1) Build the Right Opportunities
Many believe that volunteer recruitment is as simple as building a social media page or setting up a table on a local college campus or in a church foyer. While this approach may result in a volunteer or two, there is no guarantee that these individuals will deliver great results for your organization or even stick around for more than one or two events. To best leverage the financial and human resources you have available for recruitment and even volunteer management more broadly, time should be taken on the front end to make sure that you are targeting the right kinds of people for the right kinds of tasks and opportunities. Effective recruitment efforts has many benefits down the road as well – getting the right people on board means that they’re more likely to buy in to the mission and stay (higher retention rates) as well as care about the organization and those it serves enough to put significant effort into the work they’re assigned (greater net benefits).
Before the right volunteers can be recruited, you first need to assess what needs the organization has and what volunteers are actually needed to accomplish. To get the best, most dedicated volunteers, you have to understand BOTH the needs of your organization and the needs of the prospective volunteer. To build the most successful volunteer program possible, you’ll also need significant levels of buy-in and input from the staff members with which volunteers will be working. These sets of needs and wants are not always going to overlap – some tasks the nonprofit needs accomplished may not be particularly exciting to a volunteer. Therefore, the value is found in identifying the overlap, building it into your opportunities, and recruiting volunteers that have those character traits and passions.
Even if individuals are interested in the organization as a whole, they will quickly become disaffected and frustrated if they aren’t sure what tasks are involved, how long they will take to complete, or how they help the organization better serve its beneficiaries. Consequently, the first step to effective volunteer recruitment is the creation of accurate, comprehensive, and concise volunteer opportunity descriptions and postings. The article from Energize, Inc. below provides some great suggestions to crafting the language you’ll need to build your opportunities.
2) Choose the Right Recruitment Strategy
It’s easy to believe that more volunteers are always better than fewer volunteers. While there may be a handful of instances in which this is the case, fewer, more qualified volunteers are often more effective and more manageable by your volunteer coordinator. At this point, you’ll need to decide what kinds of volunteers best match the needs of your nonprofit and possess the characteristics you’re looking for. In their book Volunteer Management: Mobilizing All the Resources of the Community, McCurley and Lynch suggest that any recruitment activity falls into one of five major buckets or strategies:
- Warm Body Recruitment
- Targeted Recruitment
- Concentric Circles Recruitment
- Ambient Recruitment
- Brokered Recruitment
Each type comes with its own unique set of advantages and disadvantages and should be employed based on the type of opportunity and difficulty of attracting the qualified volunteers you are seeking. Descriptions of the five approaches (as well as suggested strategies for putting the recruitment practices into effect) can be found in the Restore Strategies blog post below.
3) Bring on the Right Volunteers
If everything works according to plan, then your recruitment efforts should result in at least a handful of interested individuals that want to learn more about your organization and how they can get involved. However, it’s critical that you don’t take them for granted – they may still be unsure about volunteering or just desiring to test the waters. Furthermore, they may not be the kind of volunteer you’re actually looking for! This is why interviewing prospective volunteers is so important – it is through this process that you and your team are able to discern the motivations of the volunteers, their level of emotional intelligence, the extent of their skill sets, and the types of environments in which they work best. While this can be time-consuming, this up-front investment can pay serious dividends down the road. The article by Verified Volunteers below makes a case for volunteer interviews and provides some helpful tips and tricks for getting started: