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25 Ways To Catch and Keep Volunteers


Tips to lure volunteers in, keep them happy, and avoid the pitfalls that will keep them from coming back.

5 Good Ways To Find New Volunteers

"Position available."
Write help-wanted ads. Create a flyer or section of your newsletter with descriptions of the jobs you need help for. Include the duties of the position, likely time commitment, and other pertinent information. You're more likely to find a good match for your position if you publicize it well.

"There's a lot you can do."
You already know that one of the biggest fears of volunteers is that they'll be sucked into a black hole of never-ending time commitment. One way to address this fear is to create a list of all of the things that volunteers can do in one hour to help your group.

"Would you help?"
The number one reason people say they don't volunteer is because "no one asked." Asking doesn't mean a newsletter ad that says "new officers needed." It requires a personal approach, and it works best if you have a specific task in mind. "Jim, we need ticket-takers for the carnival. Can you spare an hour to help?"

"Bring your friends!"
People are much more likely to participate in a group if they know someone who participates already. You can use this to your advantage by asking existing members to issue personal invitations to people they know.

"Thanks for your interest."
Don't let volunteer surveys sit around for weeks before you respond, even to people who expressed interest in an event that is months away. People are much more likely to follow through later if you make a connection now. Also, this is an opening to ask for more involvement: "I know you said you'd help with the spring carnival, but I wonder if you could spare an hour to help children pick out books at the book fair in October?"

5 Ways To Get the Most Out of Your Volunteers

"Let me show you."
When you have a new volunteer, have an experienced volunteer work with her to show her the ropes. Your new volunteer will get up to speed faster and, if your mentor does her job well, will feel more like a part of the team from the start.

"It's all written down."
Create a binder with information on your most common activities. Include resources, tools, and key steps. Don't forget items like tips for using the copy machine, how to handle cash, etc.

Encourage more parents to volunteer

Sign up for our free, easy-to-use volunteer pledge program and make volunteering simple, rewarding and fun. Learn More.

"Let's work together."
Two heads sometimes are better than one. By sharing one job, two people can often put more energy and creativity into the work. This tends to work best if you have, for example, a chairman and a chairman-elect—one person as the final decisionmaker in case of disagreements and the other preparing to step into that role next year.

"You can do this at home."
It's common for people who aren't familiar with parent groups to think every job needs to be done at school during school hours. Make a list of "flex time" and "work at home" jobs to attract people who can't help out during the day.

"This is what you can expect."
Set expectations from the start. You don't have to be formal and businesslike with volunteers, but let them know that you expect punctuality, a positive attitude, that they abide by school and group rules, and maintain confidentiality, if applicable. Likewise, make sure your committee chairs know what volunteers expect from them: the tools and training to do the job, a positive work atmosphere, respect for their time, and an understanding of how the task relates to overall goals.

5 Things Volunteers Love

"We're so glad you're here."
A warm welcome can win your volunteer's heart. Introduce her to others. Show her where the restroom is and how to use the copy machine. Include her in conversations. If the work environment is pleasant, your volunteer is much more likely to participate again.

"We're doing this because..."
Help your volunteer understand how her role relates to your overall goals or mission. Working on the assembly line is no fun if you can't see the finished product.

Rate This Article:

(76 Votes)


  1. Posted by - Cedric Patterson on Nov. 07, 2013

    I would like to use some of these ideas at my school.
  2. Posted by - Debbie on Jul. 23, 2010

    No need to reinvent the wheel, this article has everything you to have a successful voluteer program. Thanks
  3. Posted by - adriana crosby on Jul. 07, 2010

    To tell you the truth, I base my PTA meetings in your information. it is so complete and helpful that I don't have to look some place else.
  4. Posted by - Lisa on Jun. 02, 2010

    This article had some great information and good tips that I can use as a volunteer coordinator.
  5. Posted by - Judith on Aug. 11, 2009

    I think if you publish in the paper the PTO board members (Pres., Vice, Treasurer, Secretary) and leave the rest of the PTO out then some feelings might get hurt. Take a big picture of the group as our PTO...someone may see one of their friends in there and may one likes to go to a meeting alone not knowing if they will know anyone?
    from a shy Judith :) now a member of our PTO
  6. Posted by - AmeliaDamlo on Jun. 10, 2009

    great article! thanks.
  7. Posted by - Lisa @ PTO Today on May. 21, 2009

    Congrats Ray and thanks for the comment!

    There are are a bunch of welcome letters in our file exchange

    Also, if you have further questions you will get great insight and support from other leaders on our message boards -

    Hope to see you back on our site often.

  8. Posted by - Ray Newlands on May. 21, 2009

    Thank you for the helpful article! After being elected last night, (the first male PTO President), at our school. I was hoping to put a welcome letter in the School Newspaper, saying thank you and join me. Any Samples?
  9. Posted by - Martha on Apr. 06, 2009

    There are so many great ideas for bringing parents in, I'm excited about implementing some or all of these next year. I especially like the recognition suggestions you gave, I think we all agree on how important that is!
  10. Posted by - Chris on Mar. 18, 2009

    Every year we have a morning tea for all the volunteers. We give them volunteer pins and show our appreciation by flowers and food. They really appreciate the special morning dedicated to them.
  11. Posted by - Sharon on Mar. 16, 2009

    This information is so helpful. Thank!
  12. Posted by - holli on Oct. 18, 2008

    I really enjoyed this article, I can't wiat till our next news letter to put out our wanted ads.
  13. Posted by - Jenn on Jun. 17, 2008

    Lots of helpful and useful hints here! Also, it is a good double check to make sure we remember how precious our volunteers are and to treat them right so they will come back again. Thanks for the great info. Keep up the great work!

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