Onboarding for Success

You got the outreach done and recruited volunteers; now it is time for volunteer onboarding! Congratulations, this may be the most exciting part of working with volunteers! This is when you get to build relationships, help others gain new skills, and serve your community more. 

In this article we will give you strategies for successful volunteer onboarding. And if you want more helpful volunteer management resources, check out our free workshops! They’re full of information to support any new volunteer coordinator or seasoned nonprofit pro.

volunteer onboarding

What is the difference between Volunteer Orientation and Volunteer Onboarding?

The diff between these two can be confusing, but it doesn’t have to be when you are intentional about the goals you have for each.

👋 Volunteer Orientation

This is about your work, the mission, and the team involved. Think of this as your time to highlight why you do what you do, how it impacts the community, and how volunteers make it a reality. Once you have the why and how explained, end the orientation with a checklist of what the volunteers need to do before they begin serving (including what to expect with onboarding).

Orientation can be online and in-person, held on a regular basis for potential volunteers to learn about your organization. Think of your orientation as one component of your volunteer onboarding that helps to set the stage for the ways volunteers can support your work and they can find their place in helping. 

👉 Read more about volunteer recruitment

🧡 POINTer: Make it super easy to sign up for and attend your orientation. Post it on POINT to make the process even smoother and use the orientation as a way to recruit additional volunteers.
If you need volunteers to have background checks or complete additional screening processes, can you send those who attend the orientation that info with instructions right after they attend?

Goals for volunteer orientation

  • Build more awareness and understanding of your organization, including your mission, goals, and culture.
  • Build an understanding of the importance of your work, the community you serve, and why your organization works with volunteers.
  • Help new volunteers feel welcome and know where they can contribute to your work in meaningful ways.
  • Address legal/liability/insurance needs so all volunteers have the information, understand why, and know how they can complete the necessary steps.

✍️ Volunteer Onboarding

This is the process of bringing volunteers into your organization. This is your chance to welcome new people and build the knowledge and skills necessary to be an effective volunteer.

When thinking of onboarding, ask yourself two questions:

  1. Does the volunteer need the training prior to arriving?
  2. Can the volunteer receive training when they arrive?

For example, instances when a volunteer needs training prior to showing up may include if they will be staffing a crisis hotline, helping with a mobile response clinic, supporting community members with accessing services, or conducting surveys out in the public. Instances when a volunteer can get trained on the day of your event may include helping with a community garden, putting together new baby welcome packages, or being an usher for a theater production.

🧡 POINTer: If the volunteer will be onboarded when they arrive, make time and space available prior to the start of their tasks (or before clients/the public arrive) so that volunteers can be equipped with all the information to be confident with what they are doing.
Have too many volunteers or things going on the day-of to give proper onboarding? Appoint a trusted volunteer as the “Volunteer Leader” to run through it. Remember—we humans love to feel appreciated and valued!

No matter when your onboarding process begins, it should always include:


  • What are the most important things they need to know? This is not all of the things they need to know being shared all at once. Consider what they need now and what they will need later. Then communicate the important info when it is appropriate.
  • What are the tools you will use to communicate? Will it be a Slack channel? Email? Whatever method you have to communicate, let your volunteers know. You can make this even easier by using POINT! Volunteers can have all they need right in their POINT Profile.

👉 Read more volunteer management tips

💪 Preparation

  • Is there specific training that volunteers need to complete before volunteering?
  • What do the volunteers need to be prepared for their first volunteer experience? Should they bring a water bottle? Closed-toed shoes? A sun hat?

✨ Activation

  • How do volunteers sign up for shifts? Make it super easy with POINT!
  • Who can they contact if they have questions?
  • After their first volunteer experience, make sure to follow up with them about their experience!

🧡 what you just read? Be sure to subscribe to the Good POINT Blog using the form below👇 and share our post with your colleagues on LinkedIn! Are you curious how POINT can level up your volunteer program? Book a free, live demo with our team!

Photo Brandy Strand
Brandy Strand
Nonprofit Partnerships Account Executive

No guilt trips, no sad stories. Just a chance to do something good.