteers learn a great deal about our history and reason to be from hearing about past awards and accomplishments, but they also want to own the future, see Volunteer Motivation: Past, Present and Future

To appeal to the more hesitant volunteer who sees volunteers as these perfect people, make volunteer wanted ads more realistic see Should Our Volunteer Ads Be More “Real?”

Give staff orientation dates on easy to carry business cards or flyers see press 2 for that volunteer question

Use mild “loss aversion” marketing to keep recruitment from seeming like volunteer opportunities will be there forever, so why bother. see Volunteer or You’ll Lose Everything

Leave volunteering information at local physicians’ offices.

Host volunteering sessions for home schooled children and parents. Contact local home school associations

Leave info at travel agencies who book voluntourism trips. That feeling of wanting to help might just carry over when the trip takers get back.

Organize a positive protest create signs promoting volunteering and pick a street corner-good for small groups of episodic volunteers.

Set the tone in reply emails-phrases like welcome to an experience you’ll cherish, you’re about to begin a journey like no other.

Save compliments about volunteers, use as recruitment testimonials, keep in book for vols to read, share at meetings, training, etc.

Recruit by cross referencing-pets work with seniors, retirees work with children etc to appeal to new audiences of prospective volunteers.

Reach more prospective volunteers by a presentation on volunteering in general, partner with other non profits for maximum exposure.

Recruiting? Advertise perks of volunteering-our volunteers enjoy monthly yoga classes, quarterly relevant education, networking, etc.

Recruiting students to volunteer? Sponsor an essay contest about your mission, involve media.

Hold regular brainstorming sessions with volunteers to recruit new vols-keep their interest up in helping find new volunteers.

Create vol recruit ads from current popular books, movies-Ex: Eat, Pray, Volunteer or Transformers: Age of Volunteers.

Send thank you letter to potential volunteer after meeting/interview. Outline various jobs, use testimonials to engage.

Experiment and create 3 ads for 1 volunteer job make 1 about actual task 2 about how it helps the client 3 about the benefit for volunteer; see which one works.

Create template of recommendation letter for volunteer. Advertise “this can be yours” to students, folks looking for job experience.

Host “bring a buddy” open houses where your volunteers recruit a friend. They know who will make a great volunteer and can motivate and mentor too!

Get staff involved in recruiting volunteers. Offer prize at end of year for most volunteers recruited, referred, for certain positions etc.

Send thank you notes to volunteers’ family for sharing volunteer with you. Might just recruit them too!

Encouraging Staff to Embrace Volunteers:

Instead of constantly explaining volunteer management, try getting staff to appreciate volunteers, see Five Words that Might Untangle Volunteer Management

Keep the focus on mission when challenged with staff and volunteers not able to get along well see Is Making Volunteers Likeable Our Objective?

Use tools from the volunteer manager toolbox when faced with staff disliking a volunteer see When staff doesn’t like a volunteer part 2 a success story

What happens when staff doesn’t like a volunteer? see When Staff Doesn’t Like a Volunteer

Use difficult conversations with staff about their treatment of volunteers to “sell” volunteers see Difficult conversations with staff or volunteers

Question separating volunteers and advocate for inclusion see Do volunteers say we or they?

Explain “voluntasking” to staff see Mono or Multi? Voluntasking is the Answer

Corporate and Episodic Volunteering:

Volunteer managers are the best ones to control the direction of corporate volunteering, see Removing the Headache from Corporate Volunteering and see part 2 at Creating Partnerships from Corporate Volunteering and part 3 at Volunteer Manager Strategy and CSR

Learn some facts about the group: see Hey Corporate Volunteers, Where Are You From Again?

Send a follow-up survey to hone future projects: see  Hey Corporate Volunteers, Where Are You From Again?

Thank the group for any input: see  Hey Corporate Volunteers, Where Are You From Again?

Create a plan before accepting groups: see Hey Corporate Volunteers How Great is Weeding?

 Create an application process to manage and discover: see Hey Corporate Volunteers How Great is Weeding?

Develop a narrative for each project-include testimonials, pictures, storytelling to reinforce the impact on clients and organization. see Hey Corporate Volunteers How Great is Weeding?

Offer to host an onsite corporate vol event-limit it to only as many vols as you can handle at a time. Ask marketing to help

Advertise event as a team building experience

Prepare thank you letter to CEO

It’s the little things, give packet of welcome info on parking, food, what to bring etc.

Volunteer Fresh:  see Volunteer Fresh

Create a monthly “sit down” between volunteers and community engagement staff for feedback potential

Engage volunteers in word of mouth marketing 

Volunteer Department Vision, Goals, Objectives, Steps, Tactics and Strategies:

Spend time wisely by determining your ROI (return on investment) see You Can Water Plastic Flowers, but They Won’t Grow

Break goals down into Objectives and Volunteer Actions to develop a plan to meet goals with measurable outcomes see Why Have Volunteer Department Goals, Objectives and Actions 

Break the mission statement down into goals that can be quantified see Do Volunteer Managers Implement or Manage Volunteer Programs?

Explaining Volunteer Management:

Volunteers don’t magically show up, ready to go-LoVols work hard to develop great people into great volunteers see LoVols, This Needs to Change Now and the follow-up What do #LoVols do all day?

Volunteer management since 2010-what has changed see Volunteer Management in the Past Decade

Redefine modern volunteers in a video game context and forge a new narrative, one that reflects modern volunteer programs as a sandbox while not allowing for unreasonable requests, see volunteer management is not an open world 

also see, How volunteer management is like a video game

Explain the difference between “off the street” and developed volunteers-the volunteers who are carefully vetted and on-boarded see would you choose raw or developed volunteers?

Embrace your introverted or extroverted side. You may be an ambivert or an outgoing introvert. Both personality sides give you skills see Volunteer Managers: Extroverts or Introverts?

Use saying “no” in ways to enact a better “yes” see Horrors! Can a Volunteer Manager Say No?

Advocate for strategizing priorities in order to further the mission see Attention: Thr Volunteer Department Now Has Ground Rules

Set ground rules for the priority, time frame and feasibility of each request, see Volunteer Department Ground Rules

Begin to treat volunteer management as a science, see Is Volunteer Management a Science?

Craft volunteer stats and stories into impact stories, see I Speak Volunteer. You?

Redefine volunteers as “investors” instead of “time donors.” see The Volunteer Investor: Is It Their Time or Something More?

Redefine volunteer manager as volunteer account manager by showcasing responsibilities and necessary skill sets see key volunteer account manager

Redefine volunteer management in terms of volunteer account management by using terms such as: volunteer centric, volunteer benchmarking, volunteer expectations see Captains of Our Destiny: Captain Obvious 2

Replace phrases such as “spent time with” or “chatted with” volunteers. Instead use phrases such as volunteer engagement, targeted recruitment, role defining, corrective action, gathering feedback etc. Professional terms define the work. see Not So Fast Captain Obvious

Onboarding Volunteers:

Rethink rejecting a potential volunteer as reshaping them into advocates see Can We Reject a Volunteer?

Set up advocacy from the beginning and volunteering as an elevated form of advocacy, see Reject a Volunteer, Gain an Advocate

Create cheat sheets with basic information and post in multiple places, see press 2 for that Volunteer question

Balance Induction and Orientation to obtain maximum results see Induction Vs Orientation

Flip the one year commitment agreement and have staff sign it instead of volunteers see Induction vs Orientation The One Year Volunteer Commitment

Volunteer Sustainability (volunteer retention)

Create a “just right” foundation for volunteerism see Volunteering and the Goldilocks Margins

Instead of helicopter volunteer management, help departments create a “new volunteer integration plan,” see Helicopter Volunteer Management

Don’t set a self-defeating pattern when senior management creates meaningless tasks for volunteers, see Expecting Different Volunteering Results is Organizational Insanity

Re-work volunteer performance reviews to setting mission centric volunteer goals, see Annual Volunteer PerBoreMance Reviews

When volunteers praise you, discover the specifics of what is going right and use this information to build upon, see Don’t believe your own press too much 

Develop a habit of repetition in order to prevent miscues and miscommunication see Why Are Volunteer Managers So Darned Repetitive

For tips on supporting volunteers who work with emotional situations see Taking Extra Care to Support Volunteers

Share volunteers with other organizations in your area see Sustainability and Volunteerism

Make a list of agencies and organizations in your area that utilize volunteers and reach out to introduce yourself to each leader of volunteers see Innovation and Sustainable Volunteering

Join any clearinghouse agencies such as United Way, and Volunteer Centres in your area see Innovation and Sustainable Volunteering

Join a DOVIA (Directors Of Volunteers In Agencies) or a similar group in your area or if none exists, reach out to another volunteer manager and start a peer group, see Innovationa and Sustainable Volunteering

Create a list serve or simple newsletter to share with your fellow volunteer managers in your locale see Innovation and Sustainable Volunteering

Share your volunteer opportunities with other volunteer managers (at your peer group and by list serve) and ask for theirs-regularly check in to gauge the fluidity of roles, etc. see Innovation and Sustainable Volunteering

Discuss volunteers’ skills and interests at peer group meetings. Offer other volunteer managers the opportunity to contact one of your volunteers if their mission or opportunity more closely aligns with your volunteer’s passion see Innovation and Sustainable Volunteering

Share background checks if you are able in order to cut costs seeInnovation and Sustainable Volunteering

Pair up with other organizations to conduct a visible volunteer project and involve local media to cover the event see Innovation and Sustainable Volunteering

Create volunteer educational conferences with other volunteer managers to benefit all volunteers in area-share space, costs of snacks or printed materials creating more bang for the buck see Innovation and Sustainable Volunteering

Share cost of a national speaker with other volunteer programs and invite all volunteers in area-have plenty of information on volunteering opportunities available see Innovation and Sustainable Volunteering

Bring your volunteers to another organization on Make a Difference Day or another day of service and help that organization-build that camaraderie, use positive press to show cooperation see Innovation and Sustainable Volunteering

Create a summer circle of volunteering for out of school students so they can sample the various opportunities in your area and participate in a well-rounded service learning experience see Innovation and Sustainable Volunteering

Conduct partner training sessions with other organizations see Innovation and Sustainable Volunteering

Partner with another organization to create a group of volunteers to cross-volunteer (a really rudimentary example – library volunteers + homeless shelter volunteers = a reading program for school aged children in the shelter. Library volunteers finding appropriate books, shelter volunteers utilizing them and perhaps some library volunteers venturing out to read to the children while shelter volunteers conduct a fundraiser for the library-and no this isn’t simple or easy but it can be a start) see Innovation and Sustainable Volunteering

Mentor new volunteer coordinators in your area see Innovation and Sustainable Volunteering

Offer your highly seasoned and trained volunteers to train/mentor volunteers at another organization see Innovation and Sustainable Volunteering

Partner with other volunteer managers to create a presentation that educates organizational staff on the nuances of volunteer engagement-allow all volunteer managers in your area to utilize see Innovation and Sustainable Volunteering

Create partnership recruitment efforts by sharing speaking engagements see Innovation and Sustainable Volunteering

Volunteers: General

Work with teams of volunteers so they do not become a clique and don’t accept new volunteers see Volunteer Clicks or Cliques?Volunteer Clicks or Cliques?

Elevate vol job status in eyes of vols and org by professionalizing job descriptions, attire requirements, skills needed, etc.

Save compliments about vols, use as recruitment testimonials, keep in book for vols to read, share at meetings, training, etc.

Beyond vol weeks-create your own vol day at your org so that your vols know they are appreciated all year

Hold regular brainstorming sessions with vols to rework job descriptions, tasks etc.

Conduct informal “stay” interview to keep vols from leaving-ask what might cause you to leave

Create welcome committee of vols to welcome new vols at training, open houses, etc

Start an inspire newsletter-share articles that inspire you with vols and tell them how they inspire you too.

Reporting on Vols? Use strong words like enhance, enrich, strengthen, develop, amplify, boost, magnify, betterment, growth

Create checklist for new vols-use calendar reminders to follow up on obtaining paperwork, background check etc.

Create chart for prospective vols with followup schedule-phone at 1 week, letter at 1 month etc. see patterns of success

Keep stories you hear of amazing volunteer work. Keep journal, notes – refer back often and read for your own inspiration.

Tired of Vol of the Year Awards that single out just one? Give month or week awards-cute, serious, let vols give you award too!

In addition to yearly vol perform evals, conduct engagement evals on their performance and org’s performance in engaging them-promote team aspect.

Conduct survey with clients on vols- record positive statements as testimonials- use in reports, recruiting, etc.

Create book of vols-photos, quotes on volunteering-display where staff and especially clients can see all the support.

Learn 1 fact about each vol -kid’s names, favorite hobby- write down and refer to when interacting with the volunteer, it makes it easy to build on to know vols better.

Create student led projects such as own fundraiser or survey their peers- its a great skill on resume for college.

Mini education for vols-create distribution lists and email educational articles; encourage them to find more and share.

Volunteers: Managing Difficult Situations

When volunteers say they are flexible when they really aren’t see When a volunteer is “ok” but not ok.

Having that difficult conversation see difficult conversations with staff or volunteers

Too many volunteers with creative ideas? Create a volunteer think tank for those volunteers with improvement ideas. Task them to pick one idea and create a pilot program. Give them ownership see We Should Start Our Own Cirque du Volunteer Show

Managing All The Prospective, Inactive, Episodic and Retired Volunteers:

Keep detailed categories of volunteers, including inactive, see Why Purging Matters

Create categorized email lists and regularly send out notices, newsletters etc. see The Volunteer Periphery

Recruit volunteers to oversee peripheral lists see The Volunteer Periphery

Report your time and efforts in managing all these volunteers see The Volunteer Periphery

Share messaging with other volunteer organizations see The Volunteer Periphery

Staff and Volunteer Relations:

Set policies in place regarding gifts to and from volunteers see Don’t. Do. This. Ever

Create a spa day for volunteers to host, giving staff some pampering and appreciation, hopefully create more appreciation for volunteers.

Create survey for staff: How do you view volunteer services? Make it funny, serious, but look for ways to correct misconceptions.

Staff stops you in hall with volunteer request? Always email a synopsis of your understanding of discussion. Avoid miscommunication.

Create awards for staff who excel at engaging and recognizing volunteers. Give award at annual volunteer event.

Keep birthday cards for volunteers on hand. Bring the cards to staff meetings and pass around to get staff signatures. Nice recognition on volunteer’s birthday.

Gather staff testimonials on volunteers. Share with the volunteers via email blast, newsletter, etc.


Chart hours spent one on one with volunteers against volunteer output. Show how many hours of your time equals hundreds of hours from each volunteer. see Not So Fast Captain Obvious

Creating categories of volunteers explains numbers available vs. one broad number. Categories can include active, temporarily out, episodic, event only, emeritus, etc. see The Dangerous Numbers Game

Create a centralized location to post volunteer stats such as how many vols are currently active, inactive, temporarily on leave, etc. see The Dangerous Numbers Game

Report on all the “extra” wonderful by-products of volunteering by keeping statistics on positive outcomes other than just the filling of tasks. Encourage your organization to include these outcomes on their end of year reports, see Is It Time To Start Selling Volunteer Perfume


Beware of decision fatigue and take steps to eliminate it, see Volunteer Managers and Decision Fatigue

Explain background checks and the application process to volunteers so they understand the whys of jumping through the hoops necessary to become a volunteer see Maybe We Have Some Splainin to Do

Send a letter to a new volunteer’s former volunteeer manager letting them know how much the vol appreciates all the guidance and thanking them for helping shape volunteer.

Create a library of publications you endorse to lend to your volunteers – ask them to help make the library grow.

Create a mantra/goals board-keep in plain sight for vols, staff, clients and administration. Show what YOU work to accomplish.

Want a kitschy fun way to talk about a vol at a meeting? Print out volunteers’ pics and attach to a craft stick-hold up so folks can see what they look like.

Send holiday cards to former volunteers and thank them for their service-it just feels right.

Want to involve school kids? Host poster contest about your organization. Give trophy and enlist media. Recruit parent/child vols.

Need to speak at civic groups? Bring vols who sing, play music etc to break ice & keep talk from being too dry.

Make vol name badges special by adding icons to indicate level of expertise-mentor, ambassador etc. Visually helpful too.

Long time vol has to retire? Invite them to help orient new vols, give in-services, write manuals, handbooks. Call them sages.

We walk fine line when vols step up into a leadership role. Do not relinquish control-encourage but have final say.

At events, spend time with each volunteer and do informal survey on event success, etc. Report findings back to event manager.

Skilled or Pro Bono Volunteers:

When a request for a skilled volunteer comes in, ask what policy exists for this volunteer’s license (if they posses one) and if that license is on the line for any potential mishap. see The Inner Volunteer

Lucky to have a skilled volunteer but don’t like the term skilled? Try pro bono or volunteer consultant instead. Both terms imply episodic and elevated involvement.

Volunteer Manager Development:

Burning out? Overwhelmed? Create something, see Burning Out, Take On More Work. Wait, What?

Deal with the underlying meanings when people say something and really, they are subtly being critical. See It’s 38 degrees outside but it feels like 19

Host a peer group meeting of volunteer managers in your area. Brainstorm challenges you face. see Volunteer Sustainability (volunteer retention) above for more ideas like this one.