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Recruiting volunteers

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Before you recruit volunteers

Before you start, think about how you'll make sure to offer a good experience to your volunteers.

  • Read your volunteer strategy (or write one). Think about how volunteers will help your organisation meet its aims.
  • Check your organisation's insurance policy to make sure it covers your volunteers’ activities.
  • Do a risk assessment for your volunteering programme.
  • Think about safeguarding and how you will keep your volunteers and those they meet safe.
  • Plan what resources you’ll need for your volunteers. Decide who will support and supervise them, and how you will pay their expenses.
  • Write a volunteer policy to outline how you will recruit and support volunteers.
  • Write a role description to tell new volunteers what you expect from them and what they can expect from you.

To help you prepare, see guidance on planning to involve volunteers and on writing a volunteer strategy.

Find potential volunteers

Writing an advert

Your advert should set out:

  • what your organisation does and what cause or group of people it benefits
  • the difference the volunteer will make to the cause
  • what the volunteer will get from their involvement
  • if you will pay expenses and for what
  • who they can ask questions about the role
  • how else they can find out more.

Use language and images that reflect and welcome diversity.

Where to find volunteers

Ways to advertise for new volunteers include:

  • word of mouth referrals
  • leaflets and other printed media
  • using Volunteer Centres
  • organising or speaking at events
  • press and radio adverts
  • on your own website
  • through websites like Do-it, Reach (for skilled volunteers) and Volunteering Matters
  • social media such as LinkedIn and Twitter
  • colleges or university student unions
  • employer-supported volunteering schemes.

If you are looking for specific skills, think about where you will find people with those skills.

Be proactive. Reach out to groups and people who are under-represented in your organisation and help them to get involved.

Volunteer applications

Using a simple application form will help make sure your recruitment process is fair. You should make sure everyone can use this. Where appropriate, provide it in different languages. If the form is online, make sure it is accessible to everyone.

Asylum seekers, people from overseas, people on benefits and ex-offenders can all volunteer. If necessary, seek appropriate guidance from a Volunteer Centre.

Volunteer interviews

Ask the potential volunteer if they need any support to attend or prepare for an interview. For example, they might feel more comfortable if they know what you're going to ask them about.

Don't make interviews too formal. People are offering a gift of time, not seeking paid employment.

It's important to get to know the potential volunteer, so give them time to talk about themselves.

You should discuss:

  • the role and how their skills and experience would fit it
  • why they want to volunteer and what motivates them
  • any requirements they'll need to meet before appointment
  • what support they'll get in the role
  • what else they’d need from you to be successful in the role, for example to have flexible hours to allow for childcare or to have documents provided in a different format like large print.

It's good practice to keep a record of your questions and the potential volunteer's responses.

Volunteer appointment

Once you've chosen your new volunteer, contact them to suggest a start date and induction time.

Before you confirm this, you'll need to make some checks.


You can ask new volunteers to give references. In most cases, a simple letter from two referees is enough. You could also talk to the referees by phone to check what you discussed at interview.

Health checks

If the role demands physical activity, health checks are advisable. You can also ask all volunteers about health conditions if it's your policy. Don't use health checks to discriminate against people. If in doubt, consult your organisation's equity, diversity and inclusion policy.

Criminal record disclosures

A criminal record check gives you information about an applicant’s criminal history. It's an important part of safeguarding. It makes recruitment safer and stops unsuitable people from working with vulnerable groups.

It's not always lawful to carry out a check on volunteers, so make sure you know when to ask for one.

Refusing volunteers

Having completed recruitment, you may decide the person is not suitable for the role.

It's important to tell the applicant the reasons that you're not accepting them as a volunteer. You can also suggest that the nearest Volunteer Centre may have more suitable roles for them.

Applicants may also decide they don't want to volunteer for your organisation after all. In this case, ask the applicant for their reasons. This insight may prove helpful for future recruitment.

Last reviewed: 12 April 2021

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This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 12 April 2021

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