8 Ways To Recruit and Keep More Volunteers For Your Fundraising Events 


We’re deep into the season of pumpkin spice and end of year pushes. So if you’re looking for ways to recruit (and keep)  volunteers for fundraising events you’ll want to read Jeremy’s 8 tips.  I’d like to give a big thanks to Jeremy  for whipping up this piece. You can find more articles on his blog at Goodwill Car Donations

Fundraising events can be a lucrative way for your organization to make money. They’re also great opportunities to connect with volunteers in addition to donors.

As you plan for your next fundraising event, use the following eight tips to recruit the volunteers you need, keep them and stay legally compliant while doing both.

  1. Understand the difference between a volunteer and an employee. A volunteer is defined by the Department of Labor as “an individual who performs hours of service … for civic, charitable, or humanitarian reasons, without promise, expectation or receipt of compensation for services rendered.”

To avoid legal risk, and possible tax issues, your organization must be able to differentiate between volunteers and employees. If you force your employees to “volunteer” for duties similar to what they’re paid for (or allow volunteers to act like and replace employees) you risk violating the Fair Labor Standards Act or the Volunteer Protection Act.

To stay on the right side of the law make sure:

  • Volunteer services fall under typical volunteer work parameters, in otherwords work that you’d see volunteers do for similar organizations.
  • Volunteers are not used to displace regular employees.
  • Volunteer opportunities are offered to employees without pressure or coercion.


  1. Create a volunteer policy, agreement and application. A written volunteer policy is an important tool in managing volunteers. And language from a volunteer policy can even be helpful in employment manuals that cover employees donating their time off the clock. In the policy, define what a volunteer is, provide sample scenarios differentiating between employees and volunteers, document the role volunteers will play, and outline volunteer duties and/or incentives.

You’ll also want every volunteer to complete an official volunteer application. In the application include the volunteer’s contact information, permission for the organization to run a background check, questions on the volunteer’s strengths and interests, and consider attaching the rules and regulations that will apply to their service. For inspiration on what to include in your volunteer application, check out this hypothetical application.


  1. Recruit volunteers. To ensure you have adequate help for your event, put more than a minimal amount of effort into recruiting volunteers. Boost your chances by including a call to action in your newsletter, blog, social media posts, email signature and flyers to help with getting the word out.

You will also want to contact current volunteers and/or those who’ve previously expressed an interest in volunteering. Give them an opportunity to contribute by asking them to help make your event a success.

Because almost every task is more fun with a friend, invite volunteers to recruit a friend, family member or co-worker to help at the event. If possible, they can work together or at nearby stations and maximize your volunteer workforce.

  1. Divide events into small, specific duties. You will quickly overwhelm and discourage volunteers if you give them large jobs. Instead, break your needs into small, more manageable duties. For example, rather than assigning one person to handle the welcome station, break the task down by assigning someone to greet people while another volunteer collects tickets or answers questions.

  1. Utilize your volunteers’ strengths. You connect with volunteers and entice them to help when you utilize their strengths. Consider assigning room setup to an interior designer, ask a marketing expert to manage the event’s Facebook page, and let outgoing volunteers welcome guests.


  1. Offer incentives. Volunteers could choose to do anything they want with their free time. To get their attention, you’ll want to give them incentives for signing up to serve at your event and during your event. 

You are legally allowed to offer volunteers small de minimis fringe benefits such as an occasional luncheon, event tickets, a T-shirt or coffee mug. You may also reimburse them for any out-of-pocket expenses and provide nominal compensation of up to $500 in cash per year as long as it’s less than 20 percent of what an employee would make for performing the same services.

However, when giving incentives, remember that large financial gifts or benefits are considered taxable income, and certain compensation can jeopardize the protections your volunteers receive under the Volunteer Protection Act. Certain incentives can also create a scenario where you have to follow legal wage and non-discrimination laws for your volunteers. Check the rules carefully before you offer incentives.

  1. Provide the right tools. Whether your volunteers fold programs, serve snacks or paint kids’ faces during your event, they should have all the tools and materials they need to do their job properly. Put yourself in a volunteer’s shoes as you prepare for the event and anticipate any needs a volunteer may have.


  1. Thank your volunteers. A heartfelt thank you goes a long way to building rapport and keeping quality volunteers. Consider a handwritten card, public acknowledgement on your website, or special gift as you thank your faithful helpers.

Your next fundraising event could be a huge success, all because of your volunteers. So focus on recruitment, get people involved and make sure to obey the laws by thinking of the eight tips above.


Author bio: Jeremy Silverstein is Vice President of Operations and Vehicle Dispatching at Goodwill Car Donations. Over the five years he’s been with the organization, he’s handled tens of thousands of donated vehicles.