How to find volunteers for your nonprofit organization

How to find volunteers for your nonprofit organization

Any nonprofit knows the struggle of finding proper help. There may not be enough cash to bring in full-time, salaried employees, but you still want to make sure you’re recruiting an adequate number of volunteers to support your mission. According to a 2021 survey by the U.S. Census Bureau and AmeriCorps, around a quarter of the population 16 years and older volunteered that year. So, although volunteers might seem difficult to find, there’s a decent amount of people willing to donate their time to a good cause.

What is volunteer recruitment?

Recruiting volunteers means bringing in people to work for your nonprofit without pay. Finding volunteers can be a challenge, but there are plenty of things you can do to get the attention of potential volunteers.

If you’re wondering how to find volunteers for your nonprofit, these tips can help you recruit — and manage — the best candidates.

Have a clear message

Most people wouldn’t sign up for a paying job without a clear description of what they’d be doing each day, and the same is doubly true for volunteer work. Before you even begin your volunteer recruitment efforts, make sure you can clearly explain what your nonprofit does and why you need help.

You probably already have an elevator pitch for your organization that you use for donors, so start with that. Next, ask yourself how your volunteers will fit into this mission. Unless you’re offering some really fancy swag, chances are most of your help will be volunteering because they support your cause.

Emphasize what makes your nonprofit special and be prepared to sing its praises. This might include sharing some helpful information with potential volunteers such as

  • Press releases
  • Proof of funding
  • Statements from current volunteers
  • Other stats related to your nonprofit’s success

If people are impressed by the work you and your current volunteers have done so far, they’re more likely to join you. This can be especially important if the work you need help with isn’t particularly glamorous. You need to ensure that you’re putting your nonprofit in the best light so people can actually feel excited to help out without being paid.

Set up a volunteer onboarding process

Of course, volunteers need to understand what they’re expected to do. Setting up an onboarding process is an important step to helping volunteers feel prepared.

Volunteers should first go through an orientation, which can tell them about your nonprofit’s mission and history. Introducing volunteers to your organization can inspire and motivate them to become a part of your cause. 

Next, your orientation should outline duties, responsibilities, and policies. For instance, if your nonprofit is an animal rescue center, volunteers should learn if they’re in charge of cleaning the enclosures or feeding the animals. Orientation also should inform volunteers of how your nonprofit is organized so they understand who to report to and ask for help. 

After orientation comes training. At this point, volunteers are shown the ropes and taught to do tasks themselves. Offer tips to volunteers on how to perform their duties both efficiently and safely. 

Once the volunteers are done with training, they should be confident they can perform their tasks smoothly.

Offer online, flexible, and micro-volunteering opportunities

Giving volunteers flexible options can expand your recruiting pool, helping you reach volunteers who may have busy schedules or not live in your nonprofit’s area. Alternative volunteering options can include virtual volunteering (letting people perform tasks remotely) or micro-volunteering, which involves short, easy-to-complete tasks.

Examples of remote tasks could include managing a social media account on behalf of the nonprofit or making calls to supporters. Micro-volunteering tasks could include quickly photos for social media promotions or transcribing calls.

Create a volunteer handbook

Offering an orientation is a good place to start, but volunteers should also be able to read about the organization’s policies themselves. Providing volunteers with a handbook helps them understand what is expected of them. 

With the handbook, volunteers can learn about their responsibilities, codes of conduct, reporting procedures, and the potential consequences of violating the organization’s policies. You can use the handbook to detail guidelines on topics like dress code, reimbursement, safety disclaimers, and conflicts of interest.

You can ensure that volunteers have looked through the handbook by also requiring them to fill out an acknowledgement form. In doing so, volunteers show proof that they understand your nonprofit’s expectations of them.

Use social media

Word of mouth can get you pretty far, and that isn’t limited to in-person conversations. Social media can be a major vehicle for recruiting volunteers, so make sure to start with your own followers. If your nonprofit has its own social media handles, posting a note on Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn can be a great way to get people’s attention — extra points if you share a photo of a cool swag item they can get by volunteering their time.

Sites like Reddit that cater to special interest groups and locations can be a great platform for gathering interested volunteers as well. Ask the leader of your nonprofit to record a video explaining what your nonprofit does or how you’re helping the community they live in. Creating something shareable will help spread the word faster, and it’s a more effective way to grab people’s attention while they scroll.

Leverage your connections

You don’t always have to start at square one with your volunteer search. First, take a look at the people you’re already working with — whether they’re full-time employees or current volunteers. If they’ve had a good experience with your nonprofit, they can probably encourage friends or family members to pitch in their time for the cause as well.

You can also offer an incentive for those who recruit the most volunteers. Sometimes offering a gift card or a small monetary reward can be an inexpensive way to encourage others to handle the bulk of the recruitment process for you.

Tap into your community and beyond

After you’ve reached out to your social networks, your next best approach is to search for relevant events, meetups, conferences, or locations where you’d most likely find people interested in your cause. For example, if you run a nonprofit related to children’s literacy, locate all the libraries in your area and ask if they’d be willing to advertise your need for volunteers. If your nonprofit is focused on animal welfare, you may have some luck passing out flyers or setting up a table at your local dog park.

If volunteers can do some of the work remotely, you can widen your scope to include virtual meetups and conferences that might include non-locals interested in your mission. Remember, even if you don’t get a ton of sign-ups from every event, you’re still getting the word out about your nonprofit. The more people who know your organization exists, the more likely you are to find help in the future.

Pro Tip

Need more help managing your volunteers? Check out Jotform’s Volunteer Management Guide for Nonprofits.

Assess volunteers’ skills

Each volunteer is different and brings something unique to your nonprofit. To find out what skill set a potential volunteer has to offer, you can send out a survey.

The survey questions can address past work experience or any hobbies volunteers do in their spare time. With that kind of information, it’ll be easier for you to assign duties that are best suited to volunteers’ strengths.

For instance, if you find out that someone is a hobbyist photographer, they can help take photos for social media. If another volunteer has marketing experience, they can contribute to your nonprofit’s marketing campaigns and offer innovative ideas.

You can make your own online survey by customizing one of Jotform’s many templates, or you can build your own from scratch.

Give them a game plan

Once you have your interested volunteers, don’t forget to inform them about what you need as soon as possible. By this point, the hardest part of the process is over, and now it’s time to make sure your new volunteers stick around.

To keep your volunteers committed, have a clear plan for them as soon as they sign on. You can do this by creating a volunteer how-to manual, sharing a calendar with dates and times of events, or just promptly emailing them the scope of their volunteer work. This should include the duration you’ll need their help, the number of hours each week or month you’d like them to commit to, what sort of work their job will entail, and so on. Make sure to thank them for their interest and, of course, encourage them to spread the word about volunteer opportunities.

Show your appreciation

It’s impossible to overstate the value of reliable volunteers, so it’s important to let them know just how much you appreciate them. Make sure to recognize your volunteers in your company newsletter, on your website, or in any event materials. Give them a few low-cost goodies, like a T-shirt, mug, or any other promo items you have. It might seem small, but if you express your gratitude to your volunteers, they’ll be more likely to help out in the future — and recommend your organization to their friends.

If you can make room in your budget, hold a volunteer appreciation event that lets all of your volunteers get together and have some fun. This can be a picnic in the park, a night at the bowling alley, or maybe just a catered gathering at the office of your nonprofit. If you allow your attendees to bring friends, you could also be widening your volunteer pool!

Make volunteer recruitment easy and enjoyable

Now that you have some tips on how to find volunteers, you’ll need a way to collect their information. That’s where Jotform can help. You can make a custom mobile app for your nonprofit — no coding required — using Jotform Apps. Then just add a premade volunteer application form to collect all the information you’ll need. 

You can choose from multiple app templates and over 120 volunteer form templates, then tweak them as you see fit. With a Jotform app, you’ll even be able to incorporate the Donation Box element, so you can manage all of your nonprofit’s needs in one place.

Nonprofits are also eligible for a 50 percent discount on all Jotform paid plans.

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