How to attract volunteers from a wide range of backgrounds

A diverse workforce or pool of volunteers brings a whole host of benefits to an organisation - from the breadth of life and professional skills that come from such variation of ages, backgrounds and experiences, to new and varied viewpoints which reflect the local community within which an organisation works. Knowing how to attract volunteers from diverse backgrounds and demographics isn't always easy, so here's some ideas which could help:

Think about the different reasons that people might choose to volunteer, and appeal to those in your advertising. Attract certain groups by showcasing how taking up a role with you can support in specific areas:

  • For start-of-career development: Volunteers might be hoping to gain workplace experience for the first time or after having a break; students often use volunteering to support university applications or complete a voluntary placement as a requirement of their course. Volunteering can be appealing people looking to try out work in different industries and settings; and developing life skills can also be a benefit that appeals to volunteers at the start of their careers. If you’d like to appeal to an emerging workforce who come with fresh ideas and enthusiasm, showcase how volunteering with you can support their career development.
  • For increasing employability: Can you offer volunteers the opportunity to gain current professional references; refresh their existing workplace skills; learn new skills transferrable to work settings; gain experience in a team environment or an opportunity to hone working under own initiative? If so, shout about it!
  • For health and wellbeing: Sometimes, volunteers choose to get involved for more holistic reasons such as feeling valued; keeping busy; making new friends; building confidence; mixing and interacting with others; establishing healthy routines; or to feel part of the community. Recognise that benefits such as these can be gained by volunteering in your roles!
  • Altruism: After being supported themselves, many people want to give back and to feel like they are making a difference to a cause or to the lives of those in need. Many others develop their sense of self worth and positive self esteem via doing good. By showing potential volunteers how the support they give you can directly and positively impact others, you can speak to those who want to make a difference in the world.

Advertise your roles in a variety of settings and use different formats:

  • Different people seek out information in different formats, so it’s important to utilise as many as possible if you want to attract diverse volunteers.
  • Paper copies of leaflets and posters can be left at community venues, libraries, places of worship, university events or Fresher’s Week etc, distributed at community events or handed to individuals; and electronic versions are fantastic as they can be forwarded on infinitely.
  • When advertising online, make use of the job sites such as indeed or Reed as well as your own website and the VAC Simply Connect database to reach a wider range of people.
  • Create a large poster or display board for on-street or window advertising that’s visible to people walking past your venue.
  • Think funny! Humour, tongue-in-cheek comments or puns can be a great way to grab people’s attention and get people interested. And content that is laughed at is shared more often! There are some great tips online for using humour in your marketing – search and see what appeals and is appropriate to you and the message you’d like to portray.
  • Consider approaching local community radio to talk about the work you do and make a call to action for volunteers that way.
  • Whilst professionally produced and printed marketing materials can look great, not all organisations or projects have the budget for this. But don’t let this be a barrier – if you have access to a computer and a printer, you can create your own resources to promote your volunteer roles.

Let people “try before they buy”:

  • Taster days or Open evenings at your venue that allow people to see your base, get involved with small tasks and talk to staff or existing volunteers and test out if they can see themselves giving time with you. Many volunteers really value this opportunity to “get a feel” for somewhere, and it can be a fantastic opportunity for you to raise awareness of the work you do, as well as recruit volunteers.
  • Videos or media showcasing what your current volunteers do, or your volunteer manager chatting about how volunteers are valued and the work that they do for your organisation can shine a light onto what it’s like volunteering for your organisation. You can post them on your website, or share on YouTube or social media.
  • Write a “what to expect” article for your website for volunteers to read that details your processes for getting involved and the types of day-to-day tasks that volunteers undertake, and take the mystery out of your procedures.

Consider offering roles with different commitment levels:

  • Although not always practical for all organisations or the support you need, one option to encourage volunteers from different backgrounds is to offer both regular and one-off (or micro-volunteering) roles. Micro-volunteering can often be seen as more accessible as it’s easier to fit around existing responsibilities, and opens up volunteering to those who would usually consider themselves to be too busy to commit regularly.

Engage with projects or schemes that support people to volunteer:

  • VAC’s “Working with Refugees” half-day workshop is great to give you the tools to positively help to encourage refugees as volunteers. Contact our Integrate Coventry team to find out more: 
  • Colleges and Adult Education services often run courses for people with disabilities to gain life skills, and volunteering can be a great way to help them develop. Consider getting in touch with them to see how you could work together.
  • Invite VAC’s supported volunteering projects bring people to you or come and deliver a talk to our groups to raise your profile and encourage engagement with your organisation. Email Immy on to see how this could work for you.
  • Employee volunteering is when companies allow individuals or groups of their employees time to support local causes, and can be a great tool to find a task-force or people with specific skill sets that you need. Approach local businesses, and keep an eye on VAC’s e-bulletin as we occasionally share offers we receive from companies looking to get involved.

For support with recruiting volunteers, contact Francesca on