How you recruit volunteers will depend on the type of organisation and the tasks that need to be done.

For volunteers involved in everyday activities food co-ops usually recruit in one of the following ways (with more details below). However, 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 best way to recruit volunteers is by word of mouth, as food co-ops usually work best when local people that live or spend time in the area are involved. A survey of food co-ops across the country conducted in 2008 showed that four out of every five food co-ops (over 80 per cent) said they had recruited their volunteers this way. 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 hold the food co-op, such as a residents' association or church group. If your co-op is already running then many of your customers are also potential volunteers.

Official volunteer services

Volunteer centres and Councils for Voluntary Services (CVSs) support many different kinds of voluntary and community groups and can be a mine of information on issues such as promoting your food co-op, recruiting new volunteers, and training that could help your co-op run more smoothly. If you're looking for new volunteers you could also use the matchmaking services offered by local volunteer centres. This is where people who want to volunteer are put in touch with you when you need help. Such volunteer opportunities are often advertised in a regular newsletter, in the local press or online and can double as publicity and promotion for your co-op, so you might even get new customers. 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 and the training or induction offered to help a person understand what is expected of volunteering with a food co-op.

General publicity

The same methods that are used to promote the food co-op - for example leaflets, posters, or newsletters - can also be used to include requests for volunteers. If you have an email list of customers and others linked to the food co-ops, or your own website, you can also use these to provide updates about volunteer opportunities. You could also send articles to local newspapers or community publications saying why you need more volunteers, what tasks they can get involved with, and what benefits this will bring to both the volunteers and the the community. 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.


Another way to recruit volunteers is to get referrals from other organisations that are 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, for example young people not in education, training or employment (NEETs), or those working with people with learning difficulties or mental health issues. These volunteers may need more training and support, so you have to be sure that 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 that need a lot of volunteers, for example 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.

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