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4 Questions to Guide Your School Volunteer Recruitment


Picture this—you’re the new leader of your school’s PTA and are now in charge of volunteer recruitment for your annual fundraising event. Maybe you already have first-hand experience and understand just how crucial finding the right people for the right positions can be. Or, maybe this is your first time working with volunteers. 

Either way, you’re looking to assemble a dream team of available and enthusiastic volunteers, but where do you start? Fortunately, you can simplify volunteer recruitment by answering four quick questions:

  • What roles do you need to fill?
  • How will you promote your open positions?
  • What should volunteers expect?
  • What will the signup process look like?

Use these questions to put together an actionable volunteer recruitment plan for an effective and fun school fundraiser. Let’s begin!

What roles do you need to fill?

Each fundraising event will require different roles and responsibilities. For example, you might decide to run a school auction to raise funds and engage your school community. This type of fundraiser’s open volunteer positions might include:

  • Volunteer Coordinator to oversee all volunteers and act as a direct point of contact for all volunteer-related questions, needs, and responsibilities. 
  • Auction Item Procurement Lead to manage a team of volunteers in procuring appealing items that will pique bidder interest. 
  • Auction Item Setup Lead to arrange items in an organized and visually aesthetic manner for in-person auctions. For online auctions, this volunteer might be in charge of gathering clear online photos of each item.
  • Auction Software Lead to manage online event planning, bids, and payment processing leading up to and during your fundraising event. 
  • Marketing Lead to promote your auction to the school community and increase bidder interest as the event nears. 
  • Registration and Check-Out Coordinator to guide guests into your event and ensure each guest receives the items they’ve won.

Regardless of which fundraiser you choose, there is one role that is indispensable: Volunteer Coordinator. Whenever you’re asking a large group of people to volunteer their time and talents, you need a Volunteer Coordinator to act as the main touch point volunteers can rely on for up-to-date information. This way, you’ll keep your volunteers motivated and informed.  

How will you promote your open positions? 

Once you’ve finalized your volunteer roles, it's time to promote them! You could have a thoughtful lineup of open roles, but if you don’t communicate them effectively, you won’t be able to fill them. To grab your audience’s attention, leverage these techniques: 

  • Offer incentives: Yes, volunteers are working for free, but that doesn’t mean you can’t incentivize them for their work. For example, you could offer childcare services for volunteers meeting after school. Additionally, if you plan on charging admissions, volunteers should be able to attend the fundraising event for free. 
  • Be specific: Instead of saying “volunteers needed,” list your volunteer descriptions in a detailed fashion. Use the above open roles to communicate that you need event setup and cleanup volunteers, or maybe you need a volunteer with technical skills to shift your fundraiser from in-person to online. 
  • Reach out to previous volunteers: Directly communicate with volunteers who have served in the past. Ask them about their experience and if they would be willing to serve this year again. If not, ask them if they could recommend someone with the time and skills available to fill your open positions.
  • Host an informational session: Odds are, volunteers will want to learn more before signing up. Anticipate their needs by hosting informational sessions to discuss the nuts and bolts of your fundraising event. That way, volunteers can ease into their roles without feeling the need to jump in blindly. Be sure to leave time for a Q&A session following your initial instructions. 

Include these above items across multiple platforms. Getting Attention’s guide to volunteer recruitment recommends adding a dedicated volunteer page to your school website, where you can share informational session dates, volunteer registration details, and FAQs. Then, link to it on your school’s main social media channels. 

What can volunteers expect?

Many volunteers want to know exactly what they’re getting into before saying “yes.” To put their minds at ease, be prepared to explain what they should expect. Many charity organizations answer this question by creating an onboarding packet to explain pertinent information. 

However, as a school, you likely don’t have as many points to cover. That said, you can create an abbreviated informational packet to cover the following points:

  • Communication cadence: Outline when and how volunteers should expect to hear from you. Whether it's a dedicated volunteer group chat, message board, or email, volunteers need to know when they will hear from you and how to get in touch. 
  • Event day schedule: Provide a detailed schedule of when and where volunteers need to be for the fundraising event. For example, you might suggest volunteers arrive an hour early to arrange the venue. 
  • Additional information: Outline parking details, venue directions, and rainy-day backup plans in your packet to ensure volunteers have all the information they need. You might also want to provide a dedicated FAQ section based on previous fundraising experience to answer common questions ahead of time.

If your fundraising event is more involved, you might also consider adding training resources for volunteers to review. This could include a matching gift drive explainer for volunteers to understand how to tell their school community to get their gifts matched by their employers. Provide step-by-step instructions and, if applicable, link to additional resources to learn more. 

Or, suggests providing silent auction rules for participants and volunteers to be mindful of before the event begins. This could include registration expectations, bidding rules, and checkout procedures. Giving these resources to volunteers will give them time to digest the information and provide helpful advice on event day and/or throughout the campaign. 

What will the signup process look like?

With more volunteers interested and ready to sign up, make sure your volunteer signup process is as streamlined and efficient as possible. Doing so will ensure you maintain volunteer interest and collect relevant information. Your volunteer registration form should cover the following fields:

  • Important personal information: This includes first and last name and birthday (for age-restricted roles). 
  • Contact information: Include volunteer cell phone number and email address fields to connect them to relevant group messaging. 
  • Preferred roles: Add this section for volunteers to match themselves with roles they feel best suited for and are most interested in. Have volunteers list their top three, so you can do your best to honor their preferences as a way of recognizing them.
  • Availability: Volunteers have busy schedules. To honor their time, have them list their availability. For example, some volunteers can help on event day while others might be better suited for planning and follow-up tasks. 
  • Qualifications and skills: Have volunteers list the skills or qualifications that would make them a good fit. For example, a volunteer with marketing experience could handle all event communications. On the other hand, consider limitations when assigning roles as well. A volunteer who cannot lift heavy objects or stand for long periods of time does not need to be in charge of venue setup.
Aim to make your registration form take no more than five to eight minutes to complete. This way, potential volunteers won’t become deterred or distracted. Next, you can use this to update your school’s volunteer records to keep track of previous volunteer information for future reference.

When it comes to volunteer management, communication is key. Be sure to answer the above questions during volunteer recruitment and remain communicative during and following the fundraising campaign. For example, after hosting your event, thank your volunteers and recognize them for their efforts to cultivate stronger relationships with them. 

About the Author: 


Director of Sales and Marketing,

Roger Devine is a co-founder of Northworld, the developer and distributor of the award-winning auction-management software. Before starting the company, Roger worked for many years in software, website development, and publishing. He's chaired at least 30 auctions over the past 20 years (one loses count after a while), has served terms on the boards of several area non-profits, loves all dogs on the planet, and lives in Portland, OR.