Tips for Working with Volunteers

Put yourself in their shoes

If you’re a paid member of staff, imagine doing your role for nothing; how would you expect to be treated?

Be realistic

Perhaps you have founded an organisation and you are unpaid. Can you expect the volunteers who get involved to share your passion? Can you realistically expect them to invest the time and energy you invest?

The good must outweigh the bad / pick your battles

Perhaps an individual never turns up on time but when they do get there they’re great. Therefore how much emphasis should you put on the fact that they’re always late? When the bad outweighs the good it needs addressing, because this is obviously counter-productive, but until that time, think hard about what is worth bringing up and what is worth letting go.

Have appropriate expectations of volunteers

This just creates the right attitude because every contribution a volunteer makes should be appreciated and having appropriate (i.e. not unrealistically high) expectations facilitates this. When you expect a lot from volunteers it’s easy to become complacent and to subsequently take them for granted.

Volunteering has to be mutually beneficial

You recruit volunteers because you need volunteers – they don’t need you. They will have needs which will need to be established, acknowledged and addressed.

It is not like managing staff

Managing staff and managing volunteers are entirely separate entities. In our opinion, managing people who are paid to adhere to scores of ‘rules’ is simple compared to managing those who are not.

Don’t under-estimate what’s involved in recruitment

People often think volunteers will be queuing up to help but how do they know about you? And do they know enough to dedicate some of their valuable time to helping?

Small gestures make a big difference

Volunteers don’t want organisations to spend a lot of time and money showing gratitude as this can make their contribution counter-productive. Smaller gestures like simply saying ‘thank you’ will be expected – particularly as it takes nothing to say thank you. However, as these gestures are small and simple, organisations often forget to do them and overlook their significance.

Consider retention before you consider recruitment

There is little point going full steam ahead into recruitment if you don’t have plans in place to maintain a potential volunteer’s interest and to keep them in the role once recruited. Read our post on why you should ensure your volunteers are happy and how to go about doing so here:

As usual we could go on here! But hopefully this has been of interest. Please drop us an email to if you would like to know more or if you feel Finders Keepers can help you with any element of volunteer recruitment and retention.