Winning Over the Reluctant Volunteer

While we’d all love to believe that any volunteer coming our way is in it for the good of the cause, every volunteer coordinator knows that’s just not always the case.

Whether it’s a sullen teenager, a court-ordered volunteer, or just a serious introvert, you know you need a way to win them over. We’ve collected some of our favorite ways to chip away at those reluctant volunteers.

Appeal to Their Interests

Even though your volunteer might have joined your crew out of duty (rather than passion), chances are you can probably find something for them to like about your organization. If your volunteer is a parent, maybe they’d love to find out that the work they’re doing is going to benefit kids. Maybe the crabby teen volunteering for your 5k is into music and would love to help you set up the speakers at the check-in booth. Who knows? Honestly, not us. Are teens still into music? It’s worth a try.

Give ‘em a Break

Every volunteer needs a break sometimes and a volunteer who doesn’t want to be there definitely does. Set clear times when your team can sneak a snack on the side or a quiet moment. Just the knowledge that a chance to rest is in the near future is a huge help in keeping unenthusiastic volunteers on the move.


If a volunteer shows up to your event a little less than gung-ho, try giving them an option of what to do. While sitting in the break area with a bag of chips might not work, you might end up with a people-person who would love to do check-in, or a perfectionist who can make sure every single poster is straight. You might even get someone who’s obsessed with picking up trash and wants to be on garbage duty all day (we can dream).


And if all of that doesn’t work?

There are always snacks.

You can win anyone over with free snacks.



Josanna E. Berg-Hammond

Josie Berg-Hammond is a staff writer at VolunteerLocal. She likes eating good things, meeting new people, and living in the Big Apple.