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Recruiting Volunteers Part 2: Everyone is a Talent Scout

By Daniel C. Olsen, Senior Consultant, Special Districts Association of Oregon

A Talent Scout is always on the look-out for individuals who could become be great volunteers. The talent scout is not to be a recruiter. Their role is to seek out and identify interested individuals.

There are several reasons why it is important your volunteers are talent scouts.

  • Using Talent Scouts is effective. They are an existing resource knowledgeable about the organization.
  • It is a Direct method…It is person to person contact with an actual volunteer.
  • It educates people, in your community, about your organization.
  • Volunteers have a vested interest in bringing in new volunteers with whom they will be working.

Yes, some will be better than others at seeking our future volunteers, but everyone should be on the look-out.

It should also be remembered that your volunteers are also ambassadors to the community. Through their actions and words, they are telling people they contact about their organization and the service it provides to others. They may not always be recruiting new members but gaining supporters for your organization.

However, it is more than merely telling your current volunteers to be on the lookout for potential new volunteers. To be an effective talent scout, each volunteer must be provided with training which includes understanding how to approach potential new members and how to refer them.

Training includes answers to the questions:

Who are we looking for?

  • Desirable traits (works well with others, desires to make a difference through service to others.)
  • Desirable knowledge or skills (specialized or well-developed skills your organization may need)

What is expected from a volunteer?

  • Time commitment (hours per week or month)
  • Behaviors (reliable, punctual, attention to details, courteous, etc.)

What is offered to volunteers?

  • Benefits (training, uniforms, making a difference in the community, build resume, etc.)
  • Opportunities (gain experience in specific areas, learn new skills, etc.)

The Approach

Training includes how to approach potential volunteers. The approach should be courteous. Asking a person to be a volunteer with your organization should be a compliment to them.

Approaching a potential candidate includes finding out their interest in becoming a volunteer. Too often, time is focused on telling them and convincing them why they should volunteer. In other words, recruiting is seen as “selling” them on becoming a volunteer. This traditional approach spends time on getting them excited, but will they stay that way afterward? Spend time in the front end getting to know the candidate and seeing if they would be a good fit for your organization.

The approach can utilize the following questions and information:

  • Are you aware of (organization)?
  • We provide... (services for the purpose of….)
  • I really enjoy my time as a volunteer
  • Is this something you might be interested in? (Not asking for commitment…but interest)
  • Would it be okay for me to put you in contact with our volunteer coordinator (who can provide more information and answer your questions…? It will take approximately 10 minutes of your time (To see if this person would be a good match for your organization. Also, telling them it will take 10 minutes, respects the person’s time)
  • What is the best way for our volunteer coordinator to contact you? (Telephone call, text, email?)
  • Thank you. Thank the person for listening/their time.   While they may not be interested, they may know someone who is.  Leave them with positive impression and possible supporter.


Refer potential volunteer to the volunteer coordinator – (More on the importance of the Volunteer Coordinator in Principle No. 3)

Business cards 

Provide each of your current volunteers with at least two business cards.  Be sure one side is blank.  The purpose is to write down the Name and contact information of potential volunteer and name of volunteer making the referral

Follow-up (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly)

Check in with your volunteers on a regular basis to remind them about looking for potential new volunteers.

Summary  Key points to remember in developing Talent Scouts for your organization:

  • Let your volunteers know who they are looking for, what is expected and what are the benefits of being a volunteer with your organization
  • Train your current volunteers on how to be a Talent Scout
  • Approach potential new volunteers in courteous and tactful manner
  • Refer names to the Volunteer Coordinator
  • Follow-up on regular schedule to see how your Talent Scouts are doing

Train and utilize your volunteers as Talent Scouts and Ambassadors to the community you serve and see the benefits for yourself.