Recruiting Student Volunteer Leaders

Students have a desire to understand the impact of their service and leadership. By offering meaningful leadership opportunities and utilizing an effective marketing and recruitment strategy, you can recruit talented and dedicated student volunteer leaders.


In this section you will discover recruiting tips for your local campus(es), including:

  • Planning for recruitment
  • Employing multi-faceted recruitment
  • Utilizing your existing resources
  • Leveraging "viral marketing"
  • Finalizing your strategy

Planning for Recruitment

Now that you have a plan for how you can leverage student volunteer leaders, work with your campus contact to begin developing ideas for recruiting students.

Identify students who might be interested in the position. Think about the many different types of students on campus. Who would be interested in serving as a volunteer leader? Since these volunteer positions involve greater responsibility and ownership, consider how to recruit people with the necessary leadership potential. Think about students with particular skill sets or students from certain areas of academic interest or expertise.

Streamline your recruitment message. College students are bombarded with information every day. How can you best market your volunteer opportunities in a way that conveys the most information in the most concise way possible? Always remember to make your mission clear from the outset.

Create a solid recruitment plan. Working with your partners on campus, identify ways to reach the students you want to recruit as volunteers. Be as visible as possible, and make the information as accessible as possible. Many groups and organizations are advertising and recruiting on campus; thus, any recruitment efforts should be engaging, well organized, and professionally presented, which assures students of the legitimacy of the efforts.

Understand your target audience. College and university students are capable of becoming quickly engaged in an issue topic, but might not have enough information about the subject. Be able to explain to them why the service they will be doing is important and be prepared with facts and research. In addition, be prepared to help them recognize skill sets they may not have previously thought appropriate for application in service initiatives.

Help college students connect their service to something larger. Have available a multitude of information and research about the issue their service will be addressing, and ensure that it covers how the issue is relevant locally as well as on a larger scale, even internationally. Connect with departments and professors on campus and work with them on how to bring the service philosophy to the broader scale through academia.

Show students how they will benefit. Students want to know how they can benefit from an activity like this. You can highlight things such as building their resumes, getting great experience in leadership (and possibly for their majors and future careers), meeting awesome people, having fun, and being involved.

When is the best time to recruit college students as volunteers? Often the best time to recruit students is at the beginning of a new quarter or semester. Work with your campus contact, and research the school’s academic and events calendar, to find the best time to market your volunteer opportunities.

Click the link to download the Student Recruitment Plan, an activity to help guide your recruitment efforts. SVLRecruitmentPlan.pdf

Multi-faceted Recruitment & Utilizing Your Resources

Employing Multi-faceted Recruitment

Students will volunteer for a variety of reasons. Some want to volunteer for a specific cause, while others want to make a difference in whatever way they can. SVLs may sign on because of the opportunities to develop skills and build their resumes, or they may see this as their opportunity to leave a legacy in their community.

Because students’ reasons for volunteering are as diverse as the students themselves, you need to create a marketing and recruitment plan that will appeal to many types of individuals. Think creatively about how you can best reach the students you want to engage as volunteer leaders.

Utilizing Your Resources

One of your most effective recruitment techniques is to use the resources you already have. Tap into your own networks of personal and professional contacts to determine:

  • Do you already have a connection with students on campus?
  • Does your organization currently utilize students, faculty, staff, or alumni as volunteers or on the board?
  • Do you have a friend or family member currently connected to the college in some way?

Additionally, work with your colleagues and the national service members who are serving with your organization to leverage their campus connections.

Leveraging Viral Marketing

What Is "Viral Marketing?"

Viral marketing is a technique that leverages people to spread a marketing message to others, creating potential for exponential growth in the message’s exposure and influence.

Viral marketing relies on effective yet approachable communication. Students are bombarded with messaging every day from all sides, and thus they are most likely to pay attention to information that reaches them through the sources they regularly access and trust.

Consider these tips for using viral marketing to recruit SVLs on a college campus:

  • Tap into existing networks on campus, such as clubs, fraternities/sororities, academic departments, or the volunteer/service-learning office.
  • Use word-of-mouth. Once you have a core group of volunteers or student volunteer leaders, they will be your best advertisement to recruit more students. They can spread the word faster through their networks than you can from a single point of entry on campus.
  • Utilize more online and fewer printed materials. Online social networking sites, such as Facebook, are popular among students and are now mainstream marketing techniques. These sites are a free means of spreading information. Online calendars, blogs, and article submission to online newsletters and electronic news sources are also effective means of paperless marketing and communication.
  • Highlight the benefits of service in a way that taps into students’ motivations, so they are more inclined to spread the word.

For Example: Using Blogs and Discussion Boards for Recruitment

Students will reply to blogs or posts with their own questions, answers, and opinions. In addition, they are more likely to continue to communicate with these vehicles after they’ve already become involved, thus increasing your chances of new recruitment and retention. An added advantage of is that students are likely to trust each other as much, if not more, than they are an outside source.

Once you have explored all the marketing and recruitment techniques you will utilize for your recruitment plan, you can finalize your strategy and get busy recruiting.

Finalizing Your Strategy

Thumbnail for [node:title][user:name]To finalize your recruitment strategy, think about all the options available to you and decide which one(s) will help you to recruit the student volunteer leaders you need. To create a viable recruitment strategy, consider the logistics involved with the places, people, methods, and tools you plan to use.

Logistics to Consider

The following terms explore logistical considerations for finalizing your recruitment strategy:

Capacity: How many people will be recruiting? Just you? Other volunteers? Do you have a recruitment budget? If so, what is it? What is your time frame? How long do you have to achieve your recruitment goals?

Physical Details: What are the logistics of the campus? Do most people live on campus or nearby, or do the majority of students commute? Is your campus located near or within a community where many students spend time between or after classes? Where are your target students most likely to be found on campus? Note the academic departmental buildings, the club or organization locations, and venues where these students are likely to congregate.

Rules and Regulations: Where can you table? Where can you post physical fliers, posters, etc.? Where can you physically stand and hand out fliers? What are the newspaper, e-mail, and community calendar deadlines and submission rules?

Campus Community Details: Is there a campus calendar posted online or in the student center? Does it include details of major events or club activity events? Is there a Student Activities/Clubs/Organizations department on campus? Is there a website? Do the departments or clubs you’ve already highlighted above have websites, newsletters, or meetings that you know of? Who are some of the obvious leaders — student or faculty — who represent or interact heavily with the student groups you already identified above?


Recruiting the right student volunteer leaders will greatly contribute to the success of your volunteer efforts. Use a variety of recruitment techniques, especially viral marketing, to reach a diverse group of students to serve as volunteer leaders.

This section has enabled you to:

  • Plan for recruitment
  • Employ multi-faceted recruitment
  • Utilize your existing resources
  • Leverage viral marketing
  • Finalize your strategy

In the next section we explore the importance of teambuilding with students.