Recruiting and Retaining Volunteers - Master Minds Circle

board-meeting.jpgTwelve Coalition members came together for the first Master Minds Circle on June 16, 2015 with the goal of collectively brainstorming solutions to a community challenge.  “No two minds ever come together without thereby creating a third, invisible intangible force, which may be likened to a third mind” said Napeolen Hill author of Think and Get Rich. This month’s questions came from the Boys and Girls Club of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe:

"How do you recruit and retain volunteers?" Why do you volunteer? Give us a positive story”

Participants offered these key ideas: Recruit by getting your message/mission broadcasted clearly. Give volunteers context for and the impact of their efforts.  Offer tailored volunteer experiences that speak to different strengths and make a personal connection with potential volunteers (don’t expect folks to respond to another email).   Get to know their motivation for volunteering; figure out if they motivated by a carrot or a stick or both. Find out what might motivate a volunteer:

 Service learning requirement or passion for community building?

Wanting to build a resume or make new friends?

Develop new skills or share expert knowledge?

Re-occurring, long-term commitment or short-term project based interest?

Outgoing or introverted?

Have fun or contribute to lasting change?


There is a lot of competition in the community so don't be greedy with volunteers. Send them to the appropriate organization for their passion. Collaborate with other organizations about how to utilize existing resources in community.

Participants reflected that it's important the volunteer has the skills and capacity to succeed. This means taking the time to get to know them personally. Volunteers are more likely to be retained by maintaining contact, providing supportive training and feedback, recognizing them in a variety of ways from Thank You cards to Theatre tickets, and giving them opportunities to have their lives be changed.  Keep expressing how their efforts impact big picture goals of your organization.  Celebrate their/your successes with story-telling, evaluation and opportunities to give honest feedback.  Be conscious of volunteer burn-out by setting reasonable expectations and monitoring interest/energy/capacity.  Keep things fresh by shaking things up with new events or responsibilities if they have been around for a while. Ask volunteers for their ideas.

"Is there any difference in recruiting youth vs adults and what would you suggest?"

During this section of the Mastermind Circle, participants stated youth might have mandatory service hours for schools and might be motivated by resume building and college preparedness. Volunteering can facilitate healthy risk taking and being uncomfortable (ex. Talking to new different people), a key attractor for some teens and a great opportunity for your staff and volunteers.   Ultimately, each volunteer’s (young or old) unique motivation, skills and potential needs to be addressed.

Volunteering can potentially build important life skills for both youth and adults such as making friends, facilitation skills, and leadership.  With youth, don’t “make work” for volunteers, instead use a Youth-adult Partnerships or Service-Learning approach where what they do counts and the youth are truly mentored. Relationships built through youth-adult partnerships and service learning can be a valuable part of the volunteer experience.

 "What is your take away?"

More brains are better than one! The more people you have the more you can meet your goals, even though volunteer recruitment/retention can be challenging.

Case management work is hard work and can feel helpless and hopeless, so let's look at the success rate. Celebrate successes early and often.

How can we reach outside of La Plata County and bring in more volunteers? Can this be a travel destination for volunteers? Maybe we could entice grad students to our area and put them up at local places, like Weaselskin.

How do we think outside the box with how we already work with our volunteers? I need to bring this question to my organization and current volunteers.

Start by asking what the volunteer's motivation is and connect them to the right projects and programs.  This means I need to keep learning what others in the community are working for real collaboration.

I always thought about having a volunteer fair to recruit new folks. Maybe have it Fort Lewis College? Maybe Celebrating Healthy Communities could organize?


 Complete minutes from this session available here.

Master Minds Group came from 1900s and the Think and Grow Rich book for business. Nonprofits still have a business aspect to survive. The way it works is simple: someone picks issue/challenge and sends it to the Master Minds Session and then participants go round robin with ideas to address challenge.

Next Master Minds Circle is August 18th from 11:30 – 1pm at the same location 175 Mercado St. (Three Springs Sales Office conference room, upstairs).  You and anyone interested in being a part of community dialogue and solutions are welcome.  Bring your brown bag lunch, chocolate provided.   

  • Cody Goss posted about June Master Minds Circle - Volunteers on Cody Goss' Facebook page 2015-06-17 12:52:53 -0600
    Recruiting and Retaining Volunteers - Coalition members offer solutions to local challenges at this month's Master Minds Circle.

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