How to Develop Volunteers for Associations

Volunteers are the lifeblood of associations and non-profit organizations. Dedicated volunteers contribute their time, skills and passion to advance the organization’s mission – yet we know that we have the duty to provide ongoing support, and facilitate effective recruiting, training and retaining of our emerging and seasoned volunteers.

Here are five key strategies to develop volunteers and maximize their impact:

1. Identify Clear Volunteer Roles and Expectations

Define specific roles and responsibilities for volunteers based on the association’s needs and short and long-term objectives. Providing a clear understanding of what is expected helps in recruiting individuals whose skills and interests align with the roles, ensuring a productive and engaged volunteer base. Micro leadership roles can help engage the volunteer, dipping their toes in the water with a specific task can be the encouragement to fuel other roles.

2. Craft Engaging Volunteer Opportunities

Develop compelling and appealing volunteer opportunities that emphasize the impact volunteers will have on the association’s mission and the community. Asking volunteers for expertise in certain areas can attract enthusiastic individuals. Outline and clearly communicate why volunteers are needed for the association and the volunteers themselves.

3. Provide Comprehensive Onboarding and Training

Establish a structured onboarding process that introduces volunteers to the association’s culture, values and operational procedures. Offer training programs and resources to equip volunteers with the necessary skills and knowledge to perform their roles effectively, boosting their confidence and enthusiasm. Past chairs, executive board members and staff can provide “I wish I would have known” tips.

4. Recognize and Appreciate Volunteer Contributions

Show appreciation for volunteers’ hard work and dedication by acknowledging their contributions regularly. You never know when their service might be needed again. Express gratitude through personalized thank you notes, small tokens of appreciation, awards, or public recognition during association events, reinforcing their value and encouraging continued commitment. Saying thank you can go a long way throughout the year (or decades!) of service, not just at the end of their service.

5. Foster a Supportive and Inclusive Volunteer Community

Members want to create a sense of community and belonging among volunteers and by hearing out new ideas, making sure the goals and objectives are in line, encouraging collaboration and communication. After being recruited to help as their perspective may be what was lacking in the group, we owe the volunteer the space to brainstorm ways we can improve.

Picture of Lisa Moore

Lisa Moore

As Executive Director, Lisa incorporates her 20+ years of expertise in higher education and fraternal organizations to manage a broad range of association and membership services. She spent majority of her career providing leadership at Indiana State University, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and University of Southern Mississippi. Her higher education career focused on communication, marketing, student success services and alumni association. She is also a member of the Memphis Area Alumnae Panhellenic Association.