When you rely on volunteers to carry out your nonprofit’s mission, it’s critical that you can find enough engaged and interested people to fill spots.
If you create a positive, amazing volunteer experience, you’ll attract passionate people who are committed to your cause and have the skills and ability to help move your organization forward. You may actually have to waitlist people for volunteer positions.
But to attract those kinds of people, you need to create a program for your volunteers that meets their needs, whether it’s gaining work experience, fulfilling a requirement for school, meeting like-minded individuals, or staying occupied during retirement.
Here are 10 ways you can improve volunteer recruitment and get the assistance you need for your nonprofit.
10 ways to improve volunteer recruitment
- Create a clear vision and plan for your volunteer program
- Consider your nonprofit’s image
- Craft your volunteer recruitment message
- Make it easy to sign up to volunteer
- Target your volunteer recruitment efforts
- Provide meaningful work
- Encourage word-of-mouth recruitment with incentives
- Partner with other organizations
- Don’t be afraid of empty seats
- Ask for feedback on your process
Create a clear vision and plan for your volunteer program
Consider your nonprofit’s image
Craft your volunteer recruitment message
Make it easy to sign up to volunteer
Target your volunteer recruitment efforts
Provide meaningful work
Encourage word-of-mouth recruitment with incentives
Partner with other organizations
Don’t be afraid of empty seats
Ask for feedback on your process
It’s not enough to want volunteers. You need to define your volunteer program and your expectations for volunteers, including a long-term vision for the program and a mission to define its purpose.
Craft written policies and procedures for volunteers to follow. Define different job descriptions as you would with paid positions, and lay out the responsibilities for each. For example, your social media coordinator would be in charge of posting to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, as well as responding to comments that people leave on your posts.
People want to give their time to a cause they believe in, and it’s important to examine how the public perceives your organization. Look at how you present your successes, goals, and mission on social media and your website, and put yourself in the shoes of a potential volunteer. This can help you figure out what kind of volunteers you’re attracting.
You need a strong volunteer recruitment message that entices people to get involved with your nonprofit. Focus on why you’re recruiting volunteers and what positions you’re filling, as well as the type of volunteers you want to recruit.
As you’re writing this message, ask yourself what concerns a potential volunteer may have. Think about the skill level you’re trying to attract and whether the message effectively communicates what you need.
You’ll use this messaging in the recruitment section of your website, as well as on any printed materials you hand out.
If it’s not easy for people to express interest in volunteer positions, they may decide to give their time to another organization. Set up a dedicated portion of your website for volunteer recruitment, and list the open opportunities there. Embed a form so that potential volunteers can send their contact information and let you know what they’re interested in.
This one takes a little time, but it’s worth it because it will pay off in the long run. If you’re looking for volunteers with specific skill sets or interests, do some research to find out where these prospective volunteers can be found.
For example, if you’re looking for tutors for an after-school program for middle-schoolers, reach out to the student services or career centers of nearby colleges and universities to see if they can help you find the right people.
It’s tempting to hand off the copying and filing to volunteers. But unless they’ve signed up for that type of work, they’ll get bored quickly and leave for another organization that can fulfill their needs. One of the important components of volunteer recruitment is providing an engaging experience so that they stay for the long term and maybe even recruit their friends.
While you may be strapped for funds, you can still offer small incentives for your volunteers to recruit their friends to help. For example, you could offer a $25 gift card to a local coffee shop for the person who recruits the most people to help with your next event.
One of the bonuses of word-of-mouth recruitment is that people tend to spend time with those who share their values, and their endorsement of your volunteer program will mean a lot to their friends and acquaintances.
To get the word out about your mission and help plant the seeds to recruit volunteers, partner with other organizations and local businesses. It’s a win-win situation for both of you: Your nonprofit gets volunteers, and local businesses can promote their social responsibility and offer their employees a chance to feel engaged with the community.
Sometimes a volunteer isn’t the right fit for your organization. If you’re not sure the person is working out, or you get a feeling the person volunteering wouldn’t be good for the nonprofit, it may be better to leave the position unfilled and wait for the right person, rather than just getting a warm body in a chair or behind a table.
The key to improving volunteer recruitment is to know how volunteers themselves see it. Ask your volunteers, either directly or through a survey, what they do and don’t like about the way you recruit volunteers. Ask them for suggestions on how you could improve your recruitment strategies.
With some planning and creativity, it’s possible to have a better volunteer recruitment process. This will help you find qualified volunteers to achieve your organization’s mission.