by: Jen Maslanski, Argenta Copywriter
As a nonprofit organization, you rely on volunteers to help you achieve your mission and make a positive impact on your community, but finding the right volunteers can be a challenge. Of course, you’re not just looking for warm bodies to fill volunteer slots. You want people who are passionate about your mission who are willing to consistently contribute to the cause. You need people who are reliable, and willing to commit their time and energy. In this article, we'll explore some tips and strategies for finding the very best volunteers for your nonprofit and ways you can keep them engaged.
The First Step: Define Your Ideal Volunteer
The first step in finding the best volunteers is to know what you're looking for. Take some time to think about the skills, experience, and personality traits that would make someone an ideal fit for your nonprofit. Here are some general qualities that many nonprofits look for in their volunteers:
- Passion for the cause: A genuine interest and commitment to the nonprofit's mission and goals is often the most important quality in a volunteer.
- Reliability and consistency: Nonprofits rely on volunteers to show up on time and complete their tasks consistently and reliably.
- Communication skills: Effective communication is essential for volunteers to work well with staff, other volunteers, and clients.
- Flexibility and adaptability: Nonprofits often work in dynamic environments and volunteers must be willing to adjust to changing circumstances and be flexible in their approach.
- Professionalism: Volunteers should conduct themselves in a professional manner, respect confidentiality, and maintain appropriate boundaries.
- Relevant skills and experience such as fundraising, event planning, teaching, or social media management may be required.
- Willingness to learn: Nonprofits often provide training and support to their volunteers, but the ideal candidate should also be willing to learn and grow in their role.
- Positive attitude: A positive and enthusiastic attitude can help volunteers stay motivated, overcome challenges, and create a positive environment for staff, clients, and other volunteers.
Once you have a clear idea of your ideal volunteer, you can tailor your recruitment efforts to attract the right candidates.
Create a Compelling Volunteer Opportunity
One of the most effective ways to attract high-quality volunteers is to create a compelling volunteer opportunity. This requires a thoughtful and strategic approach. It means outlining the specific tasks and responsibilities the volunteer will have, as well as the impact their work will have on your organization and the community. Make sure to highlight the skills and experience you're looking for, as well as any training or support you'll provide.
Offer Flexible Volunteer Opportunities
Volunteers have busy lives and schedules, so nonprofits should offer flexible volunteer opportunities that can accommodate a variety of schedules and time commitments. This could include opportunities to volunteer remotely, participate in one-time events, or work flexible hours.
Get The Word Out
Once you’ve identified your ideal volunteer and outlined your volunteer opportunities, you will begin to solicit potential volunteers. In other words, it’s time to get the word out.
- Craft a Compelling Message. Write a message that will grab people's attention. This is where you can get creative. Use humor, tell a personal story, or share a powerful statistic about your nonprofit's impact. The goal is to get people excited about the opportunity to volunteer. And don't forget to include all the important details, like what the volunteer opportunity entails, when and where it will take place, and who to contact to sign up.
- Use social media and email to get your message in front of the right people. To attract a wider pool of potential volunteers, nonprofits should use social media and other marketing channels to promote their volunteer opportunities. This could include creating compelling videos, sharing inspiring stories from volunteers, or partnering with local media outlets to raise awareness of their organization and its mission. Here are a few ways you can use social media to find volunteers for your nonprofit.
- Establish clear objectives for your social media campaign. Determine how large a pool of potential volunteers you’re looking for and set goals.
- Choose the right social media platforms: There are various social media platforms that can be used to find volunteers. Identify the platforms where your target audience is most active, and tailor your content to the platform.
- Develop compelling content: Use compelling images and videos to showcase your organization’s work and the impact volunteers can make. Also, write compelling captions to engage users and encourage them to take action.
- Utilize social media advertising: Social media advertising can be used to target specific audiences and reach a wider audience. Consider using paid advertising to amplify your volunteer recruitment message.
- Collaborate with influencers: Collaborate with influencers who share your organization’s values and are passionate about your cause. Their social media posts can help spread the word about your organization’s mission and volunteer opportunities.
- Create a social media event: Use social media to promote a virtual or in-person event for potential volunteers. Highlight what attendees can expect and provide information about how to register.
- Engage with your audience: Engage with your audience through social media by answering their questions, responding to comments, and thanking them for their support. This helps to build a community around your organization and create a sense of belonging.
- Use hashtags: Hashtags can be used to make your social media content more discoverable. Use relevant hashtags that describe your organization’s mission and volunteer opportunities.
- Measure success: Monitor the success of your social media campaign using analytics tools like the ones found in the Campaign module in Argenta. Determine what worked and what didn’t, then use this information to improve future campaigns.
Leverage Your Existing Network
Don't underestimate the power of your existing network when it comes to finding volunteers. People are more likely to volunteer if they feel a personal connection to the cause. Reach out to your board members, donors, and current volunteers and ask them to spread the word about your volunteer opportunities. You can also ask them to share your posts on social media or invite their friends and family to get involved.
Make a list of everyone you know, yes, everyone. Your family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, that guy you met at the coffee shop that one time. Write down their names and contact information. Trust me, this will come in handy later. Enter them into a nonprofit CRM like Argenta, where you can easily access them or take actions like sending out emails or signing them up for your newsletter.
Reaching out to people you know is the part where you may get stuck. You might worry about bothering your friends and family or coming across as pushy. But here's the thing: if you're passionate about your nonprofit's mission, and you believe in the value of volunteering, then you're not bothering anyone. You're offering them an opportunity to make a difference in the world. Don't be afraid to send out that message. You can do it via email, social media, or even a good old-fashioned phone call. Just make sure to personalize the message as much as possible. Use people's names, reference your past conversations or shared interests, and make it clear why you think they would be a great fit for the volunteer opportunity.
Partner with Other Organizations
Partnering with other organizations can be a great way to find high-quality volunteers. Look for organizations that share your mission or serve a similar population and reach out to see if they would be interested in collaborating on a volunteer project. This can help you tap into a new pool of potential volunteers and build valuable relationships with other organizations in your community.
Attend Community Events
Community events are a great opportunity to connect with potential volunteers in person. Look for events that align with your nonprofit's mission and values and set up a booth or table to promote your organization and volunteer opportunities. Make sure to bring plenty of informational materials and be prepared to answer questions and provide more information.
Make Sure to Follow Up
This is where the real magic happens. It's not enough to send out one message and hope for the best. You need to follow up with people, remind them of the opportunity, and encourage them to sign up. This might mean sending out a friendly reminder email, making a quick phone call, or even meeting up in person to chat about the volunteer opportunity over coffee.
The key here is to be persistent without being pushy. Remember, people have busy lives, and they might need a little nudge to commit to volunteering. But if you can show them how much their time and energy would mean to your nonprofit, and how much you personally value their support, then you might just convince them to say yes.
Keep The Volunteers You Already Have
Volunteers selflessly give their time and energy to support your nonprofit. They're the ones who show up early and stay late, who take on tasks big and small, and who do it all without expecting anything in return. Finding these individuals can be a challenge, keeping them should be much easier.
It’s easier to keep existing volunteers than to find new ones. Your current volunteers provide a valuable resource that can’t be replaced. They’re often the backbone of your organization, providing time and labor that would be difficult or impossible to find without exhausting your funding. Volunteers offer a unique set of skills and experiences and once they gain specific knowledge about your nonprofit, losing them can mean having to start over again with recruiting and training. Their continued commitment is essential for organizational stability. Here are a few ways you can keep your existing volunteer base engaged and participating.
- Make the Volunteer Experience Rewarding
Once you've found the right volunteers, it's important to make the volunteer experience as rewarding as possible. This means providing clear expectations and instructions. It’s important to constantly remind your volunteers about the good they’re doing and how supporting your organization is making the world a better place. Having a clear purpose is an important thing to most people.
- Recognize and Celebrate Volunteers
Volunteers want to feel appreciated and valued for their contributions. Nonprofits should regularly recognize and celebrate their volunteers through events, awards, and other forms of recognition. This not only helps build a sense of community and belonging but also encourages volunteers to stay engaged and committed to the organization.
- Get Creative
You’ll need to keep your volunteers interested. This is where something like a "Volunteer Matchmaker" program comes in. You can pair up potential volunteers based on their skills, interests, and availability. For example, if someone is great at event planning but doesn't have a lot of free time, we might pair them with someone who has more availability but isn't as experienced. By working together, they can accomplish great things and build meaningful relationships in the process.
- Provide Training and Support
Volunteers are more likely to be engaged and stay committed if they feel they have the necessary skills and support to be successful in their role. Nonprofits should provide training and support to their volunteers, including orientation sessions, ongoing training opportunities, and regular check-ins with staff members. This not only helps volunteers feel more confident and capable in their role but also demonstrates that the organization values their time and effort.
- Handle Challenges Wisely
What about the people who say they're interested in volunteering but then never follow through? They're the ones who say they'll show up but then disappear into thin air. It can be frustrating, but you have to learn not to take it personally.
- Remember, people are busy and have a lot of demands on their time.
- Always have a backup person ready to jump in.
- Make the volunteer experience as enjoyable and fulfilling as possible.
- Provide snacks, drinks, and plenty of high-fives to show your appreciation.
- Make sure your volunteers understand how their efforts are making a difference in the lives of others.
In conclusion, finding the best volunteers for your nonprofit takes time, effort, and thoughtful strategy. By defining your ideal volunteer, creating compelling volunteer opportunities, utilizing social media, leveraging your existing network, partnering with other organizations, attending community events, and making the volunteer experience rewarding, you can attract and retain high-quality volunteers who will help you achieve your mission and make a positive impact on your community.