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Recruiting Volunteers Part 5: The “Ask”

Asking a Person to be a Volunteer

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

The “Ask”.  Asking a person to volunteer their time is an important step in the recruiting process.  Some may think of it as asking the question…” well, do you, or don’t you?”

There are three aspects to asking the question: “What”, “When” and “How”.

Being a volunteer is an important service to the community. There is value to being a volunteer.  The “Ask” should reflect that value.  It is important to set the tone for asking the question.

What is the “Ask”?

The “Ask” is the is making the proposal to a prospective candidate whom you believe would be a quality volunteer for your organization. It is approaching the individual, making your presentation, proposing they become a volunteer and answering any questions they made have.

The “Ask” is not selling them.  It is not making “the Pitch, Closing and Overcoming Objection” approach many people are accustomed.

Why is this important?  For two very good reasons. First, you are seeking to recruit quality volunteers.  Second, you are in the business of building relationships in the community. An individual you approach may not choose to become a volunteer. But each time you do have the opportunity to build a relationship with the community and your organization. While a person may not become a volunteer member, they can be a supporter, promoter or advocate for your organization.

Approaching the potential volunteer

Your approach to the individual should be respectful, positive, and courteous.

  • Be Respectful: Tell the individual you would like to talk to them about your organization and the possible involvement. Ask for their permission (Would this be a good time to talk with you…or is there a better time…I will need approximately 15 minutes of your time).
  • Be Positive: Be upbeat when approaching them. Do not assume they are not interested or will not want to hear from you. 
  • Be Courteous:  Simple old fashion courtesy.  Say “please”, “thank you”. “I appreciate your time”.

When to “Ask”

Ask the question when the person is not busy. While you do not need a lot of time, you do need approximately 15 minutes of uninterrupted time. You do not want to rush your presentation. You want to be sure and cover the important points. You want to be able to answer questions the person may have.  Yes, with questions and discussion, your meeting may run longer.  But that is the choice of the person with whom you are talking.

How to “Ask”

The “how” is an extension of the approach. In the approach, you set the tone. Now you present your proposal of asking them to become a volunteer. Your proposal should be appropriate to the person you are approaching.

Your presentation should talk about specifics of your organization, what it provides to the community, how it makes a positive difference and what sets it apart from other similar groups.

Be clear about the qualities you look for in a volunteer and the requirements to be a volunteer and expectations of each and every member. This includes the amount of time expected each month to be volunteer in good standing.  Explain the rewards and what the organization offers for the service a volunteer gives. You can talk about training, equipment, uniforms, opportunities to perform different duties and gain new experiences. Also, emphasize the opportunity to serve others in the community and the feeling of satisfaction.

Your proposal is asking them to become an active volunteer with your organization.

After the “Ask”

Once you have completed the “Ask” and answered all questions, if the person says “yes” then affirm their decision wit them. Congratulate them. Thank them.

You may have written documents for them to complete such as signing an application or filling out information for a background check, etc. You may set a time to meet with them and fill out any other documents.

If not a “yes” but “let me think about it” then say you understand and ask when you should contact them in the future.

If a “no” then say, “thank you, I appreciate your time…it has been good talking with you”.  Let them know you understand their decision. It was good to be able to tell them about your organization and the services provided to the community. Leave the meeting on a positive note.

Key Points

  • Remember, when asking an individual to become a volunteer, you are recruiting them. But you are also building a relationship. You are presenting yourself and your organization to a member of the community.
  • Prepare your proposal so it is complete yet concise. Anticipate questions the person may have of you.
  • Approach the individual in a respectful, positive, and courteous manner.
  • Allow an appropriate amount of time to make your presentation and proposal.
  • After the “Ask”, close your meeting on a positive note and appreciation for the person’s time.


Are you trying to recruit Board Members for your agency?

SDAO has a great resource: “The Board Member Recruitment Toolkit”

Check it out at