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Four steps to transforming your volunteer program

Nonprofits, campaigns, and movements run on the support of their volunteers—learn how you can grow your volunteer program to make the largest possible impact for your cause.

Four steps to transforming your volunteer program

1. Define your volunteer roles

Before you can start recruiting volunteers, you'll need to get a clear understanding of your specific needs, and why volunteers will be key to meeting them. Are you looking for people to host events? What kinds of qualifications do they need to do so? Take the time to outline exactly who you need, for what, and why. Your volunteer sign-ups will go a lot more smoothly the more information you provide up front.

Sample Volunteer Roles

  • host an event
  • be a social media ambassador
  • write an op-ed
  • help with video/graphic design
  • participate in canvassing
  • do peer-to-peer fundraising

Then, you'll need to rank these volunteer roles in order of difficulty.
 This will help determine future communication with volunteers as you track where supporters are in their journey with your cause, and strategically encourage them to take the next step.


    • One-time events

    • Based solely on current needs

    • Controlled by staff

    • Data recorded across distributed systems

    • Multiple events over time

    • With consideration of volunteer skills, interests 

    • Significant volunteer input

    • Combined with fully-integrated engagement data    

2. Create a signup page

To keep your volunteer program moving, you'll need to create a volunteer signup page where supporters can choose which role(s) they are interested in helping to fill. The signup page will show visitors a scrolling list of past signups, building social proof into the volunteer process to encourage more people to take action.

Next, you'll want to keep careful track of who has signed up to do what by adding a tag to the volunteer’s profile based on what they sign up for. This will come in handy later for sending a targeted email blast to people in your database who have a particular tag. But before you do that, make sure you have a "point person" assigned to each volunteer to help manage the relationship with them. You can assign point people in the volunteer page settings.

Finally, ensure that your volunteer coordinators follow up with anyone who signs up ASAPthis type of outreach can be invaluable: the 2012 Obama campaign found that when staffers reached out to volunteers within 72 hours, those volunteers were significantly more likely to take additional actions.

3. Move your supporters to action

Now that you’ve got a system for recruiting volunteers in place, you'll need to make sure nobody falls through the cracks. The most important step of an integrated volunteer program comes next: move people along the ladder of engagement.

By catering to where your supporters are on the ladder, and considering the previous steps they've taken to help your cause, you increase the likelihood that they'll stay engaged and take you up on your ask. For example, if a volunteer has attended several events, it might be a great time to ask if they'd be interested in hosting one themselves. But most of allstay in constant contact with your volunteers, and make sure to show your gratitude for their involvement.

And, for some extra motivation, you can build a leaderboard to track supporters, volunteers, and recruiters and reward the highest performers.

4. Turn your volunteers into leaders

The ultimate goal of any volunteer program is to turn your volunteers into leaders. Throughout their involvement with your campaign or cause, some volunteers will become "super volunteers," and grow out of the roles they've been given. You want to make sure you've always got a next step in mindand the final step you can allow them to take is that of a leader within your community. Depending on their role with your cause, you can then give them customized permission to certain areas of your nation, so that they can help take on responsibilities like emailing your database, or becoming a volunteer coordinator themselves.

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