How to recruit the right volunteers for you

Recruiting involves finding the right person for the right position at the right time. But recruiting volunteers is a 2-way street: the volunteer must meet the organization's needs and vice versa.

Recruiting involves finding the right person for the right position at the right time. But recruiting volunteers is a 2-way street: the volunteer must meet the organization's needs and vice versa.

Why you should recruit

More often than not, you recruit to fill a position, meet demand or fulfill your community mission. But you could also recruit on an ongoing basis to keep your organization moving forward, for instance to:

  • enhance member work allocation
  • keep the organization or activity going
  • generate new ideas

Recruiting in 6 steps

  1. Determine the organization's needs
  2. Write job descriptions
  3. Devise a recruitment strategy
  4. Explore recruitment tactics
  5. Write a recruitment message
  6. Plan recruitment strategy execution

1. Determine the organization's needs

To determine your organization's needs, you need to:

  • explore what you do (activities)
  • list the tasks for each activity
  • assess how long it will take to complete these tasks
  • determine how many volunteers you need
  • put people in charge
  • evaluate your ability to handle volunteers, i.e., how much time you can devote to them
  • determine your organization's limitations

Sample volunteer need assessment chart

Activity Tasks to be completed Time required each week Number of volunteers needed Person in charge
Group facilitation
  • Room setup
  • Co-facilitation
5 hours 1 volunteer 1 facilitator
Management Accounting support 2 hours 1 volunteer 1 administrative assistant
Direct services Food delivery to distribution centres 20 hours 4 volunteers 1 transportation coordinator

2. Write job descriptions

Writing descriptions of your volunteer positions will help you to:

  • determine your needs and limitations
  • help volunteers understand their roles and duties
  • lay the groundwork for volunteer monitoring and follow-up

Components of a job description

  • Title, assignment and goal
    • What is the purpose of the volunteer's assignment?
    • What title will the volunteer have?
  • Tasks, activities and responsibilities
    • What responsibilities will the volunteer have?
    • What tasks will the volunteer have to complete?
  • Skills and qualifications
    • What are the required skills and qualifications?
  • Commitment
    • What is the minimum commitment?
    • How often does the volunteer have to complete his or her tasks?
  • Training
    • How will volunteers be prepared for their work?
    • What type of training will be offered and how long will it last?
  • Supervision and contact person
    • Who in the organization will supervise the volunteer? How? How often?
  • Location
    • Where will the volunteering be done?
  • Benefits
    • What can the volunteer expect to get out of the experience?
    • What can you offer as motivation?

3. Devise a recruitment strategy

Devising a recruitment strategy entails 3 steps:

  1. Determine what kind of volunteer you need for the position based on the job description.
  2. Explore how and where you can recruit this type of volunteer.
  3. Plan how you will execute your recruitment strategy.
    • Decide what recruitment tactics to use.
    • Determine the best time to execute these tactics.

4. Explore recruitment tactics

Concentric circle (ambassador) tactic

This tactic consists of approaching people who are directly or indirectly involved in or affected by the organization, starting with those you are closest with. Approach people who are familiar with the organization, its mission or its employees/volunteers. Contacting them yourself greatly increases your odds of success.

Publicize/attract tactic

This 2-part tactic entails publicizing yourself and your volunteer opportunities. Recruiting externally boosts the diversity of your volunteer team. It is an inclusive approach since it reaches out to different groups of people.

Ways to publicize:

  • Hold an open house
  • Staff a booth at a volunteering or job fair
  • Advertise through volunteer centres
  • Put a want ad in local newspapers and newsletters published by your organization or partner organizations
  • Raise awareness of your organization by holding an event in a public place
  • Be active on social media
  • Seek out local radio and TV interviews
  • Issue press releases about your activities, achievements and special events

Targeted recruitment tactic

This tactic is used to fill specific volunteer needs.

Targeted recruitment entails:

  • clearly describing volunteer positions
  • choosing recruitment strategies that will reach the target audience (evaluate whether the target audience has access to the selected media)
  • tailoring recruitment messages to the target audience
Type of need Who? Where?
Specific skills Specific skills or interests
e.g., computers, accounting, project management, facilitation, web design, graphic design, translation, aid work, etc.
  • Professional orders
  • Retiree groups
  • Immigrant outreach groups
Availability At specific times (days, evenings, weekends, seasons)
e.g., retirees, families, youth, job seekers, persons with intellectual or physical disabilities, etc.
  • Job fairs
  • High schools, colleges and universities
  • Organizations supporting social and labour market integration
Volunteer group Families, schools, businesses, immigrants, etc.
  • Volunteer centres
  • Businesses

5. Write a recruitment message

A clear, concise recruitment message not only attracts more volunteers, it also attracts more of the volunteers you're looking for. Tailor the suggestions below to your publicity medium.


State your mission in concrete terms and short-term objectives.


Don't be ambiguous! Write a recruitment message that will attract people interested in the tasks you need completed.


Describe your cause, clients and the specific event or project you need volunteers for.


Clearly explain the time commitment.


Be specific about where volunteering will take place (at the organization, at client homes, remotely, etc.).


Describe what they will get out of volunteering with your organization. List both emotional and material benefits



Reassure potential volunteers that you can provide the resources and information they need to do their work.

Qualifications and requirements

Clearly state any requirements (driver's license, experience in a specific field, etc.).

How to apply

Indicate how interested candidates can apply. If needed, include the recruiter's name and contact information.


List the website where potential volunteers can find information about your organization.

6. Plan recruitment strategy execution

Put together a recruitment schedule based on:

  • your organization's regular activities
  • your organization's special events
  • the best and worst times to reach your target audience
  • the order in which you should execute your recruitment tactics

Recruiting volunteers can be a daunting task. Planning takes a few good hours, but solid recruiting usually attracts solid applicants. Recruiting volunteers is hard work, so do everything you can to tip the scales in your favour.