8 Ways to Improve Your Association’s Volunteer Recruitment

8 Ways to Improve Your Association’s Volunteer Recruitment

Has your association or nonprofit been struggling lately to add people to your volunteer roster? Volunteers are the backbone of many associations, but recruiting them can take time and effort. Here are eight tips to help you bring new folks under your umbrella.

Get the Board Involved

Association boards typically have a few prime duties: enrolling new members, running events, and enlisting volunteers. If your board is reluctant to participate in the latter, it may be because they don’t know it’s one of their responsibilities. This should be spelled out in a handbook for new board members, so there’s no confusion about what’s expected of them with your organization.

Don’t Wait Until You Have an Event to Start Rapport Building

Many associations make the fatal mistake of waiting until the very last minute to look for volunteers. How many events have you been to where spouses and children were pressed into service because no one else was available? Avoid this desperate scenario by anticipating the need for continual volunteer efforts. Try to develop a rolling recruitment strategy that always keeps key positions filled with extras who can move up into their shoes.

Create Volunteer Advancement Pathways

Most people don’t want to do the same thing every time the group they volunteer for has an event. Part of the ongoing recruitment mentioned above is offering volunteers ways to move up the ranks. This provides more interesting tasks and gives participants experience they can actually put on a resume.

Connect with Local Schools and Universities

Students, in particular, like to find volunteer activities that will either enhance their studies or look good on college and job applications. Try reaching out to departments related to your field at local institutions in your headquarters area or near where you’ll be holding an event. You might even want to designate a student intern position or two.

Partner with Your Sponsors and Similar Groups

Does your association have sponsors to help support events or donate items? Those sponsors may be able to offer volunteers too, especially if making cash gifts is hard right now due to ups and downs in the economy. In return, you can offer them free advertising in your programs or on your website, which is a win-win for everyone involved.

Maybe there are other groups in your region who might also be interested in volunteering, such as:

  • Churches and other worship centers
  • Athletic clubs
  • Service organizations
  • Senior groups
  • Like-minded charitable organizations


If you find another nonprofit like yours that isn’t a direct competitor, you could try swapping volunteers and teaming up for success.

Offer Flexible Time Commitments

One reason some people are hesitant to volunteer is that they’re afraid of an indeterminate time commitment. Therefore, it’s smart to have various timetables for volunteers. Some may only be available for an event or season. Others might give a year, while a few would be willing to offer more time.

Be clear from the start how long you need someone in each position. Leadership roles generally require a longer period of obligation, but you still want to define what that is. Are they done in a year? Two years? Your volunteer pathways for advancement discussed above will help you give specifics that will be appreciated by participants.

Provide Volunteer Training

Most volunteer roles require at least some training, even if it’s just to familiarize people with their surroundings or the equipment they’ll be using. Volunteer training should be offered to everyone, and it can be as casual as pairing a volunteer with a more experienced counterpart or holding formal sessions. The more you can document and put in a manual for future volunteers, the easier this process will become. This is especially true if you host the same event every year as a tradition.

Reward Volunteers Properly

Finally, even though volunteers are technically working for free, you want to thank them. Consider the following as a reward:

  • Event swag bags
  • Mentions on social media
  • Introductions on your website
  • Free classes or coaching
  • Complimentary advertisements
  • Gift cards
  • Special recognition meals or ceremonies


Hopefully, these tips will help in your volunteer recruitment efforts. If your association still finds itself struggling, Jaffe Management offers volunteer recruitment as one of its key services, along with mailing list administration, meeting planning, and website building. Contact us for more information and let us know how we can help you find the volunteers you need to help your organization reach its goals.