All-Volunteer Group Development

Information useful to a leader of any group predominantly run by volunteers with no or few paid staff. This can include service clubs, auxiliaries, friends groups, special events organizations, cooperatives, and more. However, please note that all of the information about how to work with volunteers in other settings still applies, so do go to the other topics in this library for more help!

10 Qualities of Great Community Leaders, Robert Parmer, 2015
21st-Century Networks, Sarah J. Butler
Are the All-Volunteer Groups Taking Over?, Marilyn Miller, Publisher/Editor, 501 (c) (3) Monthly Letter
Be Ambassadors to the Community, Jan Masaoka, All Hands on Board: The Board of Directors in an All-Volunteer Organization, pp. 15-16, National Center for Nonprofit Boards and the Support Center for Nonprofit Management, 1999
A Bill of Rights for Members, Bryan Leipper, The Dear Association Leader
Boards of All-Volunteer Organizations, Blue Avocado, Blue Avocado
Consultation/Listening, Debra Allcock Tyler, Directory of Social Change, 2017
Could Volunteers Replace Paid Staff? Have No Fear!, Betsy McFarland, Energize Hot Topic, 2019
Day 6: Find Your Successor, Carol E. Weisman, pp. 33-4, F.E. Robbins & Sons, 1998
Decision Making in Small Groups, Nathan W. Turner, Leading Small Groups, pp. 49 - 50, Judson Press, 1996
How to Hit Your Members' Hot Buttons, Cynthia D'Amour, How to Turn Generation Me into Active Members of Your Association, Jump Start Books, 1999
How Volunteer Action in 2018 Can Focus Us for 2019, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2019
I'll help with that, but don't ask me to lead it!, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2007
Is There Hope for Auxiliaries?, Susan J. Ellis, The NonProfit Times
Leading Volunteers, Nancy Beach
Leaving Agendas Outside Is Part of the Organizational Structure, Joseph Kilpatrick and Sanford Danziger, Better Than Money Can Buy: The New Volunteers, Innersearch Pub, 1996
Limiting Volunteers through Insurance Requirements, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2010
Make New Friends But Keep the Old..., Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2007
The Need for Institutional Memory, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2003
The Need for Specialized Principles, Ivan H. Scheier, Energize, Inc, 1992
Officer Installation, edited by Johnnie Ruth Sturgeon, Submitted by Elaine Schneider, Collections and Reflections
The Power of Positive Relationships in Recruitment, Matthew H. Mattson and Joshua A. Orendi, Phired Up Productions, 2006
Sage Advice for the New Member, Marilyn MacKensie and Gail Moore, The Group Member's Handbook
Sneaky and Insightful Boardroom Questions, Carol Weisman, Board Builders e-zine, News from the Road, 2010
Starting Self-Help Groups (Lay Persons), Barbara J. White and Edward J. Madera, eds., The Self-Help SourceBook: Finding and Forming Mutual Aid Self-Help Groups, American Self-Help Clearinghouse, 1995
Stop Volunteers from Being Their Own Worst Enemies, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2013
To Deepen Volunteer Engagement, Redefine Volunteering, Tim Ebner, Associations Now blog, 2017
The Treasurer's Report, John Paul Dalsimer, pp. 29-31, Energize, Inc, 2003
When Volunteers Resist Change, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2010
Jan Masaoka, originally published by the National Center for Nonprofit Boards , pp. 19

Produced by Community Brands, YourMembership, and Abila, this study reports on answers given by over 1,000 association members to what they want from their membership and what keeps them renewing.  

, 2017, pp. 23
A series of nine books by Volunteer Northwest Territories and Volunteer Nunavut in Canada for volunteers and volunteer groups in small and large communities. The link here is to book 1, which links to the other 8 booklets of 40 pages each., 2004, pp. 40

By Nora L. Silver, based on work done by The Volunteerism Project on volunteering by diverse ethnic/cultural groups. Seven focus groups provided the basis for the book:

  • A Chorus of Voices, African American focus group facilitated by Vicki Clark in Memphis, Tennessee
  • Self-Determination: Messages for Our Native Youth, two American Indian focus groups conducted by Kouslaa Kessler-Mata in Oakland and San Francisco, California
  • Uno Recibe lo que Uno Da: You Get What You Give, Central American focus group conducted in Spanish, facilitated by Coco Mendoza and translated by Gary Wheelock in San Francisco, California
  • Extending the Family, Chinese American focus group conducted by Mae Chao in San Francisco, California
  • Giving Generously, Japanese American focus group conducted by Mami Ishikawa in Berkeley, California
  • Three Continents, Four States, Ten Cities, Korean American focus group facilitated by Debbie Ng in Oakland, California
  • La Gran Familia, Mexican American focus group facilitated by Ramon del Castillo, with simultaneous translation by Patsy Roybal in Denver, Colorado
, 2011, pp. 131
compiled by Ellen Steele, the Volunteer Center at Serve Rhode Island to promote volunteerism and service projects in faith-based communities, 2008, pp. 52

Study sponsored by the Points of Light Foundation to: 1) deepen understanding of volunteer engagement in rural communities; 2) examine the applicability of the neighboring model to rural communities; and 3) identify practices that document and support volunteering and neighboring by, in and with under-resourced rural communities.

, 2004, pp. 153
Associations Now (blog)

About all things related to association management, from ASAE (American Society for Association Executives). Was previously called "Acronym" and that archive is still accessible at

The Center for Association Leadership

Site for staff and officers of trade and professional associations, with many articles, sample forms, "cool tips," etc. Search under "volunteer" or "member development."

Donor Dream Blog (Category: Volunteers)

Erik Anderson writes this blog about donor relations and one of his categories is volunteers -- specifically how to work with nonprofit boards of directors.  This link takes you to the compilation of posts archived under "volunteer," but you can also view posts on fundraising and other topics.

Mark Levin Leadership Articles

Professional speaker and association manager Mark Levin shares his archive of articles about membership development for associations.

PTO Today

Wonderful publication and online resource for parent-teacher organizations -- but with all sorts of useful nuggets for ANY all-volunteer organization.

PTO Today Archives

Wide range of articles on recruitment, fundraising, and making things work, written for leaders of parent/teacher groups but applicable to any all-volunteer organization.

PTO Today Archives

Wide range of articles and tips for leaders of parent/teacher groups in schools, but very relevant to leadership of any local all-volunteer membership association.

PTO Today "Focus on Fundraising"

Archived articles on all sorts of fundraising ideas for leaders of parent/teacher groups but applicable to any organization.

Self-Help Sourcebook Online

All sorts of information for running a self-help group, including links to existing groups and tips for effective online support.

Self-Help Sourcebook Online

All sorts of information for running a self-help group, including links to existing groups and tips for effective online support. Blog (formerly VolunteerSpot)

Online scheduling site VolunteerSpot's blog shares ideas, tips and best practices for informal volunteer leaders about improving the volunteer experience, fundraising and streamlining volunteer coordination.


Free online volunteer scheduling service with a lot of useful options, especially template sign-up sheets and reminders to volunteers via e-mail and text. There are also fee-based premium levels for very large organizations. 

Track It Forward Blog: for the Part-Time Volunteer Coordinator

A start-up blog by James McBryan, the founder of Track it Forward, in which he shares advice for the person who's a part-time volunteer coordinator (either paid or, more probably, a volunteer, too) who wants "to do this job fast and right because you have other things to do."  

United for Libraries Resources for Friends Groups

Free toolkits, promotional materials, and other resources -- including a :Pwer Guide to Successful Library Advocacy" for Friends groups of all types, sizes, and level of activity. 

Volunteer Job Descriptions

Focused on officers of all-volunteer groups, from the Risk & Insurance Management Society

Volunteer Spot

Free site designed to enable anyone to quickly mobilize, coordinate , and schedule volunteers in their community, congregation and social network to accomplish projects more easily.

Youth Service America Resources

Long list of free, downloadable guides for students and teachers on all aspects of creating the best service-learning projects and curricula.

How Healthy Are Your Group's Vital Signs?
From Susan J. Ellis, President, Energize, Inc.

Readers of this Update work with volunteers in many different ways. Usually this Tip focuses on volunteers working alongside paid staff, but there are many all-volunteer groups out there. You might be the officer of a membership association or civic club, or you may be the paid staff liaison assigned to connect with an auxiliary, friends group, or other self-led volunteer body.

In their effort to get and keep new members, all-volunteer groups rarely step back to assess how they do their work - and whether their processes are keeping pace with the demands of today's volunteers. The following are some key questions to open discussion with group leaders. They can be used at board meetings - perhaps one or two at a series of meetings - or as the focal point of a retreat or special think tank convened to consider the future of the group.

  • Are we adding new members and growing according to our goals? Or... Are we losing current members faster than we are recruiting new ones?
  • What's the difference between why members join at the start and why they stay? Why do some members lose interest or fade away? Are they right to leave?
  • How welcoming are we to newcomers, really? What exactly do we do to show them they are welcome - beyond greeting them at their first meeting?
  • How current is our information about long-time members? Have they been "typecast" into certain roles or expectations? Do we know how their skills (or lives) have changed over the years?
  • Are we able to get members to run for office or to accept other leadership roles (without pulling teeth)?
  • Do we have and enforce a rotation policy? If not, what does that mean for future leadership development?
  • Do we have any "entrenched" long-time members who - if we're honest - turn others off? How do we deal with these sorts of issues?
  • Are our members so devoted to past and current programs and projects that they resist change or innovation? How do we deal with that?
  • What happens when someone has a new idea? Do we have a process for genuinely considering suggestions and options for the "minority opinion" to be heard or for individuals to pursue different options?
  • Are we having fun?

This last question is seriously about fun! If volunteers are no longer enjoying their service, something is wrong. It is definitely possible to work hard and still have fun, but if the joy is gone, the future of the group is bleak.