Attracting and retaining volunteers is crucial to your organization’s mission. Even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, volunteerism plays a vital role. Here are 8 ways to attract and retain.

How do you get volunteers for a school event, charity, community service project, or another opportunity? In this day and age when people prefer to leave their options open until the last minute, how do you get people to commit? And if they volunteer once, how do you get them to come back again? The Covid-19 pandemic may have slowed down in-person volunteerism, but people are still willing to provide their time. How is your organization persuading them to give?

Encourage Emotional Investment

People are willing to help when they are invested in the cause. Let potential volunteers know why the activity is occurring. What “greater good” will result from this effort? Give as many details as possible about the benefits of this endeavor.

Ask Personally

A call for volunteers in a newsletter or on a sign usually attracts few, if any, volunteer workers. It is easy for people to assume that someone else will help. When you personally ask someone to help, your chances of successful recruitment are better. Face-to-face conversations are best when possible. Investing in volunteer management software can help your organization organize volunteers and make personalized communications.

Be Specific

People like to know exactly what they are getting into. Give them specific information. For example, instead of a general plea for help at the annual children’s carnival, ask them to sell tickets at the carnival or to be in charge of the ring toss game. Tell them what supplies will be provided and whether they are responsible for the set-up of their area. Give them a job description with all the information they need. The people you ask then feel confident that the task is manageable and has boundaries, and they are more likely to help.

Match People with Opportunity

The extrovert who loves to talk to anybody and everybody might not enjoy a task that is done alone and away from the action. Likewise, someone who likes to work alone doing computer or detail work might not be your best choice for an event greeter. When you ask a person to do a task that falls within his or her comfort zone, you are more likely to get a positive response.

Provide Event Specifics

The location of the nearest restroom should not be a mystery. If you are providing refreshments for volunteers, make sure they know where to find them. If the event venue is large or confusing, provide a map with each area labeled. Where can volunteers store their personal items? When can they take a break? Give your volunteers the information required to take care of their personal needs.

Share the Chain of Command

Let volunteers know who to contact if they have a question or need assistance. Then give them information to get in touch with that person. Also, give volunteers any emergency procedures that will be in place during the event.

Receive Volunteer Input

Ask your volunteers what went well and what needs improvement. This can be done with a personal conversation or an exit survey. Jot down suggestions as you talk to people and collate suggestions from surveys. Let your volunteers see that you are taking their input seriously, and make sure to incorporate needed improvements into future events.

Thank Them

Your personal thank you goes a long way toward retaining a volunteer for future events. Send them personal notes expressing appreciation for the time they gave, and mention details about the work they did well. A volunteer who feels needed and successful is a person who might volunteer again.


Organization and personal relationships are keys to recruiting and retaining volunteers. The personal relationship builds as you help volunteers invest in the cause, match their skills with the needed tasks, and thank them for sharing their time and talent. Organization is needed to be able to provide volunteers with the details needed to confidently, competently, and comfortably do their jobs. A comfortable and successful volunteer is one likely to return in the future.

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