Recruiting and Retaining Volunteers: A Fresh Perspective

Guest blog by Matthew Plumridge, MJ Plumridge Training & Facilitation.

One of the many pressures on a charity is the balance of delivering the Organisation’s mission with that of available resources. The ever growing need to provide services and support has driven a natural ability for the sector to magic a quart out of a pint pot. However, the internal dialogue within charities for staffing compared to the costs of employing people is acute, none more so than in the retail environment, often seen as a major source for generating income. Sustainability of this revenue stream is an additional pressure, especially with so much other fundraising competition.

One solution is the concept of getting a team of volunteers to help. Careful consideration needs to be given as to what you want the volunteers to do, how many you may need and for how long. Recruiting volunteers can be very time consuming but if done well and properly embraced by all within the organisation, it should pay dividends. 

The main areas to consider are:

  1. What do you do already to attract and retain volunteers? Identify what works currently and what doesn’t (try to establish why)
  2. What works in one location may not necessarily replicate in another (even a few miles away) so be prepared to try a few different approaches
  3. How will you advertise i.e. posters, leaflets, adverts, word of mouth, targeted campaigns, events, social media
  4. What will it cost? Even simple campaigns will cost something but there are a number of things that can be done for free
  5. Will your adverts show a warm, welcoming, friendly place to volunteer or will they sound desperate (a major ‘turn off’ for volunteers)?
  6. Will your advertising material reflect what’s on your website and other general marketing (fonts, pictures, tone, message)?
  7. Where will you advertise (other than your shop window)?
  8. Will your advertising reflect who you want to attract?
  9. What is your application process: Is it ‘volunteer friendly’ or organisationally cumbersome.  Could it become ‘application light’ (flexible and easy) especially for those who need help with forms?
  10. Could you offer a ‘taster session’ for all prospective volunteers to try you out, before they fill in an application form?
  11. When will you review whether what you are trying is working?

A well-managed team of shop volunteers will help create a positive impact re: motivation and continuity of service, thereby reducing unnecessary turnover, HR related issues and the negative effects associated with a disgruntled team.  Investing time in new volunteers is essential, so they learn your culture. This pays dividends in confidence building, knowledge and enjoyment which in turn builds loyalty. Building rapport, establishing relationship and getting to know your volunteers is the bedrock of good practice in volunteer management.  Getting a volunteering culture right within any organisation, can be tricky. This is something we specialise in along with managing and recruiting shop volunteers and associated legal aspects of using volunteers, all of which can be viewed on our new website at

MJ Plumridge Training & Facilitation provide a wide range of training courses for the charitable, voluntary and hospice care sector which are delivered in a professional yet approachable way, reinforcing good practice, building confidence and encouraging a positive ‘can do’ culture.