When you’re recruiting volunteers, how much emphasis do you place on their candidate experience?

It is essential to provide an experience that retains and engages volunteer talent throughout the application process.

Why is it so essential?

Volunteers are often the backbone of charitable and not-for-profit organisations. They bring time, energy and passion to help you extend your services further and reach more people, places, communities, animals and more.

People who volunteer can become advocates of your cause, encourage others to fundraise for you and promote your work.

And they can bridge skills gaps within your organisation: digital experience, accountancy skills, web development know-how. You might find the new social media guru you’re desperate for, someone who can advise on legal matters or new trustees to sit on your board.

But because these candidates are donating their time and skills, they may be less likely to endure a time-consuming or complicated process than other applicants. They could seek volunteering opportunities elsewhere. And, if they don’t have a good experience with your organisations, those potential ambassadors could be left with a bitter taste.

So how do you provide a positive application experience?




  1. Capture potential volunteers’ hearts and minds before they hit apply

If you want to secure volunteer candidates whose skills may be in high demand, ensure that your employer brand is strong.

Dedicate a section of your website to promote why you’re a fantastic organisation with which to volunteer. Share stories or case studies of other volunteers and what they’ve got out of their experience with you.

Demonstrate your commitment to supporting volunteers with information around guidance and training. Promote accolades such as the ‘Investing in Volunteers’ accreditation, so potential volunteers know they’ll be supported throughout their time with you.

Strengthen your branding with relevant social content. Consider setting up a @volunteers social account so potential volunteers can follow or engage with you before they even apply for a role.


“Because these candidates are donating their time and skills, they may be less likely to endure a time-consuming or complicated process than other applicants. They could seek volunteering opportunities elsewhere.”


  1. Provide a sleek and simple online application process

Your volunteer application process should be simple and professional.

Provide an online application method, so candidates don’t have to request a volunteering pack through the post or apply with multiple email attachments.

If you use an Applicant Tracking System, you may be able to tailor online application forms to suit specific volunteering roles. This is useful if you need specialist skills or proven experience in a certain area.

With an ATS, you should also be able to run reports on where candidates may be dropping out of the process – which can help you identify potential problem areas and make improvements as needed.

  1. Communicate with candidates

Timely and consistent communication is the cornerstone of strong candidate experience.

This should start when a volunteer candidate has submitted their application (a simple, ‘We’ve received your application’ is a good starting point) and should continue throughout subsequent interview or assessment day stages.

Then, manage candidates’ expectations as to when they will hear from you. Don’t be that organisation they never hear from again. The black hole of CVs and application forms is hard to bear; and volunteer candidates will have put as much time and effort into their application form as staff applicants.

Ensure your communications are on-brand and look professional. A good volunteer candidate experience must feel connected and consistent – so try to keep all messaging, from application form text to email communications, professionally branded and in line with your general tone, look and feel.


Are you reading all this shaking your head and asking, ‘who has the time to do this?’?

You might have a very small volunteer recruitment team. You might just have one person who co-ordinates staff and volunteer recruitment! When you’re on the hamster wheel of day-to-day work and to-do lists, embedding some of these recommendations seems unrealistic.

It’s why investing in an ATS can be so valuable. With the right recruitment technology partner, you can configure application forms to suit your volunteering opportunities simply and easily. You can report on candidate activity, map your recruitment costs, and keep track of spend, sources and success metrics. And you can send personalised, branded email communications in bulk.

And a good Applicant Tracking System should be able to handle both your staff and volunteer recruitment, so everything is in one place.


The key to a positive volunteer application experience lies in this:

That these essential, incredible, much-needed people feel valued.

  • From the moment they hit your website to their first day as a part of your team, your volunteer candidates need to be confident that you’ll support them and that you value their contribution.
  • If you can, invest in recruitment technology for that outstanding application experience.
  • Spend time seeking and sharing stories about volunteers who have made a difference.
  • Commit to an ‘Investing in Volunteers’ or similar accreditation.
  • Provide training, guidance and the resources they need to flourish.

We’ll be at the Third Sector Strategic People Conference on Thursday 16th March. Come and say hello to us if you’re there too – we’ll be on Stand 5!

Find out more

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Don’t ‘Bae’ me – how not to communicate with your candidates

How StepChange Debt Charity transformed its recruitment processes

About the author

Tristan Potter

From candidate experience to flexible working, and from supporting graduates to ATS reports; Hannah's written it all over the years! Hannah has contributed to publications as diverse as The Guardian, UK Recruiter and University Business. She is also the wordsmith behind our whitepapers and guides, from GDPR to Employee Volunteering.