Recruiting and Interviewing Potential Volunteers

by Sandy Nagel

In a study by the Corporation for National and Community Service, so far this year 62.6 million people volunteered 7.8 billion hours at an estimated value of $184 billion!  Over 40% of nonprofits in the U.S. are run solely by volunteers.  In other words, a majority of nonprofits would cease to exist if they did not have volunteers.

Since volunteers are the backbone of nonprofits, it makes sense that there needs to be some sort of management in place. Over the last 10 years, more and more nonprofits have been hiring volunteer coordinators to assess and meet the needs of nonprofit organizations through the recruitment, training, and retaining of volunteers.

In this series, we will be reviewing 6 areas of volunteer management:  Recruitment, Interviewing, Orientation, Training, Retention, and Appreciation.


There are 5 types of recruitments: Warm Bodies, Targeted, Concentric, Ambient, and Brokered.  Even though your tactics for recruiting these volunteers will be slightly different, there is some background work before you recruit.

Regardless which type of recruitment you are using, here are some questions you, your staff and board should be discussing:

  • What is the function of volunteers and what tasks are volunteers suited to perform in your organization?
  • What skills and experience would your nonprofit like volunteers to bring to its organization?
  • How will your organization go about finding volunteers?
  • What will the selection process involve?
  • If volunteers are successfully recruited, how will your organization ensure they remain with the organization?
  • Does your organization have good volunteer management and policies in place such as an application, background check, orientation, interviewing, job descriptions, training, retention plan, and knowledge about the legal aspects of volunteers?

Now that you’ve answered these. questions,  it’s time to recruit, but where?

Here are some suggestions:

  • United Way
  • Your website
  • Colleges
  • Religious institutions
  • Professional organizations
  • Corporate community Engagement
  • Social media (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, YouTube, Flickr)
  • Retirees (SCORE, senior centers)
  • Word of mouth

INTERVIEWING: Depending on how your organization operates, once you find and recruit potential volunteers, you will either have an interview or orientation.  Regardless of the sequence, there are things you need to keep in mind.

Interviewing each candidate volunteer is essential. It is at this point that you have a chance to sit down with the person, understand their skills and gifts, and evaluate if they will be a good fit for your organization. This last part comes as a surprise to many people working in nonprofit organizations.  You do NOT need to accept every person who wants to volunteer with you. In fact, many people lack the skills, commitment, or temperament to volunteer with every nonprofit.

At the same time you are interviewing the candidate, they also need sufficient information about you, your leadership, your organization and mission to determine if they want to provide their time to you. The interview is where they get to understand the inner workings of your organization, the tasks you need help with, and how you operate to determine if you are a good fit for them.

Unless both parties are a good match, the volunteer experience will not be positive and neither the organization nor the volunteer will benefit.

Interviewing, getting references and screening volunteers will ensure both you and your volunteers have a positive experience. When you finish with this process, you will know if you want this person as a volunteer. Here is a link to a list of some general volunteering screening questions from Verified Volunteers.

Also contacting references verifies information given by potential volunteer and helps with providing more insight. Here is a link to some questions to ask references from NOLO, publisher of legal books and software..

Written by Sandy Nagel, the NonProfit Guru. If you would like to contact me with your volunteer management questions, please email me at  Sandy Nagel, NonProfit Guru, Consultant and Grant Writer with Awakened Innovations.


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