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Phelps A-Z: Model 7

Volunteer Rectruitment & Retention


Planning out how you intend to attract volunteers and encourage repeated participation is just as vital to your non-profit’s success as any other part of your overall business planning.

Further to that, there are several key elements your finished volunteer recruitment and retention should include such as: background information and relevant promotional materials, schedule of recruitment and training events, opportunities for recognition and appreciation, and advice for volunteer recruitment and retention.

What to include in your volunteer recruitment and retention strategy

Volunteers are the backbone of many community non-profit activities. Whether helping to run an event, facilitate programming or even undertaking day-to-day administrative activities, volunteer contributions represent immeasurable value for non-profits. This immeasurable value is exactly why having a defined volunteer recruitment and retention strategy is so important.


 Planning out how you intend to attract volunteers and encourage repeated participation is just as vital to your non-profit’s success as any other part of your overall business planning. Further to that, there are several key elements your finished volunteer recruitment and retention should include.


Background information and relevant promotional materials

Community non-profits would do well to make it as easy as possible for potential volunteers to learn about what the organization does and who it serves. Informative documentation such as a comprehensive volunteer handbook, leaflets about programming and an adequate training guide are all examples of promotional materials that apply to volunteering.


A volunteer handbook is undoubtedly one of the more high-priority documents that will inform your recruitment and retention plan. Use it to set expectations for prospective and existing volunteers. Your organization’s handbook should include policies for volunteer participation in various activities, any volunteer requirements—for example, a driver’s license, or first aid training—and specific details about volunteer roles and responsibilities.


If volunteers for your community non-profit will be expected to adhere to confidentiality agreements or any other compliance measures, this too should be included in the information provided upfront. Whether or not these documents are absolutely necessary should be discussed as part of your organization’s brainstorming for its volunteer strategy.

Schedule of recruitment and training events

Having promotional materials for your organization’s volunteer opportunities is one thing, but getting those materials in front of the right people is another challenge.


Although organizing information and training sessions requires time and manpower, events are nevertheless an effective way to communicate your mission and vision with potential volunteers. Understandably, however, there’s only so much availability in your non-profit’s calendar. Carve out specific time for volunteer recruitment in as much advance as possible!


Appropriate timing for recruitment and training events could depend on other events important to your organization, which is another reason why proper planning is so crucial. For example, Phelps Helps programming is tied to the school year; the organization’s recruitment planning is inextricably linked to when elementary and high school students are in session.


Opportunities for recognition and appreciation

Community non-profits owe a great debt to their volunteers, who often help keep the organization up and running in one way or another. It’s important to let them know you’re grateful for their contributions.


Creating dedicated events to honour volunteers’ time as well as defined systems of recognition can do a lot to make helpers feel appreciated. These activities, including but certainly not limited to a simple thank you card, can also positively affect volunteer retention. Similarly, volunteers who feel rewarded for the work they do are more likely to become ambassadors for your organization, thereby positively affecting volunteer recruitment as well.

 Additional advice for volunteer recruitment and retention

In addition to providing adequate information ahead of time, organizing relevant introduction and training sessions and creating opportunities for appreciation and recognition, there are three more best practices that community non-profits should consider for their respective volunteer strategies.


Meet with volunteers regularly:

Building rapport with both potential and repeat volunteers can be essential for their continued participation, as well as your general planning. Outlining how often you expect to meet with volunteers should be included in your volunteer handbook.


Keep track of attendance and availability:

Following up with volunteers regularly about their availability will also help your organization with planning for a variety of activities. Attendance tracking can likewise assist with preparation for future event planning and required recruitment efforts. Remember: any repeated participation at all is worth celebrating, regardless of the frequency.


Develop processes for two-way feedback:

Volunteers regularly act as boots-on-the-ground for your organization, making their feedback as valuable as their service. Be sure to create plenty of opportunities to gather their comments and observations! Conversely, offering feedback for volunteers can boost their effectiveness as well as the likelihood of retention.

Take advantage of our experience

Phelps Helps has learned an incredible amount about effectively serving its community through volunteer service over the years, and is committed to sharing its experience with similar non-profits. Download our Phelps A to Z Handbook for more best practices for volunteer management, communications, fundraising activities and other key activities. 

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