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Volunteer Recruitment: Four Steps to Better Communication

One of the frustrations my clients frequently bring to my attention is the lack of willingness among their congregants to volunteer and contribute in non-financial ways. I work mostly with small to medium-sized churches, and without volunteers, many have had to downsize their programming and offerings. My clients regularly tell me that they just aren't seeing anything close to pre-COVID levels of participation.

I will save for another day the conversation about the often misguided need for "more programming" and why churches must begin to redefine how they understand participation. Today, I want to offer tools and best practices to enhance any church's or faith-based non-profit's volunteer recruitment.

It is a common misconception that people are simply unwilling to volunteer. Often, the real issue lies in how organizations communicate their needs and set up volunteers for success. These four changes in how you communicate your volunteer needs will have a dramatic and positive impact on the response you get!

Be (REALLY!) specific about the ask.

When recruiting volunteers, specificity is key. General appeals for help can leave potential volunteers uncertain about what is required. Instead, clearly outline the task at hand and give them more details than you think they might need!

For example, if you need someone to assist with the children’s ministry, specify the time commitment and responsibilities: “We need volunteers for Sunday mornings from 9:30 to 11:30 AM, twice a month, to help supervise children's activities, assist with snack distribution, and facilitate a short story time.” This clarity helps potential volunteers understand exactly what is expected and allows them to assess if they can commit.

You should also be specific about who might qualify for such a position. If experience, interests, or skills are relevant, they should be highlighted.

Always offer training and support.

Volunteers need to feel prepared and confident in their roles. Providing thorough training and ongoing support can make a significant difference. Start with a comprehensive orientation session where new volunteers can learn about your organization’s mission, their specific role, and the resources available to them. Follow up with periodic training sessions and offer a point of contact for any questions or concerns.

For instance, one of our clients offers regular worship training sessions, ensuring congregants are well-prepared to participate in and lead worship services. This approach not only equips volunteers with the necessary skills but also fosters a sense of community and shared purpose. In 2022, they had over 100 members help lead worship—and that didn't include choir members!

Make the next steps clear.

At the moment of recruitment, guide potential volunteers on how to get involved. Clearly outline whom to contact, how to reach out, and what the immediate next steps are.

For example, “If you’re interested in volunteering, please contact Jane Doe at by next Friday. She will schedule a 10-minute exploratory call with you via phone or Zoom at a time that is convenient for you.”

Don't rely on the all-call.

While an all-call for volunteers can be necessary, it is often ineffective on its own. This method can be too general and impersonal, failing to engage potential volunteers on a more meaningful level.

Instead, supplement all-calls with personalized outreach. Identify individuals who might be a good fit for specific roles based on their skills and interests, and reach out to them directly. This personal touch shows that you value their potential contribution and believe in their ability to make a difference.

Improving volunteer recruitment isn't about finding willing volunteers; it's about communicating clearly and effectively. By being specific about your needs, offering training, making the next steps clear, and supplementing all-calls with personal outreach, you can create an environment where volunteers feel informed, supported, and appreciated—even before they've officially agreed to help! That's the key to successful volunteer recruitment.

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