Retaining volunteers from the start: a comprehensive volunteer onboarding checklist for your organization

Having an engaging, clear, and concise onboarding process for your volunteers is crucial to retaining your volunteers and saving you time in the long-run. This article outlines all the necessary steps for how to build an effective onboarding process for your volunteer organization.
New Volunteer Onboarding Checklist
Alright, so you’ve executed a rockstar volunteer recruitment campaign and it was a raging success. You have volunteers lined up, eagerly awaiting the next steps in their journey to help you further your organization’s mission. But wait! You know first impressions matter and you don’t want all the effort you put into your recruitment to go to waste if you fail to excite your volunteers with a lackluster onboarding experience.

Having an engaging, clear, and concise onboarding process for your volunteers is crucial to retaining your volunteers, saving you time in the long-run. When you retain your volunteers, you don’t need to recruit as many new volunteers and furthermore you can utilize word of mouth marketing with your existing volunteer base to grow: an effortless but powerful way to reach new people!

So the key question here is: does your onboarding process warmly welcome, efficiently train, and excite your new volunteers?

If your answer to the above question is not a definitive YES! Then keep scrolling, we’ve put together your go-to volunteer onboarding checklist that welcomes, trains, and excites your new volunteers. Feel free to compare each item to each component of your onboarding process, or go ahead and print the list out and share it with your onboarding team. Let’s dig right in!

Building a Sense of Belonging Before Orientation

In this phase, you want to map out how your onboarding process brings your new volunteers into your organization’s family. Volunteers need to feel a sense of belonging and alignment with your organization’s mission to feel connected and excited about the work they will be doing.

“We need reminders -- collective joy and pain -- reminders that we are inextricably connected to each other.” - Brene Brown

To build a resilient sense of belonging consider the following:

  • What information do you already know about your volunteers from your recruitment process?
  • Based on that information, how can you personalize the onboarding process for them?
  • Who will be the contact person for each volunteer and how will they be made known?
  • What will your welcoming routine be? If it’s a large group, consider breakout rooms or small groups to welcome intimacy and vulnerability

Setting Up Effective Learning In Your Training Program

While you want all of your volunteers to remain aligned with your mission, you also must recognize that everyone learns differently. Consider the following when training your volunteers:

  • Are volunteers able to access any materials in advance of your first session to have more time to internalize?
  • Did you offer personalized pathways for your training program? Consider hosting a live session for those who prefer it and a self-paced training for those who prefer learning on their own.
  • Do you have concise, evergreen guidelines for volunteers to refer back to? For an example, check out ours!
  • For your extroverts, have you considered role-playing scenarios for typical experiences your volunteer might have?

But most importantly, don’t overwhelm your volunteers with too much information! Remain skeptical and judge each piece of information on whether it’s necessary or not for a volunteer to begin working with your organization.

Always Recognize Your Volunteers

It should never be taken for granted that volunteers are sacrificing their free time to support the mission of your organization. Throughout your onboarding process make sure your appreciation is made known with your gratitude being embedded in the language of your training process. Three principles we like to live by are:

  • Do the volunteers know the importance and impact of their work?
  • Do the volunteers feel personally and sincerely thanked?
  • Do your volunteers feel heard? If you’re not sure, try out some of our ideas in our mission-driven volunteer appreciation plan.

We like these eleven checklist items because they force you to think about how you can warmly welcome, efficiently train, and excite your new volunteers. While onboarding isn’t a static process and always has room for adjustments, the principles remain the same.

If you’re looking to streamline your onboarding process and easily manage new volunteers as they join and onboard for your organization, request a demo with Mon Ami’s volunteer software!

Mon Ami’s technology is an off-the-shelf solution for governments, nonprofits, and other senior service organizations. We are committed to working with frontline social service providers to make sure they run as smoothly and effectively as possible, if you’re looking to upgrade your volunteer management software or adopt one, request for a demo today at