How-To: Develop a Strong Volunteer Committee

I absolutely love working with volunteers. Their passion, their creative nature, their dedication. I’ve had the great opportunity to support a number of different board of directors, planning committees and task forces during my day job. And I’ve also had the pleasure of developing the District Current committee (the committee assigned to create badass things for the young professional’s community of the American Marketing Association of DC) and the AMADC Educational Programming committee (the committee responsible for designing all educational events for the same organization).

Below are the 4 main steps I personally take when building a volunteer committee (with some helpful recommendations/thoughts to go along with each). Whether you’re on a board of directors and want to develop a new committee; you work for a non-profit that is supported by volunteers and would like some tips on how to work with them; or are starting a new business and are looking for some helping hands (think: interns) – this will show you how to develop a committee and then (most importantly) how to set them up for success.

Step One: Define Your Needs

  • Take a second to determine exactly what it is you need help on. Identify where your pain points are.
  • What tasks could volunteer(s) be responsible for? Define the different roles that could exist and what they’d do.
  • Think holistically—look at the project from a bird’s eye view. List out all the important tasks and determine how many volunteers you’d need to support those pieces.

Step Two: Write Position Descriptions

  • Once you’ve determined the roles, put together clear, concise position description(s) of exactly what that volunteer would be responsible for. This helps in so many ways:
    • It helps you think through the committee structure and ensure your plan makes sense and is attainable
    • It sometimes makes you realize that you forgot a task/role that wasn’t included in your initial planning (which is great—just go back to step one and add it to your list!)
    • It allows you to set clear expectations for the volunteer and it ensures they understand what they’ll be working on
  • In addition to the position description, be sure to include “qualifications” if there’s someone specific you’re looking for.

Step Three: Determine Benefits You Can Provide them

  • Yes, you are bringing volunteers on to help you—but it’s just as important to acknowledge that you should be bringing value to them as well.
  • It creates a much stronger relationship and team atmosphere when you put in the effort to support your volunteers and take an interest in their professional development. Most likely they are volunteering to get experience for a professional goal of theirs—so put in the effort to understand what their goals are and do what you can to support them.
  • Ask them about their professional goals during the interview/recruiting conversation to gain an understanding of that before you begin.
  • Identify benefits you can provide them as a volunteer.
  • Have no idea? Reach out to colleagues or friends and ask for recommendations. Think of what you would want as a benefit if you were in their position.

Step Four: Prepare an Organized Onboarding Process

  • It’s important to have an organized, professional plan when you bring new volunteer(s) onto a project. It can feel discouraging to a volunteer if things start off slow and unorganized. Show them that you’re ready for them to get started!
  • Start with a Kick-Off Meeting to launch the project/relationship (if it’s for a committee, try to bring all volunteers together in person to give everyone a chance to meet).
  • Be sure to provide a general overview of all necessary information they’ll need to have a solid foundation of knowledge for the project.
  • Review their responsibilities with them to ensure they’re aware of the expectations you have for them. This is also great as it gives them ownership over their tasks. They know what they’re meant to do and can go after it!
  • Once your volunteer(s) are selected and onboarded, have a meeting with them to discuss their professional goals and understand what they hope to get out of the volunteer opportunity. You can then tailor their experience accordingly to ensure it’s a positive and beneficial experience for both of you!


If you’re interested in diving deeper and/or are interested in receiving planning templates for each of these four steps, please contact me and we can schedule a meeting to chat!


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