Introduction to Recruitment

Who Compiled this Guide and Why

Volunteer recruitment is one of the most commonly cited issues of concern by volunteer managers today. Increased demand for volunteers within nonprofit, for-profit, public sector, faith-based and membership groups coupled with changes in the nature of the volunteer workforce have combined to make volunteer recruitment a challenge. Fortunately, a wealth of resources is available to help with the design of an effective volunteer recruitment plan. Many excellent books, articles and tool kits have been written on the topic and professional organizations of volunteer managers (such as DOVIAs) provide opportunities for the sharing of recruitment strategies. The purpose of this guide is to point you to many of these resources and to share with you the practice wisdom of volunteer managers from a wide variety of service settings.

A team of experienced volunteer professionals from around the state of Texas has been instrumental in the development of the materials that follow. In 1997, TxServe and the Texas Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service convened a task force of State Agency Directors of Volunteer and Community Initiatives. From this task force, an action team was formed to explore the challenges of volunteer recruitment and ways to attract volunteers. Team members shared bibliographic resources, volunteer recruitment materials and strategies, and examples of successful volunteer initiatives.

Most of the materials included in this guide were contributed by team members and their agencies, including excerpts from the volunteer management handbooks of several state agencies such as:

  • Attorney General, Office of the - Child Support Division
  • Health, Texas Department of - Texas Volunteer Health Corps
  • Human Services, Texas Department of - Volunteer Services
  • Mental Health and Mental Retardation, Texas Department of - Community Relations
  • Protective and Regulatory Services, Texas Department of - Community Initiatives

In many ways, this resource on volunteer recruitment is a work in progress - it just begins to mention some of the many topics, strategies and trends in volunteer recruitment today. Critical feedback on the materials presented thus far, stories about successful and not-so-successful recruitment efforts and other recruitment resources are welcome. Modifications and improvements will be made through continued input from the field.

Who Volunteers

Every two years, the Independent Sector produces a comprehensive profile on patterns of giving and volunteering in the United States. It is one of the most widely recognized sources of information on national trends in service and provides a wealth of information about what motivates people to give of time and money. To date, five reports have been published (1988, 1990, 1992, 1994 and 1996). The 1996 survey was designed to answer the following key questions and concerns of the field:

  • Who gives and volunteers? To whom? How much?
  • What determines giving and volunteering behavior?
  • What early experiences influence giving and volunteering behavior as adults?
  • What is the relationship between membership in religious and other voluntary and service organizations and giving and volunteering behavior?
  • Do social behaviors, such as visiting on a regular basis with neighbors, have an impact on giving and volunteering?
  • What are public attitudes toward giving, volunteering, and the performance of charitable organizations?
  • How do economic conditions affect charitable behavior?

(Source: Giving and Volunteering in the United States, page xiii, 1996 edition)

Findings reported in the 1996 publication include:

  • In 1995, 48.8% of the population volunteered, that's 93 million people. Volunteers gave an average of 4.2 hours per week.
  • Volunteers gave a total of 20.3 billion hours in 1995, up almost a billion hours from 1993.
  • When asked how they learned about their volunteering activities, people said (1)they were asked by someone, (2) through participation in an organization, or (3) that a family member or relative would benefit.
  • Of people who volunteered or knew about volunteering when they were children, 55-67% volunteered. Only 29-44% of people who didn't know about volunteering when they were children actually volunteered.
  • 34.1% of non-members (of religious organizations) volunteered and 54.9% of members of religious organizations volunteered. 75.6% of respondents who were members of both religious and other organizations volunteered.
  • 85% of people who were asked to volunteer, did. Members of religious organizations were more likely to be asked to volunteer than non-members.
  • 70.7% of college graduates volunteer. 43.1% of high school graduates volunteer.
  • 80% of all respondents agree that the need for charitable organizations is greater now than 5 years ago. Of this 80%, 53.7% were volunteers.
  • Of the 40% of respondents who volunteered in the last month (April - May 1996), 3.7% were tutors and 1.2% were counselors (like big brother/big sister). 21.5% did religion related volunteering.

(Source: Giving and Volunteering in the United States: Findings from a National Survey, Conducted in 1996 by The Gallup Organization for Independent Sector)

The next update of Giving and Volunteering will be available in 1999. For more information, contact

Independent Sector
1200 Eighteenth Street, NW, Suite 200
Washington, DC 20036
888-860-8118 (toll-free to order publications)

Independent Sector is a coalition of voluntary organizations, foundations and corporate giving programs that encourages philanthropy, volunteering, not-for-profit initiative and citizen action. IS provides information, education, advocacy, research and publications.

What is Recruitment?

Recruitment is a constant, year-round process of keeping your organization's name and its available volunteer opportunities in front of people.

Ellis, Susan J.
The Volunteer Recruitment Book
Philadelphia: Energize, 1994, p. 102.

Recruitment is the ongoing process of securing individuals to do the assignments that you have identified for volunteers within your agency or organization. These assignments can be

  • individual or group activities
  • direct or indirect service positions
  • committee or advisory board task
  • fundraising assignments or
  • advocacy efforts

Regardless of the type of work to be performed, the basic steps of the recruitment process remain the same. Before looking at these steps, however, let's define what we mean by recruitment.

For many people, the distinction between public relations, marketing and recruitment is unclear.

Public relations is the art of helping the public to understand what your organization does and encouraging the public to regard your efforts positively. It is designed to influence as large a segment of the public as possible at any one time with the message you have selected to share.

Marketing involves determining the needs of select or target audiences and then designing goods, services and opportunities that respond to those needs. "It relies heavily on designing the organization's offering in terms of the target markets' needs and desires, and on using effective pricing, communication, and distribution to inform, motivate, and service the markets" (Kotler 1975, p. 5.)

Recruitment is the act of identifying groups and individuals for service, and then actually asking them to volunteer.

While public relations, marketing and recruitment are not synonymous, they do support each other and benefit the overall mission of your organization. When the public knows the name and service provided by your organization, people are more likely to remember your organization when they think about serving. When employed properly, marketing strategies can help target your recruitment campaign to the people who are most likely to say "Yes!"