Volunteers are the lifeline of many nonprofits and charities. They provide critical labor to reduce operating costs, and the expertise charities depend on – all the way up to the Board of Directors. But great volunteers don’t just appear – they must be nurtured just like your financial donors.
What exactly is your organization looking for, and what can volunteers expect to find working with you? You may need to clearly define your volunteer recruitment program and expectations for volunteers. Read on for ideas on why people volunteer and how to recruit new volunteers.
Why Do People Volunteer?
Recruiting volunteers gives pause for nonprofits to look at who they are targeting and how they are doing it. People volunteer for various reasons:
- Many volunteers wish to give something back to their community and make a difference
- For others, volunteering provides a chance to gain experience or skills in a new area of interest or in a new job market
- Many people enjoy meeting new people and working as part of a team on volunteer projects
- Many seniors enjoy keeping busy during retried life
Make Volunteering Easy
Set up a dedicated page on your website for volunteer recruitment, and list open opportunities there. Embed a contact form so that potential volunteers can send their contact information and let you know what they’re interested in. Get back to them promptly and find ways to utilize their skill set.
4 Strategies to Recruit a Diverse Pool of Volunteers
Nonprofits can target a diverse audience of volunteers by implementing specific recruitment strategies. Here are some ideas for finding new volunteers for your organization.
Attract Young Volunteers
Social media platforms, especially Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube, are great ways to attract young volunteers. A visual presentation appeals to a young audience. Young volunteers of the same age range tend to share their photos and stories on social media platforms. A chance for them to meet new friends by working together is often an appealing incentive.
In-person recruitment also works with this audience. Consider visiting universities and alumni institutions as well as youth groups to reach younger volunteers.
Keep young volunteers around by offering incentives such as internships and letters of reference. Managing a fundraising event from start to finish is a great work experience. A one-year volunteer internship looks great on a resume.
How you work with young volunteers is a strong consideration in keeping them around. Consider their age in terms of mindset, attention span, and interest in technology. Involve them in decisions and learn from them. Find out what roles are best for young adults by asking and listening to them. Assign team leaders who speak their language.
Open the Door to Diversity
Perhaps your nonprofit tends to recruit similar kinds of people. This is great if you are building a particular kind of organizational culture, but can be limiting if you want to bring some diversity into your volunteer programs.
Consider the message you’re sending with volunteer recruitment materials. You may need to update and diversify your content.
Streamlining your recruitment process can make it easier for volunteers from diverse backgrounds to get involved. Consider reducing the number of forms and paperwork, or include this in the interview process where you can assist the volunteer to fill them out when needed. This may open the door to volunteers of varying levels of education and language backgrounds.
Seek Corporate Partnerships
Partnerships between businesses and charity organizations benefit both parties. Talented professionals pursue companies who give back to society. Thus many employers actively engage in socially responsible efforts. If nonprofits create a flexible environment and means of engagement, they can benefit from the talents of corporate employees.
Volunteer partnerships between corporations and nonprofits also provide opportunities for corporate teams to learn to function well together and build trust. Their interactions during volunteer work are more intimate and heartfelt than in the board room. Corporate employees discover improved self-esteem as a result of their positive volunteer experiences. Studies thus show improved conflict management and decision-making in employees.
Provide Virtual Volunteering Options
Reach a global audience through virtual volunteering opportunities. Virtual volunteers work by phone or online to help with online marketing and nonprofit SEO strategies, IT, research projects, and more. Virtual volunteering allows supporters to work on projects without the same scheduling confines. Add a section on virtual volunteering to your nonprofit website. Define your needs, and make it easy for volunteers to connect with your organization.
Offer Volunteer Incentives
Volunteers like to be acknowledged for their dedication and work. Offering incentives will keep volunteers working and giving at full steam. Ask some dedicated volunteers what incentives they would like to see offered.
Popular volunteer incentives include:
- Social gatherings, meetings, and fundraising events that include food and drinks are well-attended and fun. Provide volunteers with free tickets or perks at events.
- Custom apparel (baseball caps and t-shirts) are useful items to everyone and spread the word about your nonprofit.
- Photos of volunteers on your website, newsletter, and social media platforms warm the hearts of all. Print them out and mail them to the volunteers in the photos.
- Group photos and stories in newspaper articles serve to acknowledge your volunteers.
- Gift certificates don’t have to be of high value to make someone feel acknowledged. Partner with retail stores to give back and donate gift certificates.
- Certificates of thanks are nice mementos for volunteers. Find inexpensive ways to create these with the help of volunteer graphic design students.
- Create employer matching opportunities and suggest time off for employees who volunteer.
- Offer letters of recommendation to young volunteers just entering the workforce.
- Offer free training and skills practice.
Ways to Recruit New Volunteers
Maybe your organization needs a new recruitment strategy. If your nonprofit is looking for new volunteers, here are some advertising strategies to get you started:
- Host a volunteer day with festivities, free food and drinks, and program information booths. While fundraising events (such as walkathon fundraisers) can bring new volunteers to nonprofits, a day set aside to meet potential volunteers is more focused.
- Connect with local Kiwanis or Rotary Clubs. Civic organizations are constantly looking for speakers and volunteering opportunities for their members.
- Ask community supporters to promote your volunteer opportunities and their benefits. University teachers may share inspiration with students and other faculty. Local offices can keep your marketing materials in their lobby to help you recruit more volunteers.
- Contact your local TV and radio stations with interesting stories about a volunteer or your nonprofit projects. Host a call-in to promote your organization and volunteer opportunities.
- Post stories and photos of volunteers on your nonprofit’s website homepage.
- Add a dedicated volunteer section to your website. Elaborate on the benefits of volunteering for your nonprofit. Post a volunteer sign-up link to your website.
- Host fundraising events with the help of dedicated volunteers. Give them opportunities to feel a sense of accomplishment and a desire to manage the next event. Charity galas, golf tournaments, and peer-to-peer fundraising events offer many opportunities for volunteers.
- Advertise in community, business, and school newsletters.
- Place a volunteer recruitment ad in local newspapers. Add openings for volunteers and internships in the jobs section. Create an opportunity for publications to offer their ad space free and grow their business through social consciousness.
- Hold information sessions at community centers and at your nonprofit. Brief sessions allow your nonprofit to cover more ground and find volunteers in places you may not expect.
- Create fliers, posters, and postcards and distribute them in key places around your community. High-school students are good volunteers for helping you with the distribution. Offer them an opportunity to work with your staff to create marketing materials.
Volunteer Retention is Key
As everyone in nonprofit development knows, it’s easier to keep a volunteer than to find and train a new one. Be sure to seek feedback from your current volunteers and work to optimize their experience with your programs.
Promoting diversity may not seem like the first idea of volunteer retention, but it is important. We all like to work alongside our peers and feel a sense of belonging. Work tirelessly at establishing a volunteer workplace where all your volunteers feel a sense of belonging.
Volunteers need to feel welcome in working alongside paid staff. Make it a priority for your nonprofit board and staff to focus on diversity and inclusion.
Always thank volunteers for their service and let them know their commitment makes a difference.
Wrapping It All Up
Opportunities and benefits for both volunteers and nonprofits are vast in the arena of volunteerism. Recruitment strategies that reach a cross-section of society create the strongest volunteer base and generate diversity for your organization. Be sure that volunteers have the opportunity to grow and feel valued to keep them coming back for more.