A nonprofit organization can’t grow and thrive without volunteers. Volunteers are the beating heart of most charities and philanthropic organizations, giving generously of their time and expertise. While these kind souls are essential to your mission’s success, volunteer rates have been dropping for the past several years. In other words, if you catch yourself thinking, “I just can’t find volunteers for my organization anywhere,” you’re not alone!
Thankfully, there’s a lot you can do to turn things around and recruit volunteers who will be enthusiastic and committed to your mission. In this article, we discuss the most successful volunteer recruitment strategies and show you how to attract volunteers and keep them engaged!
What is Volunteer Recruitment and Why Is it Important?
Volunteer recruitment is all about inspiring qualified, committed candidates to contribute their time, talent, and energy to your organization. It’s an essential component of a nonprofit’s overall fundraising strategy because organizations rely on volunteers to carry out essential operating tasks, from answering phones to serving on boards to coming up with creative nonprofit fundraising ideas. In fact, there are plenty of organizations that don’t employ any paid staff at all, which means they’re run entirely by volunteers! Without effective volunteer recruitment strategies, many nonprofits wouldn’t be able to serve their communities at all.
Why Don’t More People Volunteer?
Before we talk strategy, it’s important to address the causes that prevent folks from signing up to volunteer for philanthropic organizations in the first place. The Stanford Center on Longevity reports the top reasons it’s so hard for nonprofits to recruit volunteers:
- Time. Research shows that a lack of extra free time prevents Americans from volunteering.
- Not enough flexibility. When volunteering schedules are too rigid, it turns off potential recruits.
- Lack of meaning. Americans report that, in many cases, volunteer jobs aren’t interesting enough to inspire them.
- Nobody asked. You might be surprised that many folks don’t volunteer simply because they don’t know that an organization needs volunteers!
Attract and Recruit Volunteers: An 8-Step Guide
Step #1: Set Guidelines
Like any major undertaking, the best volunteer recruitment strategies need a game plan. Grab some pen and paper and hammer out the following details:
- Who will do the recruiting? Volunteer recruitment is a big job! Establish right away who in your organization will act as recruitment officer, taking on the responsibility of seeking out, communicating with, interviewing, and hiring volunteers.
- How will you recruit? This is a matter of methods. Will you seek candidates online only, or with flyers tacked to the community bulletin board? Maybe you want to run an ad in the local newspaper or meet with potential volunteers at a networking event. Whatever you choose, make sure to have a clear picture of what concrete steps your recruitment officer will take to get the word out.
- What needs to be done? It won’t be helpful to find volunteers for your organization if you aren’t clear about what those potential volunteers will be doing. Be very clear of the tasks that volunteers will be responsible for, how many volunteers you will need, and how many hours it will take.
- Who will do the training? Once you have a fresh batch of new recruits, who will be responsible for onboarding them and showing them the ropes? Make sure you have a volunteer handbook, training guides, or other helpful materials to orient your new volunteers to their roles.
Step #2: Be Flexible
While it’s important to stay on mission, it’s also important to meet people where they are. Remember: one of the top reasons folks give for not volunteering is a perceived lack of flexibility! Think about where your organization can become more open to accommodate the widest array of schedules and lifestyles. Here are a few examples to start making your nonprofit more flexible:
- Go virtual. Most people—especially younger demographics—work and play almost entirely online. This means that shifting at least some of your work to a virtual format might result in a big boost in volunteer numbers.
- Offer microvolunteering opportunities. Since time is such a crucial factor impacting people’s ability to contribute their time, make it easy by offering opportunities to volunteer in small, bite-sized chunks. Maybe someone can’t spare 15 hours per week, but maybe they can donate an hour a week to collecting petitions, sending emails, or working a booth at an event.
- Shift your hours. While most people may be unable to contribute their mornings to your cause, they might be able to contribute a few evenings. Experiment with extending or adjusting a traditional 9-5 schedule to allow volunteers to work in the evenings or on weekends.
Step #3: Craft an Effective “Job” Description
If the description of your volunteer role reads like a bulleted list of demands, it won’t inspire many folks to apply. Here’s how to write a job description that generates enthusiasm:
Lead with your mission
Your mission is the reason you wake up in the morning. It’s what keeps you going. It’s why you do what you do. Make sure that passion and dedication are the focus of your job description, so that potential volunteers know that the role is one that changes lives and improves the world.
Emphasize benefits to volunteers
Sometimes, organizations are so focused on what volunteers can do for them that they neglect to focus on what their organization can do for prospective volunteers. Remember: a volunteer role is an excellent opportunity to meet like-minded people, learn new skills, and polish already-existing talents. In a few sentences, explain to potential recruits how contributing their time and energy to your nonprofit will help them become more well-rounded, talented, and interesting human beings while making lifelong friends.
Be very clear about the tasks volunteers are expected to perform and the skills required. Be sure to include logistics such as hours and locations. The clearer your expectations, the easier it will be for a potential recruit to imagine how volunteering for your nonprofit will fit into their day-to-day life.
Step #4: Take Advantage of Social Media
While it’s important to post volunteer opportunities on your own website, as well as career sites and even the bulletin board at the local coffee shop, a big driver of any volunteer recruitment strategy is social media. You probably already have plenty of followers on your Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter accounts, so encourage them to help you with advertising! Here’s how to make a viral volunteer post:
Make it sharable
The posts that generate the most engagement tend to have impactful statistics, images, or stories, so make sure your “job” post is linked to an emotionally meaningful narrative. For example, if your nonprofit is dedicated to increasing girls’ literacy rates in a particular region, start your job post with a photo or video of young female students and the caption, “129 million girls are out of school worldwide.”
We don’t always trust organizations, but we do trust people. To build a sense of authenticity and connectedness, consider posting a photo of a happy volunteer with an uplifting testimonial, for instance: “My time working with Charity X has helped me learn and grow!”.
Have a bold call to action
Create a call to action that will really resonate with your audience. For example, if you’re working on behalf of the environment, you might post a striking image of a forest with the tagline: “80% of forests have already been destroyed. Help reverse the trend.”
Step #5: Onboard Effectively
If you’ve scored a batch of talented recruits, the next step is to help them get settled. Nothing undermines a volunteer’s first official day at your nonprofit like a bumpy introduction to the job and to the rest of the team. Solution? A great onboarding experience. Onboarding is an essential component of the best volunteer recruitment strategies because it welcomes recruits, orienting them to your mission and your culture while boosting a sense of belonging and commitment. Here are the elements of a successful onboarding process:
- Get to know your recruit. From their full name to their qualifications to their dream job, make sure you get all the intel on who they are.
- Introduce your organization. Introduce your new volunteer to the history of your nonprofit, its aims, mission, values, and achievements.
- Introduce your team. Explain your nonprofit’s organizational structure, team roles, and responsibilities.
- Plan an event. To help your new recruits feel both welcome and valued, organize a casual, team-wide event. Whether it’s a picnic in the park, a pizza delivery, or just a fun get-to-know-you meeting, give your volunteers the opportunity to chat with the rest of the staff and get a sense of belonging.
- Begin training. Now is the time to walk your recruit through their role and any requirements they’ll need to meet in order to contribute successfully to your mission.
Step #6: Find Meaning
Let’s be honest: not all volunteer work is fun. Tedious administrative tasks or cleaning up after events might be necessary, but they’re not going to draw enthusiastic crowds to your doorstep. Here’s how to help your volunteers discover more purpose in their work:
Match tasks to interests
Whenever you can, try to make sure that volunteers are doing what they enjoy or excel in. For example, if a recruit is chatty and charming, have them engage directly with donors by making phone calls, sending emails, knocking on doors, attending networking events, and so on. If a recruit wants to get creative, put them in charge of creating beautiful donation pages for your organization. When volunteers know that their skills are being put to good use, they’re more likely to love their work.
Focus on the bigger picture
Remind your team of your mission and core values often, so that dull tasks seem less important than the overall impact they have in your community.
Express gratitude often
Your volunteers shouldn’t doubt their value to your organization even for a moment. Whether it’s an in-person conversation, a handwritten note left on their desk, or a social media shoutout that mentions your volunteer by name, always take the time to thank your recruits.
Find opportunities for team building
The more socially engaged your recruits, the more likely they are to feel like they’re a special part of something big, so it’s smart to plan occasional lunches, outings, or even board game nights that include the entire team.
Take seriously and celebrate the contributions your volunteers make. Share their successes on your social media channels and list their achievements in your newsletters and annual fundraising reports. The clearer their impact to your nonprofit, the more valued your volunteers will feel.
The Best Volunteers Plan the Best Fundraisers
Learning how to attract volunteers isn’t rocket science. It just takes dedication and time, and with RallyUp by your side, your team of volunteers can plan unforgettable fundraisers that make a major splash in your donor community. Whether you’re planning virtual auctions and raffles, a-thon events, sales, or just want to tack on livestreaming options to your next event, we’re excited to help you and your volunteer recruits stay on-mission and achieve your fundraising goals every time!