8 Things to Consider When Recruiting Volunteers

by: Adam Greenberg, Developer & Tech Writer

Recruiting people who share your vision and the passion you have for your program is a process that requires commitment of energy, time, persistence and creativity, not to mention a well-crafted plan. Here are some things to consider when searching for the right volunteers for your nonprofit.

  1. What characteristics do you want your volunteers to have?
    Think about the objectives of your project, the strengths as well as the needs of the population it’s meant to serve. You should also think about the type of activities the volunteers will be involved in. Factor the physical and time demands of the program, as well as grant requirements such as place of residence, and limits on age or gender. All these will help outline the characteristics of your volunteers.

  2. What are the barriers that may keep people from volunteering?
    Barriers may include difficulties with transportation, physical limitations like lack of energy, fear for safety, lack of confidence in their ability to contribute, cultural perceptions and competition for volunteers. Effective communication is so important for addressing these issues. Make sure you use the tools and resources available to you to answer the questions your potential volunteers may have. An FAQ section on your website, specifically for volunteers is a quick and easy way to address their concerns.

  3. You’ll need a recruitment message that sells your program. When developing such a message, consider the following;
    1. The responsibilities and roles of the volunteers, as well the amount of time they will be expected to contribute.
    2. Motivations for volunteering.
    3. Benefits of serving in your program and these could include meeting new people, learning new skills, acquiring new knowledge, and making a difference to the community.

  4. You'll need recruitment materials. The recruitment message should basically explain what it is about your program’s mission and goals that should convince volunteers to sign up. From videos and websites to flyers and brochures, there is a wide range of materials that can be used to sell your recruitment program. Make sure that the materials you decide on also reflect on quality and feel of your program. Attractive graphics, your logo and the colors of your brand, should be used tactically. Photographs and narratives can be used where possible to convey a message to the volunteers. When writing the content, use language and a tone your target audience is familiar with.

  5. You should start with what's in front of you. Recruitment is all about relationships so it doesn’t hurt if you start with those you already know. Ask your colleagues for ideas. Consultants, trainers, board members, volunteers and staff – all of these are people to consider as your assistant recruiters. Their ideas and advice will be valuable to you as you move forward with a volunteer recruitment program.

  6. You’ll need to write comprehensive volunteer role descriptions. You should provide written outlines and/or descriptions for each volunteer role in your organization. Include things like volunteer policies and procedures, best practices and targets or measurements of performance. Creating this role description document will make your expectations clear and help potential volunteers gain an understanding of your organizational structure.

  7. Where will you go to find volunteers? There are many resources available for nonprofits seeking volunteer support. A great place to start is the internet. Here are a few sites to get you started…
    1. http://www.allforgood.org - The largest database of volunteer opportunities online, All for Good is the ultimate platform for finding ways to make a difference. Each month, the site hosts 150,000 local volunteer listings in major cities.
    2. https://www.catchafire.org - Catchafire connects professionals with nonprofits and social good initiatives for pro bono volunteer work.
    3. http://ivolunteer.org - As a hub for stories about natural disasters and other events that have left people in desperate need, iVolunteer connects you with nonprofits and relief services in search of volunteers.

  8. How will you retain your volunteers once you find them. Right from the start of the relationship, make a good impression.
    1. Be warm and friendly.
    2. Provide them with the tools they need to accomplish their tasks.
    3. Introduce them to affiliates, staff and other volunteers, helping them to get connected.
    4. When you speak to them show them the passion you have for your mission. Help them to catch the vision.
    5. Help them to gain new skills, and improve their reputation in the community.
    6. Thank them! Download the list of 100 Ways To Thank Your Volunteers here.