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There are a number of different avenues to consider when recruiting your core group and volunteers. Word-of-mouth tends to work best and can provide the greatest long term stability, but this may only be viable once you have an established group which people have the confidence in to promote and recommend to their own personal networks.

Particularly when recruiting at the early stages of a project, try to avoid having set plans and be prepared to be flexible with your vision. While an exciting and well-thought-out idea can attract and inspire people to join the group, it is important that new members have the opportunity to contribute their own suggestions to shape the outcome in order to feel a sense of ownership and close connection and commitment to the project.

Click on the ideas below for practical suggestions and detailed case studies.


A good place to start with recruitment is advertising. This could be either for specific roles or a general call for offers of help and support on a one-off or regular basis. Information to consider publicising in advertisements includes:

Details of the role. If you are advertising a particular role, you might want to provide some information on the tasks involved. You could even provide a link to a simple job description and person specification if you are looking for something very specific.

Time commitment. Often it is not that the role doesn’t appeal to people, but a lack of time that prevents them becoming involved. It could therefore help to indicate the likely time commitments and how flexible those commitments would be.

What’s in it for them? Think about what will motivate people to join the group. As well as the practicalities of the tasks involved with the role, it is worth promoting the added benefits of furthering a worthy cause, meeting new people and making friends, as well as any training or useful experience that could be gained.

Contact details. Don’t forget to include your contact details so they can get in touch!

Case Studies
Country: UK

Sustainable Charlbury started out with two directors who were the initial instigators of the group’s Southill Solar project. They announced the project on the Charlbury website, and a local landscape architect responded to the announcement by volunteering his services. Since then, other local people with relevant skills have put themselves forward to volunteer to help take the project forward.

Country: UK

Brighton Energy Co-operative was initiated by the current chairman, who used press releases, email lists and public meetings to capture local interest and establish a core team. The core team of five directors and advisors have a mix of skills and experience in the energy, business and financial sectors.

Source: Community-Led Photovoltaic Initiatives action pack

Approach people or existing groups

Do your research and consider whether any existing groups in the area could provide a platform from which to recruit group members or volunteers. A lot of time and energy may be saved by piggybacking on the resources of a community group that is already well-established, respected and recognised.

You should be able to identify a potential list of people and groups to contact simply by carrying out a basic internet search. Alternatively, you could get ideas for who to contact by talking to people and carrying out some kind of stakeholder mapping exercise.

Groups to consider approaching include:

Community groups. Community groups pursuing social or environmental aims will have a pool of potentially dedicated, passionate and likeminded people involved who could be interested in your project. Transition Network, Friends of the Earth or Greenpeace groups are particularly worth contacting and may be open to working in partnership.

Community or residents’ associations. Members of community or residents’ associations tend to be engaged with local issues and affairs, and therefore may be interested in becoming involved with your project.

Friends, family and colleagues. Your own personal connections could be willing to support the setting up and running of your project. However, it is wise not to limit recruitment to within your own circles if you want your group to be representative and to avoid appearing “cliquey”.

Experts and professionals. Experts and professionals can bring a variety of useful skills and contacts to your group.

Sports groups. Sports clubs and organisations bring people together and promote community spirit, providing a source of strong community connections.

Religious groups. Religious groups tend to be tight-knit and take an interest in local affairs and ethical issues, and therefore may a place to find interested individuals.

Political groups. Local political groups, such as those affiliated with the Green Party, could offer a source of community activists and passionate individuals.

Case Studies
Country: UK

Stroudco Food Hub pulled together a list of 83 local food and drink producers just by doing a bit of web-searching and networking.  They involved interested food producers and consumers in planning of their Food Hub right from the start, and many of these people continue to do a lot of valuable voluntary work in planning the future of the Hub.  There is a ‘core group’ of members elected each year who manage the Hub, made up of 50% consumers and 50% producers. You will be amazed by how many people right on your doorstep will be interested and engaged in your group’s cause – you just have to go out there and find them! 

Country: UK

Bath and West Community Energy’s team originally formed when initiatives started by the Transition Bath Energy Group and Transition Corsham came together under one banner. There are seven directors in the team, many of which have past experience of working on other community projects in Bath and the surrounding area.

Through an event or meeting

An event or open meeting is a good place to recruit your core group or volunteers, as you will have a captive audience from which to bring on board committed individuals.

Below are a few ideas for how to go about recruiting at an event or meeting.

Networking and talking to people. Simply having conversations with new and different people at an event or meeting can help to identify individuals who might be valuable, willing and interested to get more involved. Personal invitations or offers of support can be more successful and effective when made face-to-face in this way.

Publicity material and displays. Having eye-catching publicity material or displays advertising the opportunities available can inform people of what is on offer and how they can get more involved. Make sure you include details for how to apply or make enquiries.

Give a presentation. A presentation explaining your group or project, the benefits of involvement and the types of roles you are recruiting for can be an effective way to communicate and promote opportunities.

Speed dating with a difference. If you have a wide range of roles to recruit for, you could arrange a form of speed dating session. Those attending could sit down with members from different work groups or with responsibilities for different areas of your project in turn to discuss available opportunities. This can provide a fun and interactive way to recruit when you need to boost numbers.

Follow up after the event or meeting. Instead of directly recruiting at an event or meeting, another option is to call for support from those who were in attendance afterwards via email or other communication methods.

During meeting discussions. If plans are being formulated during a meeting discussion, this can be combined with bringing those in attendance on board to help to deliver the next steps identified. This can lead to a one-off or more permanent roles developing.

Case Studies
Country: UK

Dingwall Wind Co-op took time to identify and recruit founding directors who were well known and trusted locally and happy to promote the Co-op. People were approached through personal contacts and asked to a meeting where the basic idea was laid out. A very large number of questions were asked and a lot of time spent with each of the prospective directors. One or two people approached decided to continue as supporters rather than in active roles. It was notable that some of the most difficult people to satisfy did then go on to become directors and take an active role in the launch of the Co-op! 

Country: Ireland

A group of enthusiastic colleagues at Dublin City Council got together to run an energy awareness campaign in the Council and to help communicate sustainability issues. The local energy agency Codema worked closely with these staff members to develop a 1-year campaign called “Think Energy”. In order to form a team which would make plans and decisions on the campaign, staff members of Codema gave a short presentation on the benefits of behavioural change to Dublin City Council employees in the area of Facility Management, Information Services and Human Resources. The Think Energy team was formed. Given the large size of the Civic Offices building with 1,500 staff members, it was decided that further “Think Energy Ambassadors” needed to be recruited to spread the energy-saving message on the ground. This was done by offering a lunchtime talk on “How to save energy at home” in the Civic Office’s conference room. Lunch and tea/coffee was provided and an energy consultant was invited to give a presentation to 60 attendees. They were provided with energy tips and information on the campaign and later asked whether they would like to volunteer to become Think Energy Ambassadors. The volunteering programme was also advertised in the organisation’s newsletter, on the Dublin City Council intranet and via the Think Energy Online Hub, a website which had been created for the project by the marketing team in Codema.

Country: UK

The Big Lemon formed its initial core team as a result of an informal open meeting in a pub. A group of local people got together to explore ideas for a community bus company as a response to rises in local bus fares. It was the first time most of the people in the room had met each other, having been invited by posters and an article in the local paper, and the group included community activists, businesspeople, bus drivers, pensioners, local politicians, residents and a few journalists. It was an interesting and fruitful discussion, and by the end of the evening there was a plan. There was even an offer from one of the bus drivers in the room to drive the first day of service for nothing!

Source: Community-Led Transport Initiatives action pack

Applications, nominations and voting

If you have a large and established core group, you may want to consider inviting applications or nominations for certain roles. This approach can work well if it is particularly important to recruit someone with the right skillset and attitude, or to make your group more democratic and representative of your community. Generally this approach will suit well-established groups with a more formal structure.

Applications and interviews. Developing application forms and inviting candidates who return the forms to a brief interview can help you to gauge who is the right person for a role when you are likely to have a number of people interested in the position. Interviews need not be anything more than an informal chat in a local café over a cup of coffee. Make sure you publicise the role widely, with details of the job description and person specification, a link to the application form, where to send it and a deadline for applications.

Nominations and voting. As your group becomes established and more formal, you might want to consider a process of nominations and voting to recruit elected members. Recruiting group members in this way will promote a more democratic and representative organisation, which in turn will help to ensure local people feel they have a say and are part of the process. The process involves inviting nominations with a supporting statement from the candidate by a certain deadline. The candidate statements and ballot papers can then be circulated to all group members and supporters in order for them to vote for their preferred candidate by post or at an open meeting, such as an AGM. The legal structure of your group will affect members’ voting rights.

Case Studies
Country: UK

Bath and West Community Energy’s Election Policy sets out the process for nominating and voting for Non-Executive Directors. They hold an introductory meeting for members interested in becoming Non-Executive Directors in advance of the deadline for returning nomination forms. Nominations must be supported by one proposing member and at least one supporting member, and can be made at the AGM at which the election is held. Candidates need to meet specified eligibility criteria and submit a statement with their nomination of up to 750 words outlining why they would make a good Director. The statements are copied and included with ballot papers and circulated to members before the AGM at which the election takes place. Vote counting is conducted under a simple majority system.