A female volunteer helping an older patient with a cane

Hospice Helpers: Volunteer Recruitment and Engagement Tips

By Emily Arndt on April 2, 2024

With the hospice volunteer requirement of 5% returning in January of 2024, it’s a great time for hospice staff to put on their volunteer recruiter hats.

Has your hospice found it challenging to keep volunteers engaged post-pandemic? If so, you’re not alone. National averages show that hospices lost between 30-50% of the volunteers they had before COVID-19 hit. Some hospices were able to adapt, offering virtual volunteer opportunities, while others asked volunteers to perform hands-off duties such as writing notes or making items for patients from home. Now, many hospices need to do extra work to not only gain new volunteers, but to regain previous volunteers whose support slowed during the pandemic.

This blog will walk you through recruiting and retaining volunteers, from hanging flyers to volunteer skill-building.

Targeting Potential Volunteers

The current average hospice volunteer is female and about 52 years old. One-third of hospice volunteers are between 41-64 years of age. In some ways, this population resembles the hospice patient population, with many being older and/or closer to retirement age themselves. In general, the greater the age of the volunteer, the more health risks are presented.

As older volunteers age out of service—and/or limit their in-person volunteering due to health risks—younger generations, Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z, should be highly-targeted as the next batch of volunteers.

As you know, it’s required that hospices document and demonstrate their volunteer recruitment strategies.

Below are 12 viable strategies for recruiting the next generation of volunteers:

  1. Ask young volunteers to recruit their friends.
  2. Offer a variety of schedules and volunteer options to accommodate the often busy, experiential lives of young people.
  3. Reach out to leaders of local church youth groups, school clubs and sports teams to generate interest.
  4. Meet the audience where they are—on social media. Keep an active profile(s), highlighting volunteer successes and advantages to generate interest. And ask volunteers to repost your content.
  5. Make it a mutually beneficial experience for volunteers by offering position titles, letters of recommendation and development opportunities.
  6. Focus on the cause AND what’s in it for volunteers. Gen Z, in particular, is a passionate generation and will likely respond to calls of helping others. However, it’s still important to remind volunteers how service can benefit them—such as resume building, career education and meeting new people.
  7. Things move fast in today’s world. Return prospective volunteer calls and emails within 24 hours so you don’t lose them to another organization.
  8. 60% of volunteers are moved to volunteer because of personal experiences. When marketing your volunteer opportunities, try to highlight the personal side and tug at the heart strings.
  9. Participate in job fairs.
  10. Hang flyers with QR codes at youth-centered community organizations and high schools.
  11. Present to nursing, social work and other healthcare-related classes at nearby colleges and universities, as well as local youth groups and organizations.
  12. List your volunteer opportunities on volunteermatch.org.

Screening Volunteers

Once you get some interested volunteers and begin screening, consider the following about them:

  • Skills
  • Degree of sensitivity
  • Degree of comfort with the topic of death, dying and loss
  • Willingness to complete required training
  • Time available
  • Adjustment to significant losses

Background Checks

Once you’re ready to bring someone on board, don’t forget that they are unpaid employees and will need a background check. Criminal background checks must be obtained for volunteers in accordance with State requirements. In the absence of State requirements, criminal background checks must be obtained within three months of the date of hire for all states that the prospective volunteer has lived or worked in over the past three years.

Good news for Glatfelter clients: you have special access to discounted background screenings from IntelliCorp, a provider of comprehensive background screening and employment screening solutions for small and mid-sized businesses and nonprofit organizations. Learn more below!


In addition to a criminal background check, it’s a good idea to have your own system of checks and balances, including:

  • Ensuring volunteers who drive as part of their volunteer description have an acceptable driving record and adequate auto insurance coverage (review your state limits and follow internal policies).
  • Ensure repeat background checks are completed as per state guidelines. Adhere to a follow-up background check schedule. Some checks may need to be repeated after a certain number of years.
  • Create volunteer position “profiles” to map the skills needed for each position, as well as the risks each pose, to inform training needs.
  • Ensuring volunteers are properly supervised, when appropriate
  • Revisiting onboarding process from time-to-time, to make sure you’re keeping up with modern standards.

9 Ways to Retain Volunteers

In addition to documenting your recruitment strategy, you are required to review and maintain a volunteer retention strategy.

Here are 9 tips to keep your volunteers interested and engaged:

  1. Offer continual and flexible training and growth opportunities through additional responsibilities, where applicable.
  2. Appoint volunteer leaders and trainers.
  3. Encourage volunteers to keep sharing new skills with patients, such as writing poetry, learning an instrument or even reading a book to patients.
  4. Periodically show appreciation by reporting their value add to volunteers to show the impact they’re individually making.
  5. Emphasize the personal and professional growth of volunteers.
  6. Remind volunteers that they’re needed. Being needed is a human instinct and something that makes everyone feel good.
  7. Ensure volunteers feel supported—personally and professionally—by checking on them if they suffer a patient loss and throughout the year.
  8. Encourage volunteers to take ownership of their work, jump in to help and come up with new ideas.
  9. Highlight volunteers and their work in local newspapers/local tv news, encouraging those volunteers to continue and inspiring new volunteers through storytelling.

Volunteer Accident Coverage

It’s important to think about the risks associated with having volunteers serve your clients, since 5% of your client hours must be volunteer. Glatfelter’s Volunteer Accident coverage helps cover you from volunteer accidents to injuries. It covers unexpected and unreimbursed medical expenses from an accident that occurs while volunteering, accidental death & dismemberment and provides a lump sum benefit when a volunteer suffers a serious injury, dismemberment or death, among other highlights.

If you’re interested in this coverage, please contact your insurance agent and they can assist in getting you covered.

Our goal is that by now, you feel confident that you have at least a few actionable steps you can take to up your volunteer recruitment and retention game and achieve the 5% volunteer hour mandate. Hospice began as a community initiative and it remains a community initiative. Through smart recruiting and retention, you can keep your volunteers’ attention, ensuring they’ll have, and help create, life-changing memories for years to come.

Emily Arndt

Em, a proud cat mom to Margot and Teddy, enjoys learning guitar, the beach, writing, and working on her sarcasm.


The information contained in this blog post is intended for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace expert advice in connection with the topics presented. Glatfelter specifically disclaims any liability for any act or omission by any person or entity in connection with the preparation, use or implementation of plans, principles, concepts or information contained in this publication.

Glatfelter does not make any representation or warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the results obtained by the use, adherence or implementation of the material contained in this publication. The implementation of the plans, principles, concepts or materials contained in this publication is not a guarantee that you will achieve a certain desired result. It is strongly recommended that you consult with a professional advisor, architect or other expert prior to the implementation of plans, principles, concepts or materials contained in this publication.

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