Recruiting Volunteers

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Planning for the recruitment of volunteers is necessary to find the right volunteers for your organisation. However, accepting there is no one magic solution or guaranteed answer and taking the time to plan, will hugely increase your chances of a successful recruitment campaign.

A Checklist before You Start Recruitment

  • What are your volunteers going to do? (See Creating a Volunteer Role Description)
  • Do you want to target a specific audience of potential volunteers? Will that influence how and where you advertise?
  • What is your budget for volunteer recruitment? If it's zero then creativity needs to be your friend.
  • How are enquiries from prospective volunteers going to be dealt with and by whom? There is nothing more off putting for prospects than calling to offer their time and no one knowing who is recruiting or for what. Make sure your front line people know about the volunteer recruitment and how to deal with prospect's calls.
  • What happens when a prospect does get in touch? What information will they be given? Will an information pack help or a basic 'sales pitch' about the role and the organisation be better?
  • What information are you going to give potential volunteers when they enquire? About the role, the organisation? Prospects may be shopping around different volunteer roles so an invite to come in and have a chat may be your most effective recruitment strategy.
  • Consider how you might reduce any potential barriers for prospects. Revisit your equal opportunities policy and make your volunteer recruitment open and accessible as possible.
  • Have you considered the timing of your recruitment?
  • Have you thought about how you will manage and evaluate demand?

Where to Advertise

If you have recruited for volunteers before, it is a good idea to revisit what worked well and equally what didn't! So did that expensive advert actually recruit anyone?

Consider the following recruitment tools for your next strategy:

Use your local Volunteer Centre

In Edinburgh our service is free and opportunities are widely publicised both on-line and in our office which is visited by around 4000 people a year. 35% of volunteer involving organisations who work with us cite us as their primary recruitment tool with 66% putting Volunteer Edinburgh in their top 3 successful volunteer recruitment tools.

If you are in Glasgow please contact our partner Volunteer Glasgow.

If you are in another part of Scotland please contact your local Third Sector Interface.

If you are in another part of the United Kingdom, these helpful partners are a good place to start:

Volunteering Wales

Volunteer Now (Northern Ireland)

NCVO (England)

In the Republic of Ireland please contact Volunteer Ireland

Word of mouth

Old school and still one of the most effective volunteer recruitment tools out there. Get your team and service users to spread the word. Always worth remembering that this form of recruitment, while effective, can lead to 'like recruiting like'. This can restrict diversity.

Print: Putting up posters/distributing flyers

Libraries, Doctor Surgeries, Public Buildings, Schools/colleges, Leisure Centres, Places of Worship, Arts Venues, Supermarkets, and Cafes are all good recruitment points. If you are doing poster based recruitment consider carefully the message that your poster gives out. Nothing is more unattractive and unlikely to attract prospects than a sold block of small font print. And no, putting it on coloured paper and in Comic Sans does not make it more attractive.

Offer to do talks/presentations or host a pop up stall

This is a great method if you are looking to target a particular client group e.g. young people, business specialists, retired professionals. Can be time heavy but even if you don't net volunteers it has the advantage of spreading the word about your organisation.

Media and Social Media tools

Print media, such as newspaper adverts is normally quite costly but don't be afraid to haggle for a deal if you feel a particular printed medium would help you to target. Look into online/web based tools and social media such as Facebook, Gumtree, Twitter; these are all free and if kept up to date, can be a great way to publicise vacancies for your organisation. Paid for Facebook adverts can be cost effective and worth considering if you want to target a particular demographic.

Community Events and Fairs

Keep an eye on events in your community, or even city-wide events such as The Edinburgh Mela, where you can hold a stall that will help publicise your organisation and meet potential volunteers. Fairs and events tend to have a cost to attend but can be effective. Volunteer Edinburgh runs Scotland's largest volunteer recruitment fair every Autumn.


Volunteer Recruitment is a year round business. However, it is worth noting that there key times throughout the year when there are more volunteers looking for opportunities:

  • New Year - a very popular time, lots of people looking for a fresh start or making a positive change for the upcoming year.
  • Volunteers’ Week - In the first week of June (in the UK), a very high profile time often when there are lots of news stories about volunteering, a good time to approach the media with some good news stories!
  • Summer - although for some this is a time for holidays and taking care of the kids, there are many other types of people looking for volunteer opportunities, including students and (especially in Edinburgh) people travelling through.

A word of caution on timing: remember to leave yourselves enough time to complete a selection process and in particular enough time to complete disclosure checks for your volunteers if you require your volunteers to begin around a certain date.

Follow up

Finally, one of the most common complaints we have from prospective volunteers is when they have enquired about an opportunity and an organisation has not got back to them. First impressions often mean that if a prospect has left a message (email, phone or letter) and they do not get a reply promptly, you will lose them. One of the best preparatory things you can do in a recruitment strategy is to ensure your front line staff know what to do with an enquiry:

  • Use your website - upload your application pack for volunteers so that it can be downloaded by interested individuals
  • Keep staff and volunteers informed - make sure that those who answer the phone and pick up the emails know what to do with a volunteer enquiry. Have some volunteer packs made up ready to send out.
  • Follow up - get into the habit of chasing up those interested parties that have requested information. They might just need a little push.
  • Situation filled/not suitable - if you receive enquiries and your opportunities are filled or the enquirer is not suitable for the position, let them know and signpost them to their local volunteer centre.

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More help?

If you would like more help or advice please contact Volunteer Edinburgh on 0131 225 0630 or email:
Or you can drop in and see us:
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