Volunteers are the main workforce driving most nonprofit events and programs. They are often the team behind the mission, making recruiting and retaining committed volunteers a top priority for most nonprofits. In fact, according to a Volunteerpro survey, 30% of volunteer managers reported volunteer recruitment as their top challenge in 2020.
To overcome this challenge and set your nonprofit up for success, we have created this comprehensive guide that offers insight and tips on how to recruit ideal volunteers for your nonprofit’s events and programs.
We’ll cover the following topics:
Ready to learn more about effective recruitment strategies that can significantly expand the size of your volunteer base? Let’s get started.
Getting Started with Volunteer Recruitment: FAQ
InitLive has had the privilege of helping hundreds of organizations recruit committed volunteers using its volunteer management solution. With such a wide breadth of experience helping organizations with various recruitment goals and requirements, we understand that volunteer recruitment isn’t a one-size fit all solution. To help you get started, we have answered some frequently asked questions about volunteer recruitment.
Why are volunteers so important for nonprofits?
For many nonprofits, volunteers are the face of the organization. They are the people that are out in the community providing services, collecting donations, and working to help an organization meet its mission and goals.
Volunteers offer valuable skills, time, and enthusiasm to ensure many nonprofit programs and events can take place. Volunteers don’t just give their time, either—many are also financial supporters as well. This makes them important long-term partners that contribute significantly to the success of the nonprofits they support.
What is a volunteer recruitment plan?
A volunteer recruitment plan is a process of attracting and recruiting new volunteers that have the skills and interests that align with the core needs of a nonprofit organization's operations and goals. An optimal volunteer recruitment plan should define the volunteer staffing requirements (number of staff, skill requirement, time frame) for a particular program, initiative, or event.
How do I recruit volunteers remotely?
Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, many nonprofits have had to adapt quickly and embrace virtual volunteerism to keep important programs and operations running. Recruiting volunteers remotely requires all the same basic principles as a normal requirement plan, with the added requirement of posting all opportunities online and through social media channels.
Remote volunteers can work from anywhere, which means you can look at recruiting volunteers who live outside of your community, providing you a larger opportunity to find great volunteers.
Who To Target With a Volunteer Recruitment Approach
Dedicated volunteers come from all walks of life, backgrounds, and abilities, which is why it’s so important to consider inclusive volunteer recruitment practices when creating your approach or plan.
Not all volunteers speak the same language, have access to the same access to transportation, or work the same hours. All these factors can become barriers that keep interested people from signing up for volunteer opportunities that they are passionate about.
Here is a quick list of key volunteer demographics to consider targeting in your volunteer recruitment approach (including some non-traditional ones!):
Many nonprofit organizations have a volunteer management solution with a database of volunteers who haven't actively participated in any programs or events in a long time. These volunteers are often considered inactive and are generally underutilized in recruitment efforts. While it's always great to try and encourage active volunteers to sign up to work on some new opportunities, it's also a fantastic idea to do that same thing for your inactive volunteers.
Consider segmenting or filtering your existing inactive list of volunteers in your volunteer management solution by interest, skills, or other attributes that are relevant to the new program or event roles you are looking to fill. Then, send them an email inviting them to sign up to volunteer for your new opportunities.
This will help you re-engage them with your organization and all the great work you do. This can also be the first step in converting all those inactive volunteers into active supporters and even donors!
Many nonprofit organizations consider how to convert volunteers into donors. But what about getting your donor involved in hands-on volunteer work? Your donors are some of your nonprofit’s greatest supporters, and many of them will leap at the chance to make an even bigger positive impact.
Make sure to include easy sign-up links to new volunteer opportunities in all your donor newsletters and updates. This will inform and motivate your donors to consider volunteering their time as well.
Working professionals and the self-employed
You're missing out on a gold mine of talent when you forget about working professionals and self-employed people who are already highly trained in what they do. In fact, they usually come armed with a wealth of information about the public and the world around them.
Be sure to make weekend, evening, and short-term opportunities available and have volunteer spaces open for drop-ins. Consider promoting online volunteer opportunities to this demographic as well, since those opportunities usually require a specific skill set and are more convenient to work into a busy schedule.
Members of this group are often well-educated, highly skilled, and fully committed to their family members. Consider offering free daycare, after-school programs for their school-age kids, and offer lots of flexible short-term volunteer opportunities. This group looks forward to volunteering in areas in which they excel while knowing that their kids are in good hands.
People with mobility or transportation issues
Make sure to consider the needs of people who don’t drive or who have limited mobility requirements when creating your volunteer opportunities and recruitment approach. Ensure that your volunteer workspace is accessible for individuals with walkers, crutches, wheelchairs, and other types of mobility equipment. Have handicapped parking available and be sure that everyone honors those spaces.
For those who may have difficulty getting to the volunteer opportunity due to transportation limitations, consider having a team member schedule transport for them. This job could be done on a one-or-one basis, or you could have a van service or other carpooling arrangement in place. The transportation coordinator may also arrange for someone to meet groups of volunteers at central locations and drop them off at your organization's volunteer site(s).
Volunteer Recruitment Strategies That Work
Volunteer recruitment is often the first step in building your volunteer management plan. A volunteer recruitment strategy requires the volunteer coordinator or manager to define their staffing and volunteer needs and build out the strategies to attract the right people to fill those requirements.
Finding the right volunteers for the right roles is essential to the success of the program or event itself. We have created a quick list of components to add to your recruitment strategy to set your organization up for success:
Leverage online channels to promote volunteer opportunities.
Promote your volunteer sign-up page on your website and social media channels to make sign-up to volunteer quick and convenient. Make sure to announce any new volunteer shifts to your database of volunteers and donors through email. If you have existing local business partners, consider exploring their corporate volunteer programs, then market your volunteer opportunities to their employees. Capitalize on every marketing channel at your disposal to ensure every volunteer shift is filled.
Share well-written role descriptions.
In order to attract the right people to the right volunteer opportunities, you need to communicate exactly what each volunteer role entails. That way, people know what they're getting into.
Make sure to clearly outline everything a person should know about a specific volunteer role or opportunity before they agree to work. When writing your volunteer role descriptions, make sure to cover the following:
Who: Who do you need to fill the role? Are there any special requirements?
What: What will they have to do? Being clear about expectations to avoid any issues.
When: Date and time of the shift and required training sessions.
Where: What is the location? Maybe include where to park or which bus to take.
Why: Briefly explain why the role is important to the cause or event.
How: Explain the steps to getting involved. "Fill out this form. Wait for our call. Attend required training. Show up on time to the event!"
When you answer these questions from the start, you can ensure you’re getting the best-fitting volunteers for the job, and prospective volunteers will feel positively about getting involved.
Now that you’ve established what roles need to be filled and the skills that are required to do them, it's time to translate that information into your online volunteer application form. Your
application forms should collect all the relevant information you need to do a preliminary screening of your candidates, such as:
Basic personal and contact information
Relevant work or volunteer experience
Your application fields should sync up with the role requirements you have created in your volunteer management solution. By doing this, you will be able to quickly filter your applications by roles. For example, InitLive's solution offers the best match technology, which assists in this process by recommending the best matches for each role based on preset requirements.
Take a peer-to-peer recruitment approach.
Consider asking your existing active volunteers to invite their friends and family to volunteer with them. You can simply ask them to share your social media post to promote your volunteer opportunities with their network.
To help motivate your volunteers, consider offering a prize for the volunteer who recruits the most people. This is a simple and effective way to bring in new volunteers to help your cause.
Consider exploring corporate volunteerism.
Every year, more and more corporations and businesses are investing in corporate volunteer programs for their employees. This presents a great opportunity for your nonprofit to partner with businesses that are eager to supply dedicated volunteers to nonprofit organizations.
Recruiting corporate volunteers is often a great way to bring in reliable and skilled help because these volunteers are often paid for their volunteer work by their employer (such as with a volunteer grant or a paid day off).
Push and Pull Strategies in Volunteer Recruitment
Adopted from push and pull marketing, push and pull methods of recruitment are two very different but valid ways to manage your volunteer teams for your event or program. Let’s take a look at each one along with the benefits that it can offer volunteer programs like yours:
The Push Method
This approach emphasizes a detailed vetting process, gathering recruitment and scheduling information, and leaving the decision-making in the hands of the organizer. Here are the steps that are typically involved:
Launch a strong recruitment campaign using the top digital media channels. Be sure to include detailed descriptions of the unique benefits of volunteering with your organization. Send your custom registration form to your database of volunteers and start your vetting and scheduling process.
Vet your responses thoroughly, matching volunteers to specific roles based on position requirements, certifications, and other relevant information. It's helpful to give a detailed background survey to your recruits to get all the information you need.
Instruct your volunteers to send their availability, and then schedule everyone as appropriate. InitLive's smart scheduling technology does the heavy lifting to find the best volunteer matches for each shift based on the preferences of the volunteers and your requirements.
This type of approach is great for dealing with newcomers who appreciate an organized, detail-oriented leader.
The Pull Method
The pull approach places the power to choose shifts and roles with the volunteers, saving you administrative time and resources. Here's what's involved:
Attract volunteers through your customized online sign-up page and registration form. Share it across multiple channels including email and social media.
Place all roles and shifts on the table so volunteers can register themselves for shifts and roles that best work for them.
This type of management encourages and empowers your volunteers to choose engagement opportunities that are best for them, placing ownership on themselves. This works best for roles that don't have any specific skill requirements. This approach is also quicker, as the event administration communicates directly with volunteers. It's up to the volunteers to find their own shift replacements when a time conflict occurs.
Using a combination of both
You can even use a combination of the push and pull methods to fit your management style. For example, try using the push method to attract volunteers initially. Once you've closely vetted them, have them self-schedule and take a “pull” approach.
There is no denying how important your volunteers are for each of your programs and events. After all, this dedicated group of individuals ensures your organization meets its goals and mission.
That’s why investing in the right volunteer recruitment strategy for each program and event is important to ensure you attract the right people for the jobs. Now that you’ve learned the basics about volunteer recruitment, it’s time to start putting these tips to use and recruiting committed volunteers to your cause.
If you’re looking for more information, we’ve compiled a few great resources to help your organization’s volunteer programs and events thrive:
Volunteer Management Software: FAQ +18 Top Solutions - Check out this comprehensive list of volunteer management software providers to help your organization find the right solution.
Corporate Volunteerism: The Complete Guide For 2021- This article will explore what corporate volunteerism is, its benefits, and how to create an engaging program for your nonprofit.
The Ultimate Nonprofit Event Planning Checklist for Success- Explore this article for an end-to-end event planning checklist, complete with best practices to help set your nonprofit event up for success.