A "best practice" is defined as "those practices that have worked well in similar or dissimilar situations. They are proven and have produced successful results. The nature of a best practice is that it be shared among internal groups as well as having external exposure."

Over my career, I have gathered best practices to share with others and they have shared their own with me. In the fall of 2011, I launched the first of many province-wide workshops called Best Practices Successful Volunteer Engagement. This workshop is aimed at new and/or untrained managers/coordinators of volunteers. During the workshop, we share lots of best practices. This page is devoted to those participants who documented and shared what works for them. I thank them for their creativity and willingness to explore new ideas and share with others what they have learned. This is what makes the non profit sector so exciting.

The following best practices are dedicated to all those who engage volunteers - may your experience continue to expand based on new learning. Share and grow with others in this field.

I will continue to add to this list as the workshop participants share their ideas.


"We have a Volunteer Public Relations Group who speaks to organizations, service groups etc. This adds a very personal touch -tells about why they volunteer as well as about services. Retired Teachers Association is promoting volunteering to stimulate the mind - our organizations mandate includes stimulating the mind to keep the body healthy - using volunteerism to stimulate the mind! Pauline Arsenault, Seniors Outreach Service.

"Ask local newspaper to write human interest story regarding program and need for volunteers. Helps with recruitment." Helen Cole, Cancer Society Lambton. Donna suggests: " Why not make this article a weekly column and perhaps the local AVA members could each be highlighted and make the community more aware on a regular basis about volunteerism and opportunities?"

Several workshop participants from 5 workshops identified this as a great opportunity both for marketing and recruitment: "Pre-volunteer information sessions - who we are, what we have to offer, chance to ask questions without committment. Those that stay are much more interested and then committed."

" U - Tube testimonials form clients, volunteers and samples of events." Robin Halliwell, MS Society Ontario.

" Have a steering committee, made up of the key stakeholders in your community who have direct interest in your services. They support you and your volunteers and can make a great difference in getting funds, support, policy passed etc. much faster." Tracy Gordon, HANDS TheFamilyHelpNetwork.


" Go with your feelings " gut" feelings regarding recruiting and screening volunteers" Sharon Mindle, Heart & Stroke Foundation Peterborough (this does not mean to eliminate other screening methods, but to reinforce the idea that we have intuition that is often right..if a volunteer does just not feel right with you then listen to yourself).

"It is ok to say NO"...Laurel Atkinson, Peterborough Green-UP

"Always ask volunteers how they heard about you and what they want from their volunteer experience." Kari Anne McKellar, Boys and Girls Club

"Speak at retirement counselling sessions "what the heck are you going to do with your time?" Darlene Shaw, St. Joseph's Healthcare.

"Make sure any tasks that you are aksing a volunteer to do, that you yourself would do." Lynn LeFave, The Inn of the Good Sheppard, Sarnia.

"Use TV in centre of our facility to post opportunities at the pool for example". Sabrina Rocca, Pathways Health Centre for Children

"Meet the volunteers and give them an opportunity to say yes only to what they really are adamant to do. I also have a valid email distribution list and send blanket emails often and am surprised at how often the least likely person will respond."  Wendy Synnott, Trenton Military Family Resource Centre.

"Use online volunteer survey to help determine skills." Wayne Curruthers, Hospice Picton.

" Always follow up immediately upon recieving an application." Sharon Davis, South Muskoka Memorial Hospital Auxiliary.


"Interview all volunteers" - Norah O'Donnell, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery

"Insist on face-to-face interview, as we have 12 sites and we recruit only from main site. I go to sites to interview." Abha Govil, Scarborough Centre for Healthy Communities.


"Provide detailed documentation to volunteers requiring police checks." Julie Ross, Barrie Public Library.


"Move away from the 'warm body' syndrome and away from volunteer management to volunteer engagement. Base your placement on the individual and the skills they have and went to share." Sue Van Arnem, Christine Richer, Canadian Cancer Society.


"Have the volunteer do one shift and then review what works/what doesn't" Sharon Mindle, Heart & Stroke Foundation Peterborough.

"Check-ins after 1st or 2nd visit with position to ensure comfortability with the position" Jill Whelpley, Peterborough Communication Support Systems.

"We use a check list in orientation and explain in detail how we operate. We need people to understand and believe in our services before they get engaged." Joan Hunt, Community Care Durham Region.

"Provide information regarding he process of orientation and commitment required for all volunteers." Charlene Urback, Victoria Village Manor

"Use experienced volunteers for orientation sessions...staff provides guidelines/coaching. shared materials." Nancy Brouillard, Southlake Regional Health Centre and Rachelle MacKenzie, Habitat for Humanity Grey Bruce.

"Arrange for a go to person for new volunteers." Wendy Ferguson, Southlake Regional Hospital

"In hospital orientation for youth, use tools like stretchers and practice and have fun. Use the right and wrong way of transporting patients." Fran Savelson, Region of Peel.


" A 10 week consistent training for 2 hours one per week - developed retention and knowledge." Marzena Borzecka, Durham Rape Crisis Centre

"Make a video of what NOT to do." Jenny Vienneau, South Simcoe Community Information Centre. 

"Doing workshops for our volunteers in topics that have something to do with the clients we serve." Tara Bone, Canadian Red Cross.

"Use a volunteer handbook, training both full and half day. Use "Step approach" that includes: pre-reading materials; 1/2 day general overview; 1/2 site specific and then refresher training." Dianne Anthony, Corrections Service Canada.


" Meetings three times a year with our front desk volunteers and face to face contact as much as possible allows us to thank the volunteers often." Oshawa Senior Citizens Centres staff.

"Corresponding through email saves us time and money and seems to be effective for us" Cladell Rock, HIllsdale Estates.

"Our volunteers complained about too many emails so we started a weekly newsletter via email for general information." Andree Wagar, Animal Guardian Society.  

" Make effort to see volunteers face to face once every two weeks if not every our volunteers are out in the community, as staff we work from home and there is no office location per regular communication especially with more isolated volunteers is important." Julie Carter, VON

"Monthly support meetings and ongoing training and communicaitons." Sandra Whaley, Hospice Kingston.

"Blast information email to volunteers every 2 weeks with tips or information." Catherine Chadwick, Rebound Child and Youth, Northumberland.

"On-going communication via emails sent weekly identifying the work by volunteers. Email consists of Red Cross news, upcoming events and tidbits of information." Paulette Hammell, Canadian Red Cross.


"Welcome card in the mail within the first month with contact information and other volunteer opportunities."  Pauline Arsenault, Seniors Outreach Service.

"Getting off the pedestial and putting your volunteer on it. Constantly remind them that you couldn't do your job without volunteer came in very stressed (from work/family pressures) and I gave him a break and brought in a pizza for him; he was so appreciative that he did not quit but signed up for more shifts." Erica Simpson, Distress Centre Durham.

"Show daily appreciation. We are lucky to have volunteers. They add so much value to people's lives." Leanna Cliff, Community Living Durham North.

"Stop work at 10:am, everyone joins for coffee, chat and play trivia." Brenda LeClair, Food Bank Chatham.

"Volunteers who work in the community and have very little contact with home organization - mail out recognition in book marks and Chapters gift cards." Sue Gierszewski, Public Health Halton.

"We take photos of the volunteers during their shifts to transform into a personal card that can be mailed later to them or used in newsletter recognition." Stephanie Nicolo, Aurora Cultural Centre.

"Personally recognize your volunteers, Xmas letter, follow-ups." Stacey Finch, Friends of Algonquin Park.

"Volunteer of the month and Staff Supervisor of the month." Virginia Wolfe, South-East Ottawa CHC.

"Recognition of each volunteer at beginning of their shift "good morning " and a personal note." PAt Maracle-Bowers, Gleaners Food Bank.


"Staff discussion re: value and training and orientation of volunteers. We are developing a statement on the value of volunteers and doing this as a staff." Elaine Radway, Belleville and Quinte West Community Health Centre.

"Inter-organization cross volunteering builds strong staff (employee retention); volunteers experience other roles and other staff  = strong staff and strong volunteers." Joanne Dick, March of Dimes

" Use group orientation/training sessions as a screening tool - observe for fit (internal, knowledge, personality engagement). Evan Heise, Corrections Service Canada.

"Invite volunteers to staff get togethers twice per year." Atoosa Adnani, LASI World Skills.

"Use a good data base program , we use VSYOne so it provides reports of volunteers brithdays so we can send greetings to them." Kate Nash, Living Health Centre Champlain.

"Keep that data base current so you can keep in touch with volunteers and offer them new opportunities." Allison O'Mara, Huntsville Chamber of Commerce.

" Conduct Exit Interviews with volunteers." Andrea MacLennan, Leisureworld Muskoka.

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