Challenges in recruiting volunteers encountered by psychiatric services are barely elucidated despite a general societal increase in volunteering. The aim of the study was to explore the significance of professional and private life experiences in willingness to volunteer to care for people with severe mental illness. Focus group interviews with volunteers in the Community Family Programme was conducted, followed by thematic analysis. All interviewees had professional and/or private experience of SMI, which had a major influence on their initial willingness to volunteer. Volunteering was an opportunity to pass on their experiences and to care for SMI people in ways that were not possible in their professions. The interviewees did not distinguish between the influences of professional and/or private life experiences on their willingness to volunteer. The study demonstrates the importance of professional and/or private life experiences in initial considerations about volunteering for mental health care. The consequences for recruitment practices are discussed.