You have enough on your plate: coordinating volunteers is a sizable task on its own. But these days, volunteer professionals are asked to tackle much more than managing schedules. They’re responsible for all stages of the volunteer lifecycle, from strategic recruitment to effective engagement.
Plus, volunteer leaders have to think like marketing professionals to meet ambitious organizational goals. That’s because marketing is a key pillar of any volunteer program’s recruitment efforts.
Effectively marketing your volunteer opportunities will not only set you apart but will also help your volunteer program grow.
Building a volunteer program marketing strategy doesn’t have to be intimidating. We’ve broken down the seven fundamental steps for advertising your opportunities and converting prospects into engaged volunteers.
7 Tips for Marketing Volunteer Opportunities
To get new volunteers through the door, you’ll need to advertise volunteer opportunities. Work smarter, not harder, with these fundamental marketing guidelines to help you get the volunteers you need.
1. Identify What (and Who) You Really Need
Effective marketing requires an understanding of the audience you’re trying to reach. So before marketing your volunteer opportunities, you need to get a clear idea of the roles you’re recruiting for and the ideal candidate to fill each role.
Thoughtful, targeted recruitment means you know exactly what and who your program needs to advance its mission. Consider these questions to help you identify your organization’s volunteer needs and better direct your volunteer recruitment strategy:
- What are your current program gaps?
- How can volunteers help to fill these gaps?
- What volunteer roles will have the most impact?
- Who is your ideal volunteer candidate? What characteristics are you looking for in a volunteer?
- What skills do you need your volunteers to have?
- Where are these volunteers most likely to exist (i.e., university campuses, special interest groups, local businesses)?
2. Understand What Motivates Your Volunteers
People volunteer for many reasons; some are passionate about a cause and want to see real change in their communities, while others are simply fulfilling an academic requirement. To help you create opportunities that inspire and craft a message that sticks, you’ll need to understand your supporters’ motivations.
Top 5 Factors That Motivate Volunteers:
According to research, most volunteers are motivated by six evidence-based factors. When these motivating factors are acknowledged and supported, volunteers are more likely to stick around.
- Values – Volunteers want to serve others in a meaningful way and express their altruistic values.
- Social – Volunteers want to be a part of a community and develop social relationships
- Career – Volunteers want to engage in networking opportunities, develop skills, or add experience to their resumes.
- Understanding – Volunteers want to gain knowledge or insight on a particular cause.
- Personal Development – Volunteers want to develop or enhance a skill set or grow personally.
But how do you identify the factors that motivate your volunteers?
The most surefire way to understand why your volunteers want to participate is to ask. Survey current volunteers. Ask them why they like volunteering with your organization and what keeps them coming back.
You can also survey newly registered volunteers. During the registration process, ask them why they felt motivated to sign up for your program initially. You may also want to collect data on how they found out about your volunteer opportunities. This kind of insight can help you better target your marketing toward these channels.
How to Create Volunteer Opportunities that Motivate Volunteers
You know what your organization needs and understand what motivates volunteers. Now you can develop a program that volunteers want to get involved in.
It’s tempting to ask willing helpers to take over all those tasks you’ve been dreading (think data entry and assembling mailers). While volunteer time is certainly valuable anywhere, these activities probably won’t appeal to every volunteer and rarely keep them engaged down the road.
Instead, try to offer a variety of opportunities that will motivate all kinds of volunteers:
Opportunities for Values-Driven Volunteers
For volunteers motivated by altruistic values, you’ll want to create meaningful opportunities that lead to observable community impact. Your values-driven supporters benefit from working closely with the cause and constituents. To keep these volunteers engaged, regularly communicate their impact.
Opportunities for Social Volunteers
To appeal to your social volunteers, create volunteer opportunities that encourage collaboration. Even your more “mundane” activities like stacking supplies are more appealing when tackled as a team. Encourage participants to invite their friends, don’t skimp on the introductions, throw on some music, and provide snacks (a great way to invite social interaction during breaks).
Opportunities for Career-Oriented Volunteers
Does your organization work with student volunteers and young professionals? Career-focused volunteers want to get right to business by offering their skills and gaining experience. Work with career-motivated volunteers to develop opportunities that put their skills to work.
Take the time to help them develop their networks by making introductions and encouraging connections. Career-oriented volunteers thrive when given a mentor and measurable goals. So why not partner with a local business to pair eager young volunteers with professionals?
Opportunities for Volunteers Motivated by Understanding
Many volunteers believe that direct service (addressing the immediate needs of an individual or community) is the only way to move a cause forward. However, there are lots of ways volunteers can support your organization.
Volunteers who are motivated by the desire to deepen their understanding of a cause make great activists and community organizers. They can help to influence community policy and local governance by spreading awareness. Or, give your volunteers the chance to dig deeper through community-engaged research.
Opportunities for Volunteers Motivated by Personal Development
To engage these volunteers, offer plenty of skills-based volunteer roles. As volunteers register with your organization, collect data on their interests, specialized skills, and favorite causes. This data can help you more accurately suggest the best opportunities for a more engaging, personalized experience.
When marketing your volunteer opportunities to these volunteers, be sure to communicate the personal benefits. Finally, be sure to collect and report on their impact, so they know they’re making a real difference.
3. Master the Volunteer Opportunity Description
Your volunteer job description has the power to inspire recruits to take action. When used effectively, you’ll not only help volunteers identify the right opportunity for them, but you’re also more likely to attract the best volunteers for the job.
How to Write a Volunteer Job Description
The volunteer job description should be succinct but informative. You want your volunteers to glean enough information to sign up, but not too much to deter them (we found this volunteer job description sample helpful).
The volunteer job description should communicate the following:
- Job Title – The volunteer job title should distill the job description into just a few words. A vague job title like “Volunteers Needed” won’t inspire and typically isn’t enough to get volunteers interested in your offering. Instead, think of a snappy, engaging title like “Calling All Superheroes: Youth Mentor.”
- Position Summary – Summarize the purpose or desired outcome of the volunteer position to inspire prospects and acquaint them with the cause before getting into the details. Take a look at this youth mentor role summary: “To promote healthy peer and family relationships among at-risk youth with the ultimate goal of building confidence, self-esteem, and academic excellence.”
- Duties and Responsibilities – Include a bulleted list of specific requirements and responsibilities for the job. List each action or task separately.
- Time Requirements – How many hours are you asking volunteers to contribute per shift/week/month? Include the length of the time commitment, as well as an expected start date.
- Location – Is this an in-person or virtual volunteer opportunity? Where will volunteers perform the work?
- Skill Requirements and Qualifications – You want to ensure you’re getting the right volunteers for the job. But you don’t want to discourage eager supporters from signing up. So, only list required skills and qualifications here. Save additional screening for the interview later on.
What shouldn’t you include in your volunteer opportunity description?
Avoid outlining every organizational policy and rule (save that for onboarding). While impressive impact statistics certainly have their place in marketing your volunteer opportunities, the volunteer job description isn’t one of them. Remember, prospects simply want to know what you’re asking them to do and how you will use their talents to achieve a specific outcome.
4. Craft a Compelling Volunteer Recruitment Message
You’re armed with engaging volunteer opportunities and savvy job descriptions. But now you need your volunteers to find them! That’s where your volunteer recruitment message comes in.
What is a volunteer recruitment message, anyway?
Think of your recruitment message as a call for volunteers. It’s what you’ll write when you market your volunteer opportunities on social media, in your newsletter, or on your website.
Your recruitment message aims to attract prospective volunteers by “selling” your cause and your volunteer opportunities. The challenge? People are busy, and trying to catch their attention for long enough to become interested in your program isn’t always easy.
Note that a recruitment message is different from an opportunity description. Your recruitment messaging should draw interested people to your website to learn more about the opportunity (via your well-composed description!).
Whichever marketing channel you choose (more on that later in this article), you need to create a recruitment message that stands out.
The Anatomy of an Engaging Volunteer Recruitment Message
Here’s a simple formula for writing a volunteer recruitment message that stands out:
- Start with a Question – Every recruitment message should start with a “hook,” an eye-catching statement that forces readers to pause. Keep your question volunteer-focused to draw them in and get them to self-identify with the opportunity. Take this example: “Are you looking to make a difference in your community by helping children?”
- State What You’re Looking For – Get to the who, what, when, and where quickly. Briefly summarize what you’re asking the volunteer to do. Keep it short and sweet!
- Touch on the Benefits – Describe the benefits of the opportunity for both the volunteer and your organization. How does this opportunity add value to their lives, to your organization, and your community? Don’t be afraid to communicate the volunteer benefits according to your volunteers’ motivations.
- Share Your Impact – Share your program impact. Your volunteers’ achievements will inspire others to get involved. A simple (factual) statement like, “Our volunteers delivered 20,000 meals to Chicago residents last year,” is enough to encourage interested individuals to respond.
- Tell a Story – If you have space (say you’re sending a longer-form email), share a success story or quote a volunteer who had a positive experience with your organization. People are more likely to get involved when they feel an emotional connection with your cause.
- Always End with a Call to Action – The call to action will ultimately drive interested individuals to get involved. End each recruitment message with a call to action that communicates the next steps. Keep your call to action direct, for example, “Make a real difference today. Click here to apply.” Then, make it quick and easy for volunteers to get involved by providing a link directly to your online registration portal.
5. Diversify Your Volunteer Marketing Channels
You’ve crafted a compelling recruitment message. Now, how do you get the word out about your volunteer opportunities?
You’re looking for a diverse, passionate group of volunteers to help move your mission forward. But finding engaged volunteers who will stick around isn’t easy. That’s why many successful volunteer programs take a multi-channel approach to advertise their volunteer opportunities.
Multi-channel marketing simply means you take advantage of a variety of marketing platforms to share your message. These platforms may include:
- Social Media
- Website and Blog
By advertising your volunteer opportunities using different channels, you’ll grow your network more quickly and attract fresh voices.
How to Choose the Right Marketing Platforms
How do you choose the best marketing channels for your program?
Throwing your volunteer opportunities at every channel probably isn’t the most cost-effective strategy. Plus, you risk spreading yourself too thin.
Instead, start by focusing your efforts on a few of these channels and do it well. As your capacity grows, so too can your marketing efforts.
To choose the right platforms for your program, return to your organization’s needs. Think about the volunteers you’re looking for and where these volunteers are most likely to encounter your message. In other words, meet your volunteers where they are.
Let’s say you need summer volunteers for your mentorship program. You know that high school and college-aged students make great mentors. While you’ve traditionally relied on flyers and phone calls, you’re not attracting the volunteers you need. It’s time to switch up your marketing channels!
According to this study on social media usage, 84% of adults aged 18-29 use social media regularly. Meanwhile, only 45% of adults older than 65use social media. So, if you’re looking to diversify your volunteer pool, why not take to social media to advertise your opportunities?
Social media is becoming increasingly popular for marketing nonprofit causes. Why? Social media is wide-reaching, cost-effective, and easy to track. Yet 67% of nonprofits say they don’t have a social media strategy.
If you’re looking to market your volunteer opportunities on social media, start by choosing one or two platforms to master. With over 2 billion active users globally, Facebook is still the most popular social media platform. It remains an essential marketing and networking tool for individuals, businesses, and nonprofits alike.
Most Popular Social Platforms:
- Tik Tok
Want to learn more about the best marketing tools and practices for your organization? Keep up with the latest nonprofit trends in this guide.
The takeaway? Diversifying your channels will diversify your prospects, and ultimately your volunteers.
6. Target Your Marketing
You need lots of helping hands. So it’s tempting to employ the “calling all volunteers” approach. Posting a generic call for volunteers on your website or scattering fliers will certainly get the word out. But a more targeted approach—through personalization and segmentation—is more likely to get you the best volunteers for the job.
Broad Recruitment vs. Targeted Recruitment
You may decide to use broad recruitment strategies (often referred to as “warm body recruitment”) to market your volunteer opportunities. Broad recruitment activities may include distributing flyers or posting a general call for volunteers on your website.
Sending out mass calls for volunteers can be helpful if you need lots of helping hands for unskilled positions, like stocking shelves or greeting attendees. But if you’re looking for the next marketing maven or tech wizard, you’ll need to make sure you’re attracting volunteers who are qualified.
On the other hand, targeted recruitment means you are directing your recruitment message to a target audience. You will define your target audience based on the volunteers you need for a specific opportunity or program (you’ve already identified your needs in the first step!).
Targeted recruitment is the key to advertising volunteer opportunities to the right audience.
How to Target Your Recruitment Message
Perhaps you need volunteers with a specific set of skills. Or maybe you’re looking for supporters who better represent the fabric of your community. Whomever you’re looking for, you’ll need a strategy for getting your opportunities in front of them:
Leverage Your Marketing Technology
People are much more likely to respond to marketing that feels tailored to them. Sending a personalized email to every single prospect is inefficient (and probably impossible). However, you can leverage your marketing tools to create recruitment messages that feel much more personal than a general call for volunteers.
These tools enable you to filter and segment contacts based on various data, such as interests, favorite programs, their preferred method of communication, level of participation, and more
Robust volunteer management software allows volunteer programs to collect data on volunteers’ interests, skills, qualifications, and favorite causes. You can then use this data to send a tailored recruitment message and personalized volunteer opportunities. (Your system can even automatically recommend volunteer opportunities based on their preferences!)
Develop Strategic Partnerships
To attract new, skilled volunteers, consider reaching out to special interest groups and for-profit companies in your community. For example, if you’re looking for a volunteer to help with tax preparation, reach out to community businesses whose employees may have accounting expertise. Or maybe you need literacy tutors. You may choose to partner with a nearby campus’ English department or reading groups. Forging these partnerships can help ensure you’re getting a consistent stream of engaged, skilled volunteers.
Keep Your Message Consistent
This may sound counter-intuitive. We’re asking you to tailor your messaging to specific audiences. But we’re also telling you to keep it consistent across all communications. While you may switch up your recruitment message and marketing channels to appeal to volunteers with different motivations or interests, your core message shouldn’t change. That is, your program’s mission, its voice, and the values you’re communicating shouldn’t change to suit volunteers.
7. Tap Into Your Volunteers’ Networks
When it comes to advertising, other volunteers are your most valuable asset. And your existing supporters—event attendees, volunteers, and other stakeholders—are already bought into your cause. Leverage your engaged supporters by tapping into their networks.
How to Leverage Your Existing Volunteers:
Use these tactics to encourage your existing supporters to help market your opportunities:
- Make them ambassadors for your cause. Invite your most dedicated volunteers to champion your program. Offer opportunities for leading informational sessions, telling their volunteerism stories, mentoring other volunteers, and taking on leadership opportunities.
- Invite them to share your volunteer opportunities on social media. Ask your volunteers to promote your opportunities on social media. Include your social media handles in your correspondence with volunteers and include a call to action like, “Spread the word! Click the link to share this volunteer opportunity with friends!”
- Encourage them to bring a friend. Invite volunteers to bring a friend along. Make it easy for friends, family, and teams to get involved by offering simple group sign-up. Invoke some healthy competition by hosting a month-long challenge that rewards the volunteer team with the most logged hours.
- Don’t give up on lapsed volunteers. Just because a volunteer hasn’t participated in a while doesn’t mean they’re gone forever. Reintroduce lapsed volunteers to your organization and get them excited about your new volunteer opportunities once again. Don’t forget to leverage your data and segment your emails to understand their volunteer preferences.
- Tap into their marketing expertise. Your current volunteers have lots of skills! Create opportunities for your savvy volunteers (like students looking for work experience) to manage your social media accounts. Chances are, they’ll know just where to find like-minded individuals.
- Don’t underestimate the power of word of mouth. Word of mouth is some of the most powerful and cost-effective advertising. The best way to nurture enthusiastic volunteers—and get them to talk about your cause—is to keep them engaged and happy. Focus on providing a positive volunteering experience every time. Communicate consistently with your volunteers, keep them informed, express appreciation, and invite them to share their enthusiasm for your cause!
Email Templates for Marketing Your Volunteer Opportunities
Volunteer Recruitment Email Template #1
Use this email for volunteers who have expressed interest in volunteering with you by signing up as a volunteer and sharing with you their interests or skills already, but have not yet volunteered. This ensures you can make specific suggestions for them. Filter your list of registered volunteers by interest and then see who has not yet participated in any volunteer opportunities.
Hi [Volunteer’s Name],
I’m reaching out to share a few exciting opportunities for you to make an impact in our community! You’ve expressed your desire to make a difference and there are plenty of ways you can do that right now.
Here are two upcoming opportunities that align with your interests and skills. Take a look and let me know what questions you have!
[Opportunity #1- Name of the program and the link to sign up]
[Opportunity #2- Name of the program and the link to sign up]
Would you be interested in scheduling another type of volunteer opportunity? Here’s a list of our current volunteer opportunities [link to your volunteer opportunities page]. This makes it easy for you to select days, times, and opportunities that work for you.
Again, thank you so much for expressing your interest in volunteering with us here at [your organization’s name]!
Volunteer Recruitment Email Template #2
Use this email for volunteers who have been present in the past with specific causes and opportunities, but perhaps have been inconsistent recently. Remind them what they were a part of and how much their support meant to your organization and cause.
Hi [Volunteer’s Name],
You’ve shared your time and talents with us in the past, and we’re so grateful for your contributions to [organization’s name] and our vision of [organizations’ initiative]. I’m reaching out to share upcoming volunteer opportunities I thought you’d be interested in.
Volunteers like you are how [organization’s name] are able to make a difference in the lives of those we serve.
Here are two upcoming opportunities that align with your interests and skills.Take a look and let me know what questions you have.
[Opportunity #1- share the name of the program and the link to sign up]
[Opportunity #2- share the name of the program and the link to sign up]
Interested in scheduling another volunteer opportunity? Here’s a list of exciting volunteer opportunities [link to your volunteer opportunities page]. We’ve made it easy for you to select days, times, and opportunities that work best for you.
Thanks again for supporting [your organization’s name] by sharing your time and talents. I’d love to see you again at one of our programs. Let’s be a part of the good news in our community together!
Volunteer Recruitment Email Template #3
Use this email for people who haven’t registered as volunteers yet, but are potential volunteers. Perhaps they’re a part of a local group (like a school, small business organization, church group, scouts, etc) that may be interested in contributing to your cause. This is a way of introducing yourself, your organization, its causes, and volunteer opportunities.
Hi [Volunteer’s Name],
Is making a difference locally something you’re interested in?
I’m reaching out to share some exciting volunteer opportunities to make an impact in our community!
My name is [your name] and I’m the volunteer coordinator at [organization’s name]. Our mission is to [insert mission statement] and we do this by [describe your programming briefly]. We’re only able to bring these much-needed programs to our community through the support of local volunteers.
Signing up to volunteer is easy! Register here [include link to registration] and select the volunteer opportunity that matches your availability, interests, skills, and passions!
Our next upcoming volunteer orientation is [date- if applicable]. Here you’ll learn more about our organization and how you can be a part of the good news in our community!
[the above sentence can be edited to reflect an upcoming one-time event where you need more volunteers or perhaps your top 1-3 needs at this time]
Interested in scheduling a volunteer opportunity? Here’s a list of exciting volunteer opportunities [link to your volunteer opportunities page]. We’ve made it easy for you to select days, times, and opportunities that work for you.
Please reach out with any questions you may have about volunteering with [organization]. My contact information is: [contact info]
Thank you for learning more about volunteering with [your organization’s name].