Toolkit for Working with Rural Volunteers

"A one-of-a-kind toolkit needed by rural organizations to build sustainable volunteer management infrastructure."

The OSM/VISTA Teams completed a pioneering three-year research project on rural volunteerism throughout Appalachia and the Rocky Mountain West with funding from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds. After engaging in place-based research in 34 rural communities, we created the Toolkit for Working with Rural Volunteers to share approaches to volunteer recruitment, management and retention that are successful in rural settings. It also contains one-of-a-kind tools needed by rural organizations to build sustainable volunteer management infrastructure.


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About the Rural Volunteerism Initiative


The Rural Volunteerism Initiative ensures that organizations feel supported and confident in their volunteer recruitment and retention efforts through increased proficiency in proven volunteer management practices coupled with a carefully tailored volunteer management plan.

Mission Statement

The Rural Volunteerism Initiative, a project of the Appalachian Coal Country Team, knows that volunteers are critical to the success of an organization. We are committed to providing rural community improvement organizations with the resources they need to foster sustainable volunteer programs within their organizations. We can help to increase organizational capacity, strengthen partnerships, build coalitions and increase their volunteer recruitment and retention to help sustain the organization. Endorsing best management practices in volunteerism[1], the Rural Volunteerism Initiative accomplishes its goals by

  • Fostering a culture of innovative volunteerism through organizational leadership and development.
  • Building organizational capacity by sharing and incorporating volunteer management practices.
  • Teaching skills and leadership needed to create a successful volunteer management program.
  • Coaching an organization through the development and implementation of a volunteer management plan for their organization.
  • Encouraging progress throughout the implementation of their volunteer management plan.

[1] Hager, Mark, “Volunteer Management Capacity in America’s Charities and Congregations”, The Urban Institute, March 1, 2004. <>