5 Powerful Keys to Recruiting and Leading Volunteers

Don’t wait for volunteers to volunteer. Go to them.

The volunteer who volunteers may not be the one you want.

matter more

#1. Help them:

The first question to ask volunteers is, “How can we serve you?”

Talk about them before talking about you.

Learn what makes volunteers tick before explaining what you need them to do. Leaders of nonprofits become over-consumed with organizational mission and vision. They forget to focus on people.


  1. What interests you about our organization?
  2. What are your career aspirations?
  3. What makes you feel successful or fulfilled?
  4. What makes you happy?

Ask the second question, after you hear their responses. “What’s important to you about helping people,” for example.

After you understand them, adapt.

#2. Adapt:

Align your language with theirs.

Listen for language that reveals their heart. Do you hear compassion, systems, or vision in their language. Speak their language back to them.

Leaders who align the way they talk with the language of others show respect and connect.

Never ask anyone to help you until you understand their passion, strengths, values, and vision.

#3. Help us:

How can you help us?

Serving is a two way street. Don’t stop with, “How can we serve you?” If you do, you may end up with self-centered, self-serving volunteers.

Give volunteers the opportunity to fulfill their inner drives. Help them find roles that enhance meaning, align with strengths, and make meaningful contribution.

Leaders who help others matter more, matter more themselves.

#4. Clarify:

Volunteers want to know what success looks like, how they add value, and what you add to the process.

#5. Intervene:

Volunteers appreciate you stepping in when things go wrong.

When things go wrong, take responsibility with curiosity, compassion, and vision for the future.

  1. How can we be better?
  2. What systems or structure will protect success?
  3. What really went wrong?

What are the keys to successfully recruiting and leading volunteers?