Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Hospice Helpers: Volunteer Recruitment and Engagement Tips

The following guest post is adopted from the blog of Glatfelter Healthcare, NHPCO Strategic Partner. 

With the hospice volunteer requirement of five percent returning in January of 2024, now is a great time for hospice professionals to put on their volunteer recruiter hats.

Many hospices have found it challenging to keep volunteers engaged post-pandemic. National averages show that hospices lost between 30 to 50 percent of the volunteers they had before COVID-19 hit. Some hospices adapted by 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 walks hospice professionals through recruiting and retaining hospice volunteers, from hanging flyers to volunteer skill-building.

Targeting Potential Volunteers

Hospice volunteers span all ages, but one-third of hospice volunteers are between 41 and 64 years of age. Hospice providers have a significant opportunity in recruiting volunteers of younger generations to join their teams.

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

  1. Ask young volunteers to recruit their friends and celebrate those volunteers who bring in others with special recognition.
  2. Offer a variety of schedules and volunteer options to accommodate the often-busy 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. 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 percent of volunteers are moved to volunteer because of personal experiences. When marketing your volunteer opportunities, try to highlight the personal connections and rewards.
  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

Screening Volunteers

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

  • Relevant skills
  • Degree of sensitivity
  • Level of comfort with the topics of death, dying, and loss
  • Willingness to complete required training
  • Time available
  • Ability to adjust 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. In addition to a criminal background check, it’s a good idea to have your own system of checks and balances, including:

  • Ensure 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).
  • Complete repeat background checks 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.
  • Ensure volunteers are properly supervised, when appropriate.
  • Revisit the onboarding process from time-to-time to make sure you’re keeping up with best practices.

Nine Ways to Retain Volunteers

In addition to documenting your recruitment strategy, hospices should review and maintain a volunteer retention strategy.

Here are nine 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 reading a book.
  4. Show your volunteers some appreciation by sharing the value they bring patients and their loves ones.
  5. Emphasize the personal and professional growth volunteers often undergo.
  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, such as offering new ideas for patient engagement activities.
  9. Highlight volunteers and their work in local newspapers or on local tv news, encouraging them 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 patients and their loved ones. Having insurance coverage, like Glatfelter’s Volunteer Accident coverage, can help cover providers in the event of volunteer accidents or injuries. Volunteer accident coverage also covers unexpected and unreimbursed medical expenses that occur from an accident while volunteering and provides a lump sum benefit when a volunteer suffers a serious injury.

Hospice began as a community initiative and remains a community initiative. Through smart recruiting and retention, hospices can keep their volunteers’ attention, ensuring they’ll have, and help create, life-changing memories for years to come.