Finding Volunteers


Most community stations rely on volunteers. When considering recruiting new staff, you will often be considering a volunteer. 

It’s therefore vital to understand why they become involved with the station and why they want to stay.

People have a multitude of competing demands for their time (work, study, family, friends, social lives, other voluntary commitments). To get them involved, you need to match their ambitions to what they can reasonably expect to gain from volunteering.

In community broadcasting, one primary motivator is “getting on air”. People want to get on air for a variety of reasons:

  • ego – to be a star
  • to share their passion for music
  • to entertain
  • to share community news
  • to provide information sources to their community
  • to provide a voice to others
  • to contribute to diversity on the airwaves
  • to change hearts, minds and possibly the behaviours of listeners, such as a passionate environmentalist, political activist of culture buff
  • to get Centrelink off their back
  • to establish a platform for social change

But not every volunteer wants to be a broadcaster, and stations rely on people who contribute to station life in a variety of ways. That might include:

  • developing social networks
  • working with other people
  • fun
  • commitment to the station and what it does
  • desire to learn media skills or other skills
  • to improve employability
  • assist in return to work skills
  • increased self-esteem or status
  • gain respect in their community
  • improve English language skills
  • opportunity to integrate in to their local community
  • to exercise and retain skills
  • to overcome barriers, fears, limited abilities

Understanding what motivates an individual to want to contribute to your station will assist you to match them to appropriate tasks and roles within the station.

It will make their involvement more satisfying and they will most likely want to stay longer.

When we need to fill a new position at the station, offering it to a volunteer is often a good solution. So, where do we go to find them?
1. Informal networks, friends and family

According to Volunteering Australia’s National Survey of Volunteering Issues 2007, 38% of volunteers found their volunteering work through a friend or relative. Community stations have extensive informal networks that already exist. These are a great asset in recruiting volunteers. Get the word out through these networks.

2. On-air

Why pay for advertising when you can use the station’s own air time to attract volunteers who are already listeners and therefore interested in some aspect of the station?

3. Advertising

The second highest response in the Volunteering Australia survey was advertising in the local newspaper by the organisation. Even if you can’t afford to pay for advertising, you may be able to get the local paper to run a story on the station and pitch it towards volunteer involvement.

4. Other

Other recruitment sources will vary depending on the types of volunteers you are seeking (broadcasters, admin support, book keeper etc.), but could include:

  • the website
  • newsletters, pamphlets, brochures and posters
  • govolunteer website 
  • through a volunteer centre
  • through open days or information sessions
  • stalls at fairs, markets or community events
  • via the visibility of the station’s ob van
  • schools or universities
  • senior citizens clubs
  • community service announcements on local TV and other radio
  • other community organisations, i.e. the local Italian club or sports club
  • government programs such as work for the dole or the community work
  • program in which job seekers fulfil their mutual obligation to government
  • and follow the links through by category/schemes
  • and initiatives
  • radio industry websites including the CBAA Job & Volunteer Opportunities page

Sometimes you may want to find a volunteer for a special task. For example, the station wants to recruit broadcasters to produce programming for new migrant communities in your area. Here you would need to approach those communities directly. This may be in the form of a letter or a meeting or through a contact the station has with the community.

Some new and emerging communities may have protocols about the appropriate people to contact on matters where community representation is concerned. There may be gender or age issues that make a contact more or less successful. A good approach is to contact the local council or Migrant Resource Centre who may have an ethnic liaison officer who has good contacts and can advise on these matters.

In other words, you will need to place your recruitment material directly to the people you want to involve.

Other things to consider include:

  • your potential volunteer’s preferred source of information (the web, newspapers, radio, TV, amphlets, avante cards, newsletters, posters).
  • where the new volunteer and is likely to see your information (gigs, bowls clubs, protests, tree planting days, or in a virtual world).
  • using the station’s current resources and tools such as: on-air promos, the current volunteer base and word of mouth, outside broadcasts (OB) the station’s presence at markets and days of political action. have flyers or some form of information to hand out at public events. don’t forget the station volunteer coordinator’s contact details and lets people know how to get involved.
  • promoting the benefits of volunteer involvement at the station. People have limited time so work on those benefits and match your roles and tasks to their interests.
  • promoting the achievements and successes of the station.

Thanks to the Community Media Training Organisation for this resource.

Quick Tips: Engaging Volunteers

Engaging volunteers who share a commitment to your organisation's purpose and have the right skills is a great way to maximise your impact. To support their contribution, the Australian Charities and Not for profits Commission (ACNC), the national independent regulator of charities, provides advice on things to keep in mind when engaging volunteers.  

The Volunteer's Journey

This step-by-step guide looks at how to locate and recruit volunteers by walking in their shoes. This guide put together by Volunteering Australia is designed to help you understand those aspects of your strategy that will help volunteers make a decision about who for and where they want to give their time.