Using Nonprofit Storytelling to Recruit & Engage Volunteers

Storytelling can be a gamechanger for your nonprofit. Learn how to use it to recruit & engage volunteers.

Using Nonprofit Storytelling to Recruit & Engage Volunteers

Successful volunteer management goes beyond finding the right people to fill positions; it also includes getting to know volunteers personally and building relationships that encourage deeper involvement with your organisation. 

One way to further all of these responsibilities at once is to use storytelling. Telling your volunteers’ stories helps you connect with both current and prospective volunteers, boosting volunteer engagement and recruitment. 

To help you leverage storytelling in your volunteer program, we’ll cover the following:

  • Why Use Storytelling in Volunteer Communications?
  • Collecting Your Volunteers’ Stories
  • Where to Share Volunteer Stories
  • How to Retain Volunteers with Storytelling

With these tips, you’ll be able to not only increase your volunteer program’s success but also get to know your volunteers on a deeper level. Fostering these relationships is what leads to creating true advocates for your organisation in the long run. Let’s get started.

Why Use Storytelling in Volunteer Communications?

According to Meyer Partners, storytelling should be at the heart of any nonprofit marketing campaign because it humanises your organisation. Genuine stories of supporters' or beneficiaries’ journeys with your nonprofit can appeal to readers’ emotions in a way facts and numbers alone can’t.

And this isn’t limited to fundraising appeals and communication with donors. Incorporating storytelling into your volunteer communications can:

  • Provide personal connections that build a sense of community around your volunteer program.
  • Put a face to your nonprofit that makes prospective volunteers feel more welcome.
  • Show that you care about your existing volunteers and value their commitment to your organisation.

To see these benefits in action, compare the following examples of a message to prospective volunteers:

Example A: Last year, Puppies for Peace volunteers hosted 15 pet days for local refugees. Learn how you can join the team!

Example B: In 2016, Lara saw a news story about the struggles of Syrian refugees to adapt to life in a new country and wanted to help. A few months later, Lara started volunteering with Puppies for Peace to host events where locals and refugees could connect with each other over their shared love of puppies. Since then, she’s hosted 15 pet days for over 500 refugees. She says that “Through volunteering, I’ve opened my eyes to new perspectives and made friends for life. I couldn’t have done that without Puppies for Peace.” Learn how you can join Lara in making a difference.

The first example doesn’t give enough information or provide any emotional appeal. Through Lara’s story, however, the second example humanises the nonprofit by sharing her feelings, actions, and personal testimonials. 

Collecting Your Volunteers’ Stories

Now that you’ve seen what a compelling volunteer story looks like, you’re likely wondering how to find stories about your own volunteers. If there are any memorable stories from long-time volunteers that immediately come to mind, that’s a great place to start. To gather the best stories, however, you should also make a plan to collect volunteer stories over time.

Make collecting volunteer stories a regular part of your operations. You should always be on the lookout for good stories, but you can focus your efforts on:

  • Volunteer events: Talk with the volunteers participating in your nonprofit’s events. You can gather stories through regular conversation, or conduct video interviews while your volunteers are working.
  • Periodic surveys: Along with post-event surveys, send your volunteers chances to provide feedback on a regular basis. In these surveys, include open-ended questions that allow volunteers to share their experiences with your organisation in their own words.
  • One-on-one conversations: Simple one-on-one conversations are often the best way to find and collect stories for your nonprofit. Get to know your volunteers personally, and ask them about their experience. When any good stories come up, ask the volunteer if they’d be willing to share their story with your organisation’s wider audience. 

Collect direct quotes, testimonials, and video interviews to make these stories more personal. Just be sure to get explicit permission from each volunteer to share their story, and thank them for their commitment to your nonprofit.

Where to Share Volunteer Stories

Once you have a set of compelling stories, share them with your organisation’s community using multiple marketing channels. Depending on your audience’s preferences, you might share volunteer stories using a mix of:

  • Direct mail: Nonprofit direct mail is often seen as more personal than email or other online channels. This makes direct mail the perfect place to share volunteer stories and pair them with calls to join your volunteer program.
  • Blog posts: If your organisation’s website has a blog, this is a great opportunity to write in-depth profiles of individual volunteers. 
  • Social media: Use social media features like Instagram stories to let volunteers “take over” your nonprofit’s account for the day. They can tell their story through photos and video, and they can show prospective volunteers what a day in their life is like. 
  • Email newsletters: Many nonprofits create a volunteer profile series within their newsletters to provide a standard, regular way to recognize and engage volunteers.

Additionally, you can boost your recruitment and engagement efforts in the long run by creating a dedicated page on your website that highlights volunteer stories. This way, any prospective volunteer can quickly learn about volunteers’ experiences firsthand just by visiting your website. As an added bonus, the volunteers you highlight will have a permanent place on your organisation’s website, allowing them to feel appreciated and easily connect with other volunteers.

For inspiration, take a look at how these two websites approached their volunteer stories pages:

  • Volunteer The Hague’s feedback and experiences page includes ten direct quotes from volunteers about their positive experiences. Alongside the quotes, there are photos of volunteers in action.
  • UNICEF’s volunteering page features a volunteer day-in-the-life video and multiple blog posts that tell individual volunteers’ stories, allowing website visitors to get to know volunteers on a personal level.

If you want more insight into how to share your stories strategically, professional nonprofit consultants can help you determine the best channels to use to promote your volunteer program and how to tailor your messaging effectively.

How to Retain Volunteers with Storytelling

Share volunteer stories consistently to show your appreciation for them and their dedication to your nonprofit. You can do this by creating a regular series of social media shoutouts or newsletter profiles. Or, Fundraising Letters’ volunteer appreciation guide suggests sharing stories on a volunteer wall of fame to cement their place in your nonprofit’s history. Any appreciation efforts that utilise nonprofit storytelling can help you increase volunteer retention.

Let volunteers tell stories in their own words whenever possible, but when repackaging stories online or on other channels, make sure to use concrete details that provide plenty of context and emotional appeal.

To increase retention even further, provide regular opportunities for volunteers to share stories and give feedback. This ensures they know that you value their contributions and opinions. 


Telling true, authentic, and respectful stories of your volunteers’ experiences with your nonprofit can boost your recruitment and engagement efforts in no time. You can even go further with storytelling, using this technique to increase volunteers’ involvement with your organisation in other ways, such as donating or requesting volunteer grants from their employers. 

Some highlights of 5 years at Deedmob

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Gerbrand Holland

Growth Manager

Gerbrand Holland is Growth Manager at Deedmob