Volunteers can be the lifeblood of nonprofit organizations. Volunteers often make up the board of directors, can help carry out operations, and plan and carry out programs and events. One would assume volunteer recruitment would be easy for a nonprofit in a state nicknamed “The Volunteer State,” but even in Tennessee (the home of Redbird Strategic), volunteer recruitment can be a challenge. Whether you are currently gearing up for a volunteer recruitment drive, or simply need more hands and greater engagement, this article can help.
The High Value of Volunteers
Volunteers can amplify your message, your reach, and your ability to impact your community and the world. For a significant number of nonprofits, their mission simply cannot be accomplished without donated time and skills to create, direct or deliver goods or services. While volunteers are priceless to charitable organizations and those they serve, one can attach a monetary value to their good works. Independent Sector, a national membership organization that brings together the charitable community, currently estimates the value of a volunteer hour as $25.43, putting last year’s total value of volunteer contributions at more than $203 billion!
Another reason volunteers are important to every nonprofit? Volunteers are among the sector’s best advocates and investors. Various studies point to the strong overlap between giving time and giving money, with correlations ranging from 50% to nearly 90%. Volunteers give or give more where they volunteer. Why? Because they see and often experience first-hand the organization’s impact on their community.
Ask for Volunteers
A core understanding of life, sales, dating, and even recruitment of volunteers is: “If you don’t ask, you won’t get.” You must be deliberate and direct in your quest for volunteers and make a direct ask for help. Nonprofit managers don’t usually have a difficult time asking for financial donations, but applying the same mindset to volunteer recruitment is essential. “I wasn’t asked,” remains one of the primary reasons given when individuals are asked why they did not contribute — time or money — to a particular organization or campaign.
Distinguish Between Announcements and Asking
Now that you understand the importance of asking directly for volunteers, we need to point out an important distinction: making a universal announcement on your website, mailers, and social media is NOT the same as targeted, personal recruitment. Many organizers assume that a sea of potential volunteers are going to hear the call, and that all who hear will act. True, it’s crucial to create the announcements, newsletters, and marketing collateral to advertise open volunteer opportunities, but these serve as enhancements to your recruitment strategy. When you empower and mobilize your board, staff, and existing volunteers to identify and ask specific individuals and groups to help with specific tasks and initiatives, you will drastically improve volunteer recruitment results.
Of course, social media platforms are probably the most popular forms for promoting volunteer opportunities, but without a solid strategy in place, your shout could be muffled to a mere whisper on popular platforms. Before your first post or tweet, take the time to strategize on a social media plan that will fully capitalize on individuals’ short attention spans. You may even want to consider hiring a social media manager to help organize the chaos. Having professional help can not only relieve some of the pressure that naturally derives from recruiting, but also has the possibility of opening you up to new, more effective social media platforms or innovative social strategies that can help boost your volunteer campaign’s efficiency.
Enlist the Help of Digital
An issue that tends to emerge when nonprofits begin their search for volunteers is where to find them. While social media platforms are a vital tool for nonprofits, you should also incorporate a specialized digital platform or two as a supplement. VolunteerMatch is essentially a “job board for volunteers” that nonprofits can use to announce open volunteer spots to the public at large.
VolunteerLocal and VolunteerMark are just a couple of free (upgradable features available at a cost) volunteer management software programs that can help your organization manage, schedule, and communicate with volunteers. VolunteerHub is another handy, subscription-based tool used in the recruitment of volunteers that comes with loads of other features to help you manage volunteers once they are confirmed.
For up-to-date guidance, tools and ideas on all things voluntarism and volunteer engagement, VolunteerPro has you covered.
RFL: Recruit for Life
Organizations can be struck with short-sightedness when it comes to volunteer recruitment, focusing only on the next event or project. Instead, organizations should build a model that encourages volunteers to adopt its mission and vision, explore all volunteer opportunities and positions, and eventually become leaders and mentors who can help recruit and mentor new volunteers. Looking for new members for your governance board? Observing how a volunteer performs in a leadership role for a major program or event is one of the most effective ways to vet volunteers for service on the board of directors.
Timing is Everything
Following the “Recruit for Life” model, understand that just because a volunteer says no today, doesn’t mean that it will be a no tomorrow. You often do not know the full extent of what an individual is dealing with in their personal lives, so avoid becoming disheartened and failing to follow up with that person in a few months or next quarter. If you followed the digital help step, you could use your volunteer tracking software to write a note of your conversation and set a reminder to contact them again.
Lists are Nothing; Relationships are Everything
One of the fundamental truths of fundraising, and running a nonprofit for that matter, are that relationships are everything. You can’t rely on having a hefty donor or volunteer list to carry you through the rough times; only relationships can do this. Forming relationships takes time as you must work to find common ground between the individual’s interests and passions and the organization’s objectives and goals. Once these are aligned, and you have established that special connection, it is likely that you’ll have a volunteer for life.
Put the Right People in the Right Places
Successfully recruiting new volunteers is exciting; however, it is of the utmost importance to ensure they are a right fit for not only the organization but also the role for which they were recruited. Another common mistake that nonprofits make is filling volunteer positions with anyone with a pulse. This tactic tends to backfire and create more work once the person fizzles out at their role that is not a proper fit. Avoid placing volunteers in a part until you have a firm foundation for their goals and aspirations and have fully explained the position that you have in mind for them. This extra up-front work can save time, money, and frustration for the organization and the volunteer.
Volunteer Recruitment Assistance in Knoxville, TN
Recruiting more volunteers for your nonprofit is not a simple or easy task. Luckily, you have experienced professionals you can reach out to for help in recruiting volunteers. Redbird Strategic Resources partners with nonprofit organizations to help improve volunteer recruitment efforts and increase volunteer retention. Contact us today by phone at 865-212-4867 or online to learn more.