Growing Your Grassroots: Volunteer Recruitment and Retention 

At the heart of Main Street are the people who make it happen! Volunteers are a vital part of a Main Street organization as they offer essential insight, credibility, and capacity. However, finding great volunteers and keeping them on board can be a challenge.  

In a Main Street America Institute course on Advanced Principles of Sustainable Organization, Mary Wirth, State Coordinator of Main Street Alabama, provided practical strategies to recruit and retain volunteers.  

Start With Motivations 

Considering why someone might want to volunteer with your Main Street program is a great way to align yourself with potential volunteers. Be prepared to answer, what’s in it for me? Motivations to volunteer can range from:

  1. Altruism, wanting to do something good for the community
  2. Connection, wanting to build relationships and affiliations
  3. Achievement, wanting to complete a specific project or implement an idea 

There are dozens of reasons why someone would donate their time and talents to your work. Knowing what your organization has to offer in relation to those motivations can better connect you to the right people. 

Make It Easy to Engage 

Promote your volunteer opportunities and provide easy avenues to connect. If someone wanted to volunteer for your Main Street program, would they know how to contact you? If someone in your community wanted to volunteer, would they think of your organization? Build and maintain accessible volunteer channels: 

  1. Put clear volunteer instructions on your website. Make a designated email for volunteer opportunities. 
  2. Promote volunteer opportunities through local news channels and other partners.  
  3. Build relationships with your volunteers. Building connections with your existing volunteers can lead to a strong volunteer network.  

Find the Right Match 

Volunteering can be an opportunity for someone to utilize skills and assets that they might not have the chance to exercise in other parts of their life, and connecting the right person to the right job is the best way for your organization to shine.  

  1. Interview your volunteers, and ask them what work they’ve done and what they want to do. 
  2. Provide opportunities for volunteer orientation. Orientation can be a yearly event or you can share a pre-recorded webinar that will help your volunteers feel more confident in their work. 
  3. Balance your volunteers, and be intentional about building teams that will create momentum. Match volunteers who will help each other with compatible strengths. 

At the end of the day, don’t forget to celebrate and appreciate the contribution volunteers bring to the table!

Photo Credit from Left to Right:

Downtown Lynchburg Association Facebook Page

Main Street Lexington Facebook Page

Staunton Downtown Development Association SDDA