How To Recruit All Kinds of Volunteers
In a time-starved world, people still find time to volunteer for causes close to their hearts. In 2018, 30 percent of American adults volunteered in some capacity. Their service was worth approximately 167 billion dollars, a whopping sum for free labor and expertise. This, of course, doesn’t account for the countless ways people help out friends and family outside of a structured volunteering role.
The driver for this benevolence is the perceived value of the volunteering experience. People give their time because volunteering allows them to put their values into motion by tangibly helping others. Their purposefulness is reward enough, but how can your charity attract more of these benevolent 30 percent? To learn how to recruit all kinds of volunteers, consider these points.
Know Your Recruitment Needs
Before you adjust your approach, you need to establish how wide a net to cast.
For easier tasks, a broad “warm-body” approach allows you to recruit all kinds of volunteers. These appeals tend to be general and are typically sent through many mediums. Because the goal is participation, emphasize that people can get started easily and don’t need to meet certain prerequisites.
The beauty of warm-body recruiting is you could catch someone in your proverbial net who never really volunteered before. Because people often limit their service to one organization during a given year, you can then work on using their initial experience as a springboard to foster future support.
For limited need, hone in your recruiting by targeting certain groups. In these cases, consider what skills you’re looking for when it would actually be detrimental to fill a position with whoever’s available. Act as if you’re filling a paying position. If the position includes training and few existing skills, make sure your volunteer matches your organization’s values well.
Study Your Area
After knowing your need, consider your surroundings. Not every community in the US interacts with volunteer work in the same way. Fast-paced urban areas may prefer digital and shorter-term service, whereas suburban and rural communities are no stranger to hands-on volunteering.
One practical tip is to survey the layout of the nonprofit land in your area. Look at what charities operate there and how they go about volunteering opportunities. Given your shared goals of bettering people’s lives, directly asking these organizations your questions is a viable option.
Attracting Different Types of Volunteers
Next, let’s dig into what certain kinds of would-be volunteers want in a charity partner. We’ll cover five types: traditional, specialized, micro-, advocate, and corporate volunteers.
First, the traditional volunteer is anyone a charity brings in to complete a task after basic training and with supervision. This is an easy and structured way for people to enter into nonprofit service and learn more. Warm-body recruiting is a common tool for bringing this type of partner in.
To draw traditional volunteers in, formalize the volunteering process. Provide people with titles such as archival assistant, hotline reception volunteer, facilities management volunteer, or whatever else fits. In the same vein, provide them a detailed position description complete with their purpose, responsibilities, and time commitment. Both illustrate that you take their position seriously and put work into forming the role.
Meanwhile, specialized volunteers are those with unique skills that connect to your charity through more casual means. They may start as a traditional volunteer but then, through conversations with your staff, offer to design a stage for a (virtual these days) benefit concert you’re holding or fill another specific need. You may talk with a couple you know about their love for teaching young people and then have them present your cause in area schools. Charity work thrives when staff see an opportunity to creatively include specialized people.
Invest in Longstanding Relationships
You don’t just happen upon a specialized volunteer. Including their skills necessitates learning that they have them in the first place. Keep up with your volunteers, learn about their life and work, and discover their passions. Not everyone will have a place with you, but some will align with your values and needs perfectly enough that you can offer them a role.
Quite different from long-term volunteering, micro-volunteering is a modern solution to those preferring to give their time in bite-sized chunks. Usually accessed online, tasks are small and broad—they range from signing a petition to planting a tree or picking up neighborhood trash.
Use Online Outreach Well
To connect with people, often a younger crowd, through micro-volunteering, pour resources into your website and social media presence. Doing so increases your overall online visibility and makes service easy for people who are in a rush or multitasking.
Also, micro-volunteering gives you another avenue towards creating sustained partnerships. Beware though—pushing for the email of someone who wanted to offer 30 minutes of their time may scare them off. Work up to a consistent relationship and be accepting of brief volunteer work.
Pursuing political policy change is yet another way to work for good. In a country where political fervor runs high, you may encounter some who care deeply for this sphere and its effect on your charity. Advocacy work manifests in contacting area elected leaders, spreading awareness through many mediums, holding and setting up events, and more.
Get Serious About Your Messaging
To attract passionate people, your organization must stoke and articulate well its own passion. Inject a sense of sobering urgency to your newsletters and emails. While not every hot-button law or governmental action is life-or-death, communicate the ramifications of each situation appropriately.
Last in our list are corporate volunteers, or people attached to a group that initiates a service opportunity. These people understandably come in swarms to assist you. For companies, religious groups, veterans’ associations, and more, the impetus is to promote team bonding through purpose-driven service.
Talk up Volunteer Work
Talk about past and future volunteering projects in your marketing materials so companies know they can serve with you. While it’s easy to hone in on donors, paying attention to volunteers shows you place a high priority on their work. In doing so, secure testimonies of people who talk about growing closer to their coworkers, friends, etc. in the process.
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