How to Use Vision to Recruit Volunteers

Vision seems to be a popular word for good reason. Vision is what excites people and attracts them to nonprofits, companies, and churches. In this post I show how you can use vision (or mission) to recruit volunteers for your nonprofit program.

How to Use Vision to Recruit Volunteers

Photo Credit: Senior Living

I. What is vision?

A. Definition

It is a picture of what your organization (or individual program) hopes to create in the near future.

Two other definitions you might find helpful:

  1. “Vision provides a compelling picture of the impact and the experience the potential volunteer would have if they decided to serve” (Bill Hybels, The Volunteer Revolution, p. 107).
  2. “Visions are born in the soul of a man or woman who is consumed with the tension between what is and what could be” (Andy Stanley, Visioneering, p. 17).

B. An opportunity to respond, not a guilt trip

Vision is not a way of guilting people into doing something. It is not a tool to tell people they “ought to be concerned and involved.” The vision you have for your community is an opportunity for people to respond to a need and it should be communicated that way.

Vision translates into purpose. A vision gives you a reason to get up in the morning. If you don’t show up, something important won’t be accomplished. Suddenly, you matter. You matter a lot! Without you, what could be—what should be—won’t be. A vision makes you an important link between current reality and the future.
Andy Stanley, Visioneering, p. 12

If the jobs you have designed are meaningful, based on all the criteria issued in this chapter, you can enthusiastically approach your audience with a real offer of opportunity to serve, to grow and to make a difference.
Marlene Wilson The Effective Management of Volunteer Programs, p. 117

C. A challenge

Japhet de Oliveira defines callenges as “a task or situation that tests someone’s abilities” (Japhet de Oliveira, “Motivating and Leading Volunteers,” p. 70).

All volunteers need a challenge. If we ask a volunteer to merely open the door, we’ll be lucky if she does so. But if we ask a volunteer to design the door she needs to open, we have created a challenge.
John Maxwell, Leadership Promises, January 12 originally in The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader

One of the most valuable benefits of vision is that it acts like a magnet-attracting, challenging, and uniting people. The greater the vision, the more winners it has the potential to attract. The more challenging the vision, the harder the participants fight to achieve it.
Japhet de Oliveira, “Motivating and Leading Volunteers,” p. 71

D. 4 Characteristics of Vision

  1. Clear: it’s never foggy.
  2. Comprehension: must embrace the whole.
  3. Concise: not a paragraph.
  4. Compelling (“Howard Hendricks, “Vision” in “Dynamics of Christian Leadership”)

II. Questions related to vision that people ask themselves before they volunteer

  • Will I end up enjoying this volunteer opportunity or dreading it?
  • Will life become more fulfilling?
  • Will this make life more draining?
  • Will it help me grow spiritually or will the extra demands weaken my spiritual life?
  • Why should I sign up for this?
  • Will it really be worth it? (Billy Hybels, The Volunteer Revolution, pp. 35-36).

III. Benefits of a Clearly Stated Vision:

  • brings energy and focus to life and ministry
  • align human effort and energy
  • concentrates attention
  • motivates us through challenge
  • raises expectations and standards
  • gives hope
  • enables us to be proactive rather than reactive (Andrew Seidel, “Vision” in “Dynamics of Christian Leadership” Dallas Theological Seminary, Spring, 2014).

IV. Using vision for recruitment does not mean volunteers must interact with clients

When using your vision to attract volunteers it is important to remember that not all people want to interact with clients. Sometimes the best way that people can help is doing something “behind the scenes” where they do not interact directly with clients.

Some people are turned off and do not feel comfortable dealing directly with your clients and have cited that as a reason that they will not respond to a volunteer appeal.
Calloway, “Identifying Promotional Appeals,” p. 270

An example of this is from my own time when I led A Day of Hope for five years. I loved to serve and help people but I quickly realized that the way I enjoyed helping was by leading, fundraising, planning, and organizing people. I sometimes felt ackward and uncomfortable when it came to interact directly with clients.

V. Craft your own vision to attract volunteers

I suggest that you start to craft a vision for your own organization. Here are three great examples:

  • A Day of Hope: we provide hope and encouragement to families in need for Thanksgiving.
  • North Point Community Church: to create a church that unchurched people love to attend.
  • United Way of Stanislaus County: we fund programs that help people in need in Stanislaus County.

Now, you give it a try. Craft your own vision for your organization. Make sure your vision is:

  • clear
  • an opportunity to respond
  • not a guilt trip
  • is challenging
  • said in one breath

Conclusions about vision vs. mission. I realize that some of the things I have said here might actually fall under a defintion of “mission” but I am hope you see that regardless of what you call this (mission or vision) there are a few tangible elements you need to focus on.

By Christopher L. Scott

Christopher L. Scott serves as senior pastor at Lakeview Missionary Church in Moses Lake, Washington. Through his writing ministry more than 250,000 copies of his articles, devotions, and tracts are distributed each month through Christian publishers. Learn more at