Recruiting volunteers (and keeping them) is vital to furthering any nonprofit’s mission. Not only do volunteers lend much-needed support, but they also often donate to the organizations with whom they spend time. “People who volunteer their time are also more likely to financially support an organization, with 79 percent of those who volunteer with a nonprofit also donating to that organization.” – The Chronicle of Philanthropy
Additionally, current volunteers are your nonprofit’s biggest asset in attracting new volunteers! 64% of respondents cited the invitation to volunteer from a friend as one of the top incentives to help in the Points of Light 2020 Civic Life Report.
But what if your nonprofit’s volunteer recruitment efforts haven’t been fruitful?
It may be time to re-evaluate your volunteer recruitment strategy and How to use trial and error to find fundraising success. To help inspire your renewed approach, we’ve gathered together some great ideas and resources below.
Volunteer Recruitment Tips, Ideas, and Resources
Treat volunteering opportunities like job openings.
Because they are. “An estimated 23.2 percent of Americans, or more than 60.7 million people, formally volunteered with organizations between September 2020 and 2021. In total, these volunteers served an estimated 4.1 billion hours with an economic value of $122.9 billion. ” –Americorps Volunteering and Civic Life in America.
Though volunteers are gaining something in return, they are gifting you with that most precious of commodities—time. That’s on top of their actual jobs and responsibilities. To motivate someone to act, you need to provide two things—position details and inspiration.
Make sure volunteer opportunity listings include time commitment, primary duties, and benefits (such as gaining leadership experience and your undying gratitude). Additionally, it’s crucial to detail how their volunteer work will make a difference not only for your nonprofit but its cause. (Volunteer Positions on 501 Commonshas a great template and several examples.)
Approach from your ideal volunteer's perspective.
An effective for-profit marketing strategy is to address customer pain pointsinstead of focusing on the product. To do this, think about your volunteers’ needs and how your nonprofit organization can meet them.
The Innovative Nonprofit Solutions Group’s article Five Ideas to Diversify Your Volunteer Plan lays out this example:
“Many high school and college students are seeking volunteer opportunities that boost their resume experience to enhance their college or job applications…Consider creating roles for high school and college students to contribute to your board of directors or serve in an advisory capacity to develop leadership skills.”
In other words, evaluate your volunteer opportunities and position them as a win-win for both parties. Leadership experience, new skills, and class credit are all great reasons to help a cause!
Ask within the community.
We acknowledge that this method is not revolutionary. But, according to Nonprofit Source,“42.1% of people became volunteers with their main organization after being asked to volunteer.” You can ask people to volunteer through social media and email, but it’s particularly powerful when you connect in person.
Points of Light found that “People want to grow where they are planted, focusing on local opportunities that let them engage with those they are helping.” So, the first step is to look right outside your nonprofit’s door. The National Forest Foundation’s Ideas for Volunteer Recruitment suggests the following strategy:
“Picture your office as the center of a bull’s eye, with concentric circles around it. Then either walk or drive around the block or in tight circles and write down everything you see…Doing this exercise will turn up a number of “neighbors” you did not know you had. Might there be business people to volunteer at lunch? What professional skills might be tapped at neighborhood businesses or schools? Might there be access to other types of resources – donated goods, storage space, etc. Do any of these neighbors share your goals? Making contact with your neighbors is much easier than approaching resources across town.”
Applying your personal networks is another way to engage potential volunteers. This Energize article lays out some great strategies and ideas for proximity recruiting.
By making it easy for everyone to participate, you’re widening the group of potential volunteers. Doing so does not just mean offering virtual volunteering options or accommodating those with mobility issues.
“That (accessibility) means looking for ways to accommodate a myriad of people who have different abilities, needs, personality types, work styles and available times for service.” – Jayne Cravens of Coyote Communications
Their article, Make All Volunteering As Accessible as Possible: Advantages for your Program & How to Do It, lays out actions you can take to make your volunteer program accessible to all. Volunteer Canada also has a great volunteer accessibility resource that offers comprehensive information on everything from recruitment strategies to volunteer empowerment.
Business News Daily defines corporate social responsibility (CSR) as “a form of self-regulation that reflects a business’s accountability and commitment to contributing to the well-being of communities and society through various environmental and social measures.” CSR influences how a business is perceived by customers, employees, and investors and ultimately contributes to its success. As part of CSR, companies may implement a volunteer program in which employees receive a certain amount of paid hours to volunteer.
Your nonprofit organization needs new volunteers, so the connection is a win-win! Plus, after being exposed to your nonprofit’s work, some of the people will evolve into active volunteers or supporters. Attracting corporate volunteer groups takes a little effort, but it’s worth it. You’ll introduce new people to your cause, and hopefully the positive experience will result in some new, ideal volunteers. Best Practices for Recruiting Corporate Volunteer Groups by the Dorthy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy has great information on how to approach local businesses and get started.
Use social media...effectively.
Your organization is likely already using its social media platforms to reach prospective volunteers. If you’re not getting the results you’d like, try approaching the situation as you would when trying to attract new donors. Set a target audience and goals, and then develop your message. Remember to post regularly (this is where a social media calendar is handy) and to actively interact with anyone who expresses interest. For some tips on how, check out this article on VolunteerMatch.
Thank you for reading! We hope that the ideas and resources above help your organization connect with its ideal volunteers! If you haven’t already, be sure to check out our companion post, How to Prevent Volunteer Burnout: 6 Helpful Strategies, as well as the rest of the articles in our Donor Engagement Series.