Assigning Volunteer Roles? It’s All About the Ask

Somewhere out there is an alternate reality in which we all live in perfect weather with views of both the mountains and the ocean, a faraway land full of unicorns and rainbows and people with all sorts of extra free time who ask how they can help. In that lovely place, we all have an abundance of volunteers for our organizations and events and the margin to think intentionally about where each volunteer can best serve. What a world!


But seriously, effective volunteer management requires not only filling roles, but also filling the roles with the right people. We don’t always have the flexibility to put our volunteers into their most ideal spot, but how can we use our tools and resources to help others feel like they’re using their talents and abilities?


It’s all about the ask.


Get to know your volunteers by asking more than just the bare minimum questions. Ask about their hobbies and interests. Ask about their favorite movies or music. Ask about their family, their favorite restaurant, their experience serving with you and with others. Ask them about the things they know they’re not good at. Whatever information gives you insight into a good fit for your volunteers, make sure you ask it!


In addition to getting to know your volunteers, provide helpful and intentional information for them, as well. List out the roles you need filled and give the opportunity to self-identify the top spots they’d like to serve.


While your internal volunteer job descriptions are likely thorough and detailed, be creative in ways to present a summary of the description for your volunteers.

  • If you need administrative help: Do you alphabetize your bookshelves? Do spreadsheets make you happy? We have a spot for you!
  • If you need greeters: Do you like talking to strangers? Are you labeled a Chatty Kathy/Kenny? Use your power for good!
  • If you need floaters: Do you believe variety is the spice of life? Do you like the unexpected? We need you!

By taking some time to be intentional in this process, you start building rapport with your volunteers and growing their enthusiasm even as they sign up!


VolunteerLocal allows you to customize your volunteer registration form to include fun and helpful questions that help engage your volunteers. You can also send a survey over email or set up face-to-face meetings to help get to know each other beyond a name and email address. As you think about the number of volunteers you’re managing and the variety of roles you need filled, choose the method that works best for you!


After all of this information gathering, it’s time to put that information to work for you! Gather your team and start assigning roles as a sort of Volunteer Draft Day, and have fun with it! Volunteers want to be wanted, and as your team divvies up the available workers, you’re planting the first seeds of team unity. Your team leaders start getting excited about the people they’re working with, and your volunteers start getting excited about the event. It’s a win-win that sets you up for success in the immediate future and retention in the years ahead.




Anne Summers

Anne Summers is a staff writer at VolunteerLocal. She loves good food, great people, and volunteering.