Engaging Volunteers

General - Volunteers

Whether they are new to your organization, are alumni or family members of your camping programs, volunteers are often the key to keeping operations functioning smoothly. At the ACA Annual Conference, Tracey Stahn, Manager of Volunteers and Outreach for Kids Cancer Care in CAlgary and Camp Kindle, shared the elements of a healthy volunteer engagement program.



Families are the best advocates for your camp. Send emails and give phone calls to let them know about volunteer opportunities. If they aren’t working with kids directly, the risk is low, and so the screening process doesn’t have to be as intense. Engage them in community initiative volunteer opportunities roughly 3 times a year.


Camp Kindle runs a year-round Teen Leadership Program. The teens coming up within their camp programs throughout the year and at summer camp. These teens are engaged in the programs, see the importance of camp and usually have a fun time, so they naturally want to give back and get more involved. Work with them to build a sense of importance for their volunteering at your camp.

Reach out to:

  • Stakeholders
  • University/college programs (Camp Kindle reaches out specifically to kinesiology, nursing, teachers, childcare programs, disability programs as these programs relate directly to their campers and families)
  • Donors. If you have any organizations or businesses that donate regularly to your camp, offer them a team building opportunity for their staff by coming out and volunteering for a day. When these groups come out to your camp, you hope that the individuals in that group will be interested in volunteering personally in the future.
  • Current volunteers. Ask them to spread the word.
  • Board Members
  • Social media and personal contacts.

Screening Process

Having a screening process lets volunteers know that they are coming into a safe, well-organized space and that the other volunteers and staff are serious about the mission of the camp.

  1. General application form. Some camps choose to put their volunteer application form on the website. Camp Kindle has decided to have the application form given to them after they contact the camp, staff member or another volunteer with an interest. This gives the camp a little more control over who is volunteering and provides a more personal touch when they are contacted.
  2. Individual interview.
  3. Paper work and camp application form.
  4. Police check and Child Intervention Check.
  5. Two references.
  6. Training (general and camp specific)
  7. Onsite support and evaluation.

Volunteer Program Model

Here is the Camp Kindle volunteer program model: Once everything is complete, the Police Checks come back and they are deemed a good fit, they will be added to an email distribution list. Every volunteer will receive ALL opportunities via MailChimp (email request) and are encouraged to take part in a variety of areas. Volunteers will respond and sign up accordingly. Then a staff member, usually the Volunteer Manager, will confirm their participation.

A week prior to the event and email will be sent with all the details. You can do training on site and make sure they have staff support on site for instructions and so they know what they should be doing.

Make sure you follow up with a thank-you letter or email after the event or camp program they’ve volunteered for.

You can also have an orientation event 2-3 times a year and with weekend training events for summer camp.

Volunteer Recognition & Retention

The Success Formula is knowing the volunteer’s motivation for coming to your organization. How could you implement the Success Formula from the start of a volunteer’s introduction to your organization.

  • Application form. Find out why they are interested and motivated.
  • Interview. See what their passion is. Ask them why they want to volunteer.
  • Shadow them at camp, program or event to see what motivates them in the moment.
  • Ask them! Effective communication goes a long way.

Remember the 3 Rs: Recruitment, Retention, Recognition.

  • Have a good recruitment strategy and process.
  • Having clear position descriptions and training.
  • Matching the right volunteer to the right position. Make sure they are involved in what they are passionate about.
  • Constant and timely recognition.
  • Listen and take action. When you get volunteer feedback make sure you follow through! Taking action shows that you care about them and their suggestions.

Volunteer retention can be a dual team effort can include:

  • Volunteer supervision
  • Effective communication
  • Constructive feedback
  • Volunteer placement matches motivation and recognition
  • Clear program model

Volunteer motivation:

  • Praise: they enjoy recognition for their talents and contributions and like being singled out for their accomplishments.
  • Affiliation: they like to get involved because they are involved with similar beliefs, backgrounds and goals and they don’t feel like working alone is very satisfying. They want to be affiliated with your organization!
  • Accomplishments: People who volunteer for a sense of accomplishments. They enjoy seeking concrete evidence of their work and like practical, tangible projects.
  • Power and influence: they like to influence people to do or see things their way, showing people a better, easier way of accomplishing the organization’s objectives.

Brainstorming ideas for volunteer recognition:

  • Find ways for the campers to thank and recognize your volunteers.
  • Feed them!
  • Give them branded apparel like your camp t-shirt or hat.
  • Public postings on social media and the website thanking them.
  • Offer to give them a reference letter for those who are applying for a job that might be related.
  • Email shout outs, public recognition at an event.
  • Recognition spot on your website or newsletter.
  • Involvement as a speaker at a workshop.

About the presenter: Tracey Stahn, Kids Cancer Care

Tracey is the Manager of Volunteers and Outreach for Kids Cancer Care in Calgary and organizes the volunteers at Camp Kindle. She oversees everything from recruiting, screening and training to stewardship of the amazing volunteers that support Camp Kindle. She enjoys building meaningful relationships and creating outstanding opportunities of fulfillment for people who have a heart for giving back.

Categories: Aca Annual Conference, Camp Resources, Volunteers