Public health approaches to palliative care have long promoted the contribution of formal and informal volunteering to providing effective end-of-life care in neighbourhoods and communities. A central strategy for this is a ‘compassionate communities’ approach that focuses on building care networks and developing community members’ capacities in end-of-life care. There is anecdotal evidence of differences in the motivations and life experiences of traditional palliative care volunteers and volunteers in compassionate community programs. There is however very little research into volunteers seeking a compassionate communities orientated role. This study describes the motivations, experiences and characteristics of volunteers participating in a program called compassionate connectors in Western Australia. Twenty volunteers with a variety of caregiving experiences participated in the pilot study through submitting an expression of interest for recruitment. Analysis indicated that the compassionate community connector role attracted experienced community volunteers who were already familiar with community services and end-of-life supports in their community, demonstrating a pre-existing understanding of the practical and emotional supports families may need for end-of-life care. They articulated some key differences with the hospice/palliative care volunteers and how they wish to engage in fresh ways with their community and move beyond traditional volunteering to exercise more autonomy in providing care. This article argues that clarifying these characteristics will benefit new compassionate community initiatives and provide important information for hospice and palliative care services that may be considering undertaking compassionate community projects. Conceptual clarity about these differing roles will be helpful for all collaborations and partnerships that involve volunteer recruitment and management.