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.


Rural Volunteer Web Site Logo


With greater knowledge of rural volunteers and how they are managed, the next step is to build a no-frills volunteer management infrastructure. The tools in this section are a guide through the larger process of bringing volunteers into an organization and keeping them there—with the least amount of time, people, and money.

The staff or volunteers of rural organizations are already buried under the many details of holding events, conducting projects and raising money. As a result, key elements of volunteer management are often pushed to the end of an organization’s long to-do list. New volunteers are not informed of what they can do next or how they can become more involved, and consequently begin donating their time elsewhere. Participation of existing volunteers is often driven by deep devotion to the cause or the simple fact that if they don’t do something, there’s no one else who will.

In rural communities—where a small population also means a small volunteer pool—organizations cannot afford to lose volunteers as a result of poor management. Furthermore, our volunteer survey data shows that most rural volunteers were recruited by friends and family involved in the organization. If not managed properly, your organization is losing both an individual volunteer and the potential to recruit that individual’s friends and family.

Given this extra pressure for proper volunteer management, this section contains the tools needed to build a sustainable volunteer management infrastructure. It outlines a simple process that can be repeated for every event and task. It is focused specifically on volunteer management and does not include other elements such as event planning, outreach or fundraising. These tools serve as a guide through volunteer management from preparation and orientation to tracking and appreciation.

WorksheetVolunteer Management Inventory
WorksheetEvent-based Volunteer Management
WorksheetTask-based Volunteer Management
TemplateVolunteer Timesheet
ChecklistVolunteer Supply List
WorksheetVolunteer Task Assignments
TemplateVolunteer Information Sheet
TemplateVolunteer Information Database
TemplateVolunteer Release of Liability: Adult
TemplateVolunteer Release of Liability: Youth
WorksheetVolunteer Position Description
TemplateEvent Record
TemplateVolunteer Evaluation
TemplateVolunteer Evaluation Database
WorksheetVolunteer Recognition Planning