Funder by the Department of Human Services Auspiced by Our Community

Help Sheet

Recruiting volunteers

When it comes to volunteering, job satisfaction is important. Really, the processes around volunteering should be no different from the processes around paid roles.

It is important that prospective volunteers know that they will fulfill a real and vital purpose in your group or organisation. For this reason it is extremely important that every staff member knows this and every volunteer in your organisation has a real and meaningful role.

So before you begin recruiting, you need to know why you are recruiting - i.e. what roles you want filled.

Defining the need

One of the motivators for your group is likely to be that you want to create opportunities for others who have had similar experiences. This means that when you recruit consumer volunteers you will need to think about how you will build their capacity.

It might be worth considering some non-consumer volunteers because being able to teach them about your values and work as a consumer group can be a really useful form of community development and because they may be able to provide very useful expertise that you don't have.

Two other reasons for considering a volunteer program are:

Contributing to capacity

Increasingly, people are prepared to lend their professional expertise to community groups for which they have a passion. Volunteers with expertise may be sought in many areas including:

Your Committee of Management should work with staff to identify what sort of skills could fill the gaps or enhance your group's capacity. Once the need for extra support has been established, you are well on the way to enriching the culture of your group through the employment of volunteers.

You can also increase the capacity of your organisation by identifying specific skill gaps on your Committee of Management - and working to find the right people to fill them. The Board Matching Service at is a free service that allows community groups to post vacancies online, targeting specific experience or skills if you wish.

Relieving paid staff

One of the ways to work out the type and amount of work that needs to be done to enable paid staff to concentrate on other core activities is by conducting a "support task audit". Undertaking such an audit will also help to ensure that paid staff members play an active role in the volunteer employment process, that all volunteer work complements rather than duplicates the work of staff and that all staff have an opportunity to access the support of volunteers.

To undertake a support task audit, develop a simple form to identify some specific ways in which volunteers might assist paid staff. This form can be completed by individual members of staff. The form should be specific to your organisation, but might include some of the following:

These forms can be used as a basis for assessing what type of - and how much - volunteer labour your organisation can use.

Pitching the vacancy

Getting the advertisement right is very important in ensuring you attract applicants who are truly interested in your group and the project they will be working on. Your advertisements should include:

People volunteer because of something they want, not something your organisation is desperate to get, so make sure you include some information about the benefits of volunteering for your group.

When you design an advertisement, you may also want to include information about any security screening that will be required.

Getting ready

Before you post the position, make sure everyone who answers your organisation's telephone knows that you are about to advertise. This will save confusion when people ring in response to "that email" or "that internet ad".

You need to have written job descriptions and a well-established process for handling prospective volunteer enquiries. This is especially important for internet marketing as it is so immediate. Within minutes of posting the position, you may have someone calling or emailing you about next steps. Unless you are fully prepared, you may turn potential supporters away from your organisation.

Placing the ad - online

Australian community groups are beginning to realise the potential of employing online technology to enhance their volunteer workforce.

There are two main ways to think about using online technology and volunteering: first as a way for your organisation to advertise volunteer positions and second as whole new way of involving volunteers off-site, through what is now called 'virtual volunteering'. (The latter is dealt with in another help sheet, Online Volunteering).

It's because the internet is so fast and inexpensive that it is so effective as a means of advertising vacancies. You are able to reach people outside of your normal catchment area and segments of the community who traditionally have lower participation in volunteering activities. These can include people from non-English speaking backgrounds, youth, older people and people with disabilities.

As an added bonus they are most likely going to be keen because they have come looking for you.

Online advertising should not replace your regular recruitment methods and should not be used unless your organisation is actually ready for volunteers. In this respect, the same rules apply for posting volunteer positions on the internet as for other advertising formats, except more so.

General volunteer vacancies

Any Australian community group is able to take advantage of Volunteering Australia's GoVolunteer recruitment website. The site allows organisations to post their vacancies online (after registering), which allows you to:

To take advantage of the GoVolunteer service, go to

Board and Committee vacancies

You can also register your volunteer Board or Committee of Management vacancies on the free Board Matching Service operated by Our Community.

Simply go to the Matching Service at and fill in the online form, giving details about your organisation, the type of vacancy you're hoping to fill and the type of skills sought in new committee members. The vacancy will be listed on the website, allowing motivated individuals to express an interest in applying.

Placing the ad - other avenues

There are a range of other avenues you can consider when trying to get the word out about volunteering opportunities in your organisation. These include:

Answering queries

People offering their services for a volunteer position - particularly those responding to internet advertisements - expect immediacy. Staff the phones and regularly service your inbox.

Try to have someone in your organisation answer all email within 24 hours of receipt. If your office is going to be unattended for long periods of time, give a home phone number and/or email address that is checked regularly.



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