There are several ways to recruit volunteers for your food co-op. The tools and methods you choose will depend on the set up of your food co-op and what it does or intends to do.

For volunteers involved in everyday activities, food co-ops usually recruit in one of the following ways:

If you are looking for volunteers with specialist skills, like web design, then you may need to advertise vacancies more widely.

Word of mouth

By far the most popular way for food co-ops to recruit volunteers is by word of mouth as they usually work best when local people that live or spend time in the area are the ones involved in running it. To encourage people to volunteer, you might talk to friends and neighbours, parents at a school or individuals already involved at the venue where you are hoping to run the food co-op, such as a residents' association, university or church group. If your co-op is already running then many of your customers are also potential volunteers. Try to be aware of how inclusive (or not) this method is and if you feel you aren't reaching all communities in your local area also seek out other methods of recruitment.

General publicity

The same tools used to promote your food co-op - for example websites, leaflets and posters - can also be used to advertise volunteer opportunities. If you don't already have one, it would also be a good idea to create a mailing list of customers and others with an interest in your food co-op, you can use these to provide updates about the co-op as well as volunteer opportunities.

Local newspapers or community publications are usually happy to advertise volunteer opportunities if you send pre-written articles and ideally a good quality photo.

Advertising online with Do-it can also be very useful if you are looking for volunteers with specific skills or to carry out a short-term task.

Make sure you include the tasks people can get involved with, what kind of time commitment you expect from them and most importantly what benefits this will bring to both the volunteers peronally and also to their community. Avoid any publicity that says you need volunteers, language that implies you are desperate for volunteers or making people feel guilty for not volunteering.

Official volunteer services

Local Volunteer Centres and Councils for Voluntary Services (CVSs) support many different kinds of voluntary and community groups. For university based food co-ops contact the volunteering and/or career service offered either by the university or within the students' union. Many of these volunteer service providers will offer information on issues such as volunteer recruitment and management, promoting your food co-op and often training opportunities as well.

If you're looking for new volunteers, you could also use their matchmaking services. You will usually have to fill in a form giving contact details for your co-op and outlining the tasks and the time commitment required as well as the training or induction offered to help a person understand what is expected of volunteering with your food co-op.

The volunteer service provider will usually advertise your opportunity in regular newsletters, the local press and/or online which can work to increase publicity of your food co-op and bring in new customers at the same time as bringing in new volunteers. The most common process is for potential volunteers to be interviewed and the most suitable people to be introduced to you.


Another way to recruit volunteers is to get referrals from other organisations which have been set up to find work placements or volunteer opportunities for people they support. Such organisations generally work with specific groups of people who are not in work, such as young people not in education, employment or training (NEETs), or those working with people with learning difficulties or mental health problems. These volunteers may need more training and support, so you have to be sure you are able to offer this.

Some referrals may only be able to volunteer for shorter periods of time but this can be ideal if you have particular short-term activities which need several volunteers. This may be the case, for instance, when renovating your premises or building a food growing space. You may also be able to attract people who work for local businesses to volunteer for short-term activities through their employee volunteering schemes.

To find more useful food co-op related information visit our homepage

Food Co-ops toolkit: The Food Co-ops Toolkit will give you all the information you need to set up your own food co-op.

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