Volunteers don’t just support the logistical aspects of major campaigns, such as creating marketing materials and supporting events. They advocate for your nonprofit’s mission, providing the on-the-ground support your campaigns need to reach their ambitious goals.

According to BWF’s comprehensive campaign guide, the majority of nonprofits running campaigns strongly agree that volunteers play a major role in the success of their campaigns:

Graph showing that most survey respondents strongly agree that volunteers play an important role in campaigns

With that in mind, this guide compiles four tips to recruit, engage, and retain volunteers to support your major campaigns’ success.

1. Recruit volunteer leaders.

When recruiting major campaign volunteers, it’s helpful to start small by recruiting a handful of supporters to be volunteer leaders.

Your core group of volunteer leaders will act as influencers for your capital or comprehensive campaign. They should be:

  • Your most passionate supporters, who have a strong connection to your mission
  • Well-connected to other members of your nonprofit’s community so they can help identify potential volunteers
  • Compelling speakers and motivators who can influence fellow supporters to get involved

Work with volunteer leaders to create a compelling case for support to help bring other volunteers on board. Help them craft their personal connections to your cause into compelling stories that inspire and motivate fellow supporters.

For example, perhaps one of your volunteer leaders is a former beneficiary of your nonprofit’s services. They can share their story with other former beneficiaries to encourage them to get involved in your campaigns.

2. Define clear roles and responsibilities.

Potential volunteers need to know what they’re signing up for, so clearly define the roles and expectations for the campaign. Take these steps to give volunteers all the information they need to make an informed decision:

  • Provide a job description. Create a detailed job description for your volunteer roles so supporters know what’s expected of them. Astron Solutions’ guide to writing compelling job descriptions recommends including the skills you’re looking for, required duties, and an overview of your organization. Also, provide information about how the role fits into the hierarchy of your nonprofit and who volunteers will work with (such as your volunteer coordinator).
  • Be transparent about time requirements. Major campaigns can last for multiple months or years. Let volunteers know the time commitment you’re looking for so they can determine if the opportunity is right for them. Clarify whether different roles have different time commitments so volunteers can choose the right fit.
  • Spotlight volunteer benefits. Even though volunteers offer unpaid support because of a passion for your mission, providing a variety of perks is still beneficial. This will help recruit more volunteers and boost morale. Consider offering benefits like free food and drinks during shifts, complimentary merchandise, or access to special certifications they can acquire during training.

Post volunteer role descriptions on your website and ask your volunteer leaders to send the description directly to individuals they think would be a good match. Create a short application process for volunteers to fill out a form expressing interest, providing their contact information, and describing their skills and availability. You can use this information to add volunteers to your database and assign them to the right roles.

3. Train volunteers effectively.

For many volunteers, your major campaign may be the first time they’ve taken a larger role in the fundraising process. Make them feel comfortable and confident in their roles by conducting thorough training and providing them with the materials, resources, skills, and talking points they need to contribute to your campaign successfully.

Incorporate the following aspects into your training program:

  • Provide a variety of training materials to fit different learning styles. For example, some volunteers may prefer videos, while others like to review information packets. Make all training materials readily available using a central platform like your website or volunteer hub.
  • Offer group training sessions. Your campaign may last for an extended period, so building team camaraderie early can facilitate smoother teamwork. Enable campaign volunteers to get to know each other better with icebreaker questions and team bonding exercises.
  • Allow volunteers to take on roles that suit their skills and interests. Assigning volunteers to roles that interest them will motivate and energize them to work productively toward your campaign goal. For instance, if some volunteers feel more comfortable taking the lead on digital fundraising rather than in-person advocacy, empower them to promote your campaign on social media and via email.

With thorough training, you can unlock each volunteer’s unique superpower to determine the most effective roles they can play to support your campaign. Get to know volunteers during the onboarding process, understanding their connections to your cause, talents, and personal interests. Use this information to develop personalized stewardship efforts later on.

For example, if a certain volunteer reveals that they’re an avid runner, you can recruit them to help lead your fundraising 5K marketing efforts. You can also give a water bottle, t-shirt, or other running gear as personalized tokens of appreciation.

4. Show appreciation and provide ongoing support.

You’ll need volunteer support throughout your major campaign, so it’s essential to develop a robust stewardship strategy. Stewarding volunteers helps maintain motivation and improve volunteer satisfaction, leading to greater retention.

Use these strategies to effectively show your gratitude for campaign volunteers:

  • Recognize volunteers regularly. Thank volunteers at every opportunity, from small tokens of appreciation and thank you notes throughout the campaign to larger recognition certificates or ceremonies once you’ve reached your goal.
  • Offer ongoing support as needed. Show volunteers that you’re willing to support them every step of the way by providing additional support, whether through training, supplies, innovative fundraising software, or resources.
  • Ask for feedback. As your on-the-ground support crew, volunteers have valuable feedback to offer to improve the volunteer experience as well as your campaign as a whole. Gather insights from volunteers using in-person meetings or surveys. Adjust your volunteer management or campaign approach as needed and promptly communicate any changes to volunteers so they know you’re taking their input seriously.
  • Demonstrate volunteers’ impact. Donor stewardship studies have found that one of the most common reasons donors continue giving is because they received information about who their gifts helped. The same goes for volunteers—they want to know their efforts make a real difference for people in need. Share data and reports that demonstrate the depth of volunteers’ impact. In addition, gather thank you notes or photos from beneficiaries so volunteers can hear directly from those impacted by your campaign.

Expressing appreciation isn’t just about telling volunteers you’re grateful for their support—you must back up your words with actions. Show volunteers you’re dedicated to supporting them throughout the fundraising process with training, resources, and opportunities to make their voices heard. As a result, you’ll motivate them to contribute their best efforts to your major campaign.

Volunteers are among the most important stakeholders in driving your major campaigns to success. Engaging them effectively requires providing them with the strong foundation they need to promote your campaign to a wider audience and help reach your goals. Providing a positive experience means more volunteers will be willing to support your organization the next time you launch an ambitious campaign, so it’s worth it to take the time to get it right.