Everything HR

Fishing for the Perfect Volunteer – How to Land Applicants for Unpaid Positions

September 21, 2016

If you’ve recruited volunteers before, you may have experienced disappointment with a newly recruited volunteer that you believed was brimming with potential. Not long after they start, it becomes abundantly clear that they are not right for the position you recruited them for. Recruiting volunteers that are a perfect fit for the positions your organization offers can be a real struggle, but with the right mindset and approach, you can land those ideal candidates.

The traditional approach to recruiting for volunteer positions is a job or position-centred approach by looking for what the organization needs done, and then recruiting volunteers who can do that work. However, that approach is becoming increasingly ineffective. Today’s prospective volunteers require a more person-centred approach to recruitment. Which means that how you “package” and “sell” your volunteer position to potential applicants matters. Of course you still need volunteers to perform the less glamorous tasks, but try to think of creative ways to diversify roles, and throw in something that will entice volunteer applicants. Here are some steps you can take to land qualified and enthusiastic volunteers:

1. No clones!

When you’re recruiting, don’t look for an exact replica of a current or past volunteer. Instead, look at more general qualities of current successful volunteers and target those characteristics in your recruitment drive. Performing a Job Evaluation Questionnaire is an effective way to determine what qualities and qualifications are required to be successful in a particular position.

2. Explain the recruitment process

It is important to be transparent throughout the recruitment process. Be upfront about recruiting timelines, the stages volunteers will have to go through before they start, and any potential challenges they may encounter along the way.

3. Be upfront about the experience they will receive

Setting expectations is crucial to successfully recruiting a volunteer who will not only accept your offer, but will be satisfied in their position and stay on long-term. Throughout the recruitment process, focus on tangible benefits of the position such as skills development to “sell” the position. It is better to set the expectations properly and discourage potential applicants who might not be the best fit early in the process, than to oversell and be recruiting for the position again a little ways down the road.

4. Don’t overlook documentation

Having a job description for the position and establishing clear expectations for the type of commitment you will expect from the volunteer is essential. The job description should lay out all of the job duties the volunteer will be expected to carry out, the qualifications they require, and the work conditions. This helps volunteer position hunters determine which roles they are suited to, and will also aid you in more accurately “selling” the position, as well as evaluating performance once the volunteer is on the job. HRdownloads’ Job Description Generator streamlines the process of creating a job description by providing a large library of competencies, job duties, job requirements, and work conditions to choose from.

Request a free trial of Job Description Generator and help ensure effective hiring with complete job descriptions!


Recruiting volunteers can be a real challenge, but with the right approach and process, it is possible to land individuals who will add value to your organization over the long term.

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