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A volunteer group or program is important to the success of any non-profit organization. The group should have a system for recruiting, orienting, training, supervising, and recognizing volunteers. These steps can help any organization establish a volunteer group that sustains a connection with the general community and ensures a meaningful volunteer experience.

Planning Ahead

Volunteer programs should have their own mission and vision statements. Organizations might also use the SMART Goal framework, which comes from Peter Drucker’s management by objectives (MBO) instrument.

  • Specific goals are in writing, are concrete, and have explicit action words.
  • Measurable goals indicate how much of something the group should achieve.
  • Attainable goals take a feasible amount of time to reach.
  • Relevant goals support the organization’s mission and vision.
  • Time-based goals have a schedule from beginning to completion.

Volunteer Database

A volunteer database helps an organization keep track of potential and active participants. If it’s in the budget, an organization may purchase volunteer management software. Otherwise, a well-organized spreadsheet should suffice.


Active recruiting helps find the best people. An organization’s mission should inform recruiting activities, which include getting the word out. Groups can post volunteer position announcements on their main website and social media posts, newsletters, and email.

Orientation and Training

Orientation gives volunteers information about the nonprofit and allows them to ask questions before they get started. Training ensures that volunteers know about and can perform the required tasks. The program should consider safety training to protect volunteers and staff from hazards and prepare them for emergencies.


A volunteer supervisor makes sure that volunteers’ activities align with the organization’s purpose. Supervisors need to provide clear instructions, be available to answer questions and address concerns, and give supportive feedback.


When volunteers receive recognition, they feel more connected to the mission and will be more likely to continue volunteering. Recognition should occur regularly, and it’s more effective when it focuses on specific details about a volunteer’s impact on the organization and on the overall community.