Resource management is essential for any organisation’s success. For non-profit organisations (NPOs) volunteers are a key resource. In this article, we examine how NPOs recruit, mobilise and manage volunteers in a challenging institutional and operational context. By drawing on a qualitative study of Russian health NPOs, our study highlights that the operational and institutional environment encountered by Russian NPOs leads to ‘management by network’ to acquire necessary volunteer resources. This pragmatic approach, whilst ensuring an organisation’s short-term survival, ultimately limits the type of volunteer recruited by Russian NPOs. The implications of these findings are also explored.