dall·e 2023 10 22 21.13.20 photo of a diverse group of enthusiastic volunteers participating in a community service project, planting trees in a park. their expressions show ded

Volunteer Engagement: How to Attract and Retain Volunteers

Volunteers are the backbone of many nonprofit organizations. They bring enthusiasm, dedication, and invaluable skills to the table, and their contributions can significantly advance a nonprofit’s mission. Yet, finding and keeping volunteers can be a challenge. This article will explore effective strategies for attracting, engaging, and retaining volunteers, setting your organization up for success.

Understanding Volunteer Motivations

Before you can effectively attract volunteers, it’s essential to understand what motivates people to give their time and energy for free. Common motivations include a desire to give back to the community, an interest in the cause, opportunities for social interaction, and the chance to acquire new skills or experiences. By understanding these motivations, nonprofits can tailor their volunteer recruitment and retention strategies to address these needs.

dall·e 2023 10 22 21.13.24 photo of a nonprofit representative, of east asian descent, at a recruitment booth in a university, engaging with students and explaining volunteer op

Strategies for Attracting Volunteers

The process of attracting volunteers begins with effective outreach and communication. Here are some strategies that can help:

  1. Clear Communication: Clearly communicate the roles and responsibilities of the volunteer positions you’re looking to fill, as well as the impact they’ll have on your organization and community. This provides potential volunteers with a sense of purpose and a clear understanding of what they’re signing up for.
  2. Utilize Your Networks: Reach out to your existing supporters, social media followers, email subscribers, and even your staff’s personal networks. Word-of-mouth is a powerful tool for recruiting volunteers.
  3. Partner with Local Institutions: Form partnerships with local schools, universities, businesses, or religious institutions. These organizations can often provide a steady stream of committed volunteers.
  4. Offer Incentives: While volunteers primarily serve to contribute to a cause, offering incentives like skill development opportunities, certificates, or recognition events can make your organization stand out.
dall·e 2023 10 22 21.13.23 vector graphic of a two way street sign, with one sign pointing towards 'nonprofit impact' and the other towards 'volunteer growth'. this represents t
A Unique Perspective: Nonprofit Volunteer Engagement as a Two-Way Street

Engaging and Retaining Volunteers

Once you’ve successfully attracted volunteers to your organization, the next step is to keep them engaged and committed. Here’s how:

  1. Orientation and Training: Provide new volunteers with a thorough orientation and adequate training. This will ensure they feel prepared and confident in their roles, leading to a more satisfying volunteer experience.
  2. Show Appreciation: Regularly express gratitude to your volunteers. This can range from a simple thank-you note to annual volunteer appreciation events.
  3. Provide Opportunities for Growth: Offer opportunities for volunteers to take on new responsibilities, lead projects, or join committees. This not only keeps their experience interesting and engaging but also aids in their personal growth and skill development.
  4. Create a Positive Environment: A welcoming, inclusive, and supportive environment fosters a sense of community among volunteers, making them more likely to stick around.

A Unique Perspective: Volunteer Engagement as a Two-Way Street

While most discussions about volunteer engagement focus on what volunteers can do for organizations, it’s important to consider what organizations can do for their volunteers. Volunteering isn’t just about serving—it’s also about learning, growing, and making connections. Organizations that recognize this and work to fulfill their volunteers’ needs and aspirations are more likely to attract and retain committed, enthusiastic volunteers.

dall·e 2023 10 22 21.13.23 vector graphic of a two way street sign, with one sign pointing towards 'nonprofit impact' and the other towards 'volunteer growth'. this represents t


1. What are some common mistakes to avoid in volunteer management?

Some common mistakes include failing to provide adequate training, not recognizing or appreciating volunteers’ efforts, not offering opportunities for advancement, and not treating volunteers professionally.

2. How can we utilize social media for volunteer recruitment?

Social media can be used to showcase your volunteers’ experiences, share volunteer opportunities, and recognize your volunteers’ contributions. Engaging, shareable content can help attract potential volunteers.

3. How can we encourage diversity among our volunteers?

To encourage diversity, make sure your recruitment efforts reach out to diverse communities, consider barriers that might prevent people from volunteering, and create an inclusive environment that welcomes volunteers from all walks of life.

4. What can we do if we’re struggling to retain volunteers?

If you’re struggling to retain volunteers, it might be time to reevaluate your volunteer management strategies. Perhaps volunteers aren’t receiving adequate support or recognition, or maybe they’re not getting opportunities for growth and development. Regularly seeking feedback from your volunteers can help you identify and address these issues.


  1. Volunteer Management: Mobilizing All the Resources of the Community – By Steve McCurley and Rick Lynch
  2. The Volunteer Management Handbook: Leadership Strategies for Success – Edited by Tracy D. Connors

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