Recruiting Volunteers

Start from the start

First, write down why you want to include volunteers in your organisation and what you want them to do.

A carefully constructed job description helps ensure that the aims and objectives of the volunteer program are being met. It also protects the rights of the volunteer and can help them negotiate the demands of a busy agency.

A job description doesn’t need to be long or complex, but should include:

•     a description of the position (position objectives)

•     skills and/or qualifications required (both mandatory and desirable)

•     key areas of responsibility or a list of duties

•     key relationships, such as supervision

•     conditions of the role, such as attendance times, required training.

Targeted recruitment

When it comes to attracting volunteers, it helps to understand something of why and how people come to offer their time.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 57%* of volunteers do so in order to give back to their community; a further 36%* want to do something worthwhile.

A recruitment campaign that highlights the impact a volunteer’s contribution will have on your community or cause will appeal to this motivation—and stand a better chance of attracting attention.

The ABS has also found that 64%* of volunteers first got involved because they were asked to or through someone they know. The lesson? Think local connections first. For example:

•     Tap into word-of-mouth: ask your current volunteers to spread the word among friends and relatives

•     Target your recruitment to interest groups that may relate to your cause

•     Ask your volunteers for suggestions and make contact with local branches

•     Ask the volunteers themselves to hand out flyers at their club or network.

As well as saving you time, targeting recruitment in this way will give your message a better chance of getting through to people with increasingly busy lives.

*All data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Voluntary Work, Australia, 2006

Make a good impression

You must ensure that the first point of contact for potential volunteers gives the best possible impression of your organisation.

  • Inform all relevant people of the recruitment campaign and selection processes, from those who will take calls to those who will supervise
  • Make sure your documentation (position description, information packs and policy and procedures) is up to date – see Fast Facts – Essential Policies and Procedures for a
  • Think ahead to how you might deal with the possibility of too many volunteer applicants, or unsuitable volunteer applicants – prepare your response so you are not caught out if applicants phone to check their status


Selecting the right volunteer is an important part of managing risk in your program: the risk that the volunteer will not stay, the risk that they lack the interest or skills for the role, or the serious risk that they may cause harm or be harmed through the role. A well thought-through selection process is the best way you can manage these risks.


It is good practice to interview applicants for volunteer roles. Recruitment interviews for volunteers are like standard interviews. Though they tend to be much less formal, they work best with some structure; put some time into planning the interview venue, timing, format, questions and points for discussion.

See Interviewing: A Conversational Approach by Volunteering Queensland for tips.


Most organisations today also conduct checks on volunteers in recognition of their duty of care to the organisation’s clients or service recipients. Most organisations should plan to conduct:

  • proof of identity checks
  • reference checks and qualification checks (where applicable)
  • police checks*
  • Working with Children Checks (where applicable)*.
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