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Volunteer Recruitment: How to Get the Volunteers You Need

FREE DOWNLOAD: The Volunteer Manager’s Guide to Volunteer Acquisition [eBook]

From delivering meals to planting trees, volunteers provide all kinds of necessary services to our communities. That’s why volunteer programs benefit from establishing a well-organized volunteer recruitment process to maximize impact.  

But what exactly is volunteer recruitment, and why should you set your sights on boosting your volunteer recruitment efforts? 

What is volunteer recruitment?

Volunteer recruitment is the process of attracting and screening candidates for volunteer work. During this process, volunteer programs may seek out qualified individuals to fill specific positions or grow and maintain their pool of on-hand volunteers.

Volunteer recruitment can easily become a time-consuming process. But many volunteer professionals rely on volunteer management software to find better candidates quicker. 

Why is volunteer recruitment important? 

Volunteers contribute $203.4 billion to the United States through nonprofit organizations. Without volunteers, many organizations could not deliver the services that many communities rely upon. A volunteer recruitment process enables organizations to fill this need for volunteers.

Volunteer recruitment not only helps programs deliver essential work, but it also helps bring in meet necessary funding needs. This report found that people who volunteer donate ten times more money to charities than non-volunteers. 67% of those who volunteered said that they would donate to the same nonprofits where they had served.

Article Contents

  1. Recruiting Volunteers: Basic Steps
  2. How Volunteer Recruitment Tools can Help
  3. Volunteer Recruitment Strategy Tips and Best Practices
  4. Volunteer Retention: How to Keep your Recruits

Use these volunteer recruitment strategies to help establish a healthy, proactive volunteer program:

          This section will walk you through the basic steps of volunteer recruitment.

Recruiting Volunteers: Basic Steps

Keep reading for all the volunteer recruiting basics, from how to ask volunteers for their help to conducting volunteer interviews. 

1. Craft Your Message to Recruit Volunteers

Whether you are sending an email to community partners, leveraging your nonprofit social media strategy, or hanging posters around town, you’ll need to have a unified, clear message prepared. 

Your recruitment message is the information you want to tell your community about your organization to get them on board with your cause. 

Follow these steps to compose a message that supports your volunteer recruitment strategy: 

Evaluate Your Organization’s Image

When it comes to recruiting volunteers for nonprofits, you’ll need to think about how the public perceives you. People want to volunteer their time to a worthwhile cause in a meaningful way. 

Tune in to your successes, goals, and mission statement. Assess how potential volunteers may view each of those. The more you understand your organization’s image and reception, the better you’ll be at targeting the right volunteers. 

Ultimately, this internal review will serve as your starting point for planning and designing an effective recruitment strategy.

Draft Your Message

Craft a positive volunteer recruitment message that encourages people to take action and get involved with your organization. Try to focus on why you are recruiting volunteers and the positions that need filling. In addition, define the volunteer role description, the nature of the opportunity, and the potential benefits of volunteering.

When considering your messaging, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does the message honor the volunteer?
  • Do I know someone who would say no to this message?
  • What skill level(s) am I hoping to attract?
  • Have I correctly tailored the message to my audience?
  • Does the copy effectively communicate the needs of my clients?

Your answers will help you tailor a recruitment message that appeals to the volunteers you hope to attract.

Create a Call to Action

Whenever you pitch your volunteer program to community partners and prospective volunteers, you’ll want to include a call to action. The call to action drives your community to be proactive. 

How does one use a call to action? 

You can use a call to action to invite volunteers to register with your organization, volunteer for a specific role, or attend your next event. Nonprofits and businesses alike invoke the call to action in marketing emails, social media posts, and websites. 

Here are some punchy volunteer call to action examples for recruiting volunteers. 

Help us do more for our community. Volunteer today!

We’re a nonprofit, and we rely on the help of people like you! Sign up to volunteer with [Organization’s Name].

We hear you’re pretty amazing. Why not volunteer? Register here! 

Don’t forget to follow each call to action with a link to your volunteer site. If you are using volunteer management software, you can lead your volunteers directly to your opportunities pages.

2. Screen Your Volunteer Recruits

Some organizations cast as wide a net as possible by recruiting unskilled volunteers, while others are looking for individuals with specific backgrounds. 

Throughout the recruitment process, decide what level of screening you require for potential volunteers and ask specific questions in your volunteer interview or application to filter out the people who may not be the best fit for your organization. 

Background checks are crucial if you work with vulnerable clients such as at-risk youth. If your volunteer opportunities require background checks, think about how extensive the screening needs to be. 

For instance, do you need to learn the volunteer’s driving record? Are misdemeanors okay, but not felonies? Will your volunteers be working with minors? 

Volunteer screening is vital for mitigating risk, saving valuable time, and protecting your organization’s clients and staff–and its reputation.

3. Determine Your Volunteer Recruitment Audience

Do you need lots of volunteers for an upcoming event? Or are you looking for a group of volunteers with specific skills? 

It’s essential to establish your needs so you can adjust your volunteer recruitment strategy accordingly. Generally, there are two primary volunteer recruitment methods, (1) broad recruitment and (2) targeted recruitment:

Broad Recruitment

Broad recruitment (often referred to as “warm body recruitment”) can work for your organization if you’re looking to attract a large number of volunteers in a short amount of time, like for an event. 

While “warm body recruitment” can be an effective strategy when you need lots of volunteers quickly, you’re more likely to recruit one-time volunteers (instead of more engaged, recurring volunteers). 

Broad volunteer recruitment can include activities like distributing flyers or posting a general call for volunteers on your social media accounts. 

Broad recruitment may not work for every program. This method can make screening volunteers for specialized roles (such as working with minors) more difficult.

Targeted Recruitment

On the other hand, targeted recruitment requires a bit more planning but can pay off in the long-run. 

Targeted recruitment is typically the best way to recruit volunteers if you’re looking for volunteers with specific skills or interests. 

Let’s say you want to recruit volunteers to work with middle school students over the summer. You may choose to connect with your local university’s career center because you found that university students historically make effective tutors.

As you can imagine, targeted outreach takes more research. But with some preparation today and the right tools, you’re more likely to recruit more qualified, engaged volunteers tomorrow. 

4. Conduct Volunteer Interviews

You may not need to interview every prospective volunteer that walks through your door. However, if you’re looking for individuals for more specialized roles, the volunteer interview may be necessary.

What should you ask your volunteers? We’ve put together some sample interview questions that may inspire your own:

Volunteer recruitment interview questions:

  • What would you like to know about our organization?
  • What causes are you passionate about?
  • What experiences in your life have led you to want to volunteer? 
  • What types of work have you done before? 
  • What experience or training do you have that will help you in this role? 
  • How do you deal with situations that don’t go as planned? 
  • Do you tend to work with groups or on your own?

Read our complete volunteer interview guide.

FREE DOWNLOAD: The Volunteer Manager’s Guide to Volunteer Acquisition [eBook]

          This section will explore how tools can help with your volunteer recruitment.

How Volunteer Recruitment Tools Can Help

In addition to these effective volunteer recruitment strategies and practices, you’ll want to have the right tools in place to boost your efforts.

Volunteer Recruitment Software

Today, most organizations and nonprofits recruit volunteers online. Volunteer recruitment managers are finding success by using volunteer management software. 

Platforms like Get Connected can help with recruitment, scheduling, and managing volunteers. 

Plus, the software will automatically recommend opportunities based on interests and skills, so it’s easy for volunteers to find opportunities that are right for them. 

When volunteers are passionate about a cause and feel their skills are utilized, they’re more likely to volunteer with your organization again. 

Consider a volunteer management platform with core volunteer recruitment functions. The right tool will allow volunteer recruitment leaders to:

  • Highlight volunteer opportunities – Make your volunteer opportunities stand out with a clean volunteer interface. 
  • Promote opportunities – Share volunteer opportunities and events with a click by email, on your social media, our your website’s homepage to direct prospects to your volunteering page. 
  • Create customized web pages – Some volunteer management platforms will allow you to create custom landing pages to engage select groups (like your corporate volunteers), promote special campaigns
  • Create private opportunities for select community partners – Create exclusive opportunities for select groups and report on their collective impact. 
  • Schedule available volunteers or send email invites for recruitment – Schedule from your pool of volunteers based on their availability, or send an invite to your volunteers to specific opportunities.
  • Match volunteers up based on skills and interests – Engage volunteers by recommending volunteer opportunities based on their skills and passions. During the registration process, volunteers will self-select their interests, and the system will automatically recommend volunteer opportunities
  • Pre-qualify volunteers – A drawn-out onboarding process can discourage eager volunteers. During registration, the system should enable volunteers to quickly upload required qualifying documentation (like drivers licenses or certifications) to their platform profile. You can rest assured you’ve recruited the right volunteers without losing their interest.

FREE DEMO: See how volunteer management software can help you recruit and retain more volunteers. Get Connected can help you save time, grow your program, and make an impact!

Get Free Demo


Other Great Tools

There are plenty of recruitment resources and tools available for recruiting volunteers online. Try these for the ultimate three-pronged approach: 

Job Platforms Like LinkedIn

Job sites are your secret to finding professional-level volunteers. Post volunteer opportunities and events to your organization’s LinkedIn profile. Don’t forget to link to your volunteer opportunities page and include a call to action!

Social Media

We get a lot of inquiries about how to recruit volunteers on social media. Social media can be an effective and inexpensive addition to your recruitment tool kit.  

Feature a seasonal campaign or a monthly spotlight highlighting your top volunteers. A creative call to action and inviting photos will encourage prospects to get involved. 

Direct Mail Platform

Direct mail is a powerful way to grab the attention of prospective volunteers, and working with a direct mail platform (like GivingMail!) can drastically simplify the entire process. All you’ll need to do is upload a customizable letter template along with your contact list for volunteers and other supporters, and the direct mail company will print, stuff, and send your letters for you.

Visit our blog for more ideas to boost your organization’s social media presence.

         This section will help you develop your volunteer recruitment strategy.

Developing Your Volunteer Recruitment Strategy 

Once you’ve crafted your organization’s recruitment message and determined the tools you’ll need, you’re ready to piece together your volunteer recruitment strategy. 

How can I improve my volunteer recruitment?

Your volunteer recruitment strategy should involve thoughtful outreach with the goal of forming a network of community partnerships. Community partnerships are efficient for both parties, and this network can be critical to an organization’s overall success.

Below are a few of the best methods of recruiting volunteers: 

Word of Mouth Referrals

Encourage your current volunteers to recruit others in the community through word of mouth. 

Here are some ideas to optimize word of mouth referrals: 

  • At the end of each service opportunity, communicate your volunteers’ impact. Sharing impact will empower volunteers to share their positive experiences with others. 
  • Prospects are more likely to trust a recommendation from friends, so why not host a “bring a friend” day? 
  • Include opportunities that promote volunteering as a family. Volunteering together can be fun and improves your volunteers’ experience (and may increase the chance that they’ll volunteer again)!

Cultivate a Corporate Partnership

With the rise of corporate social responsibility to increase a corporation’s bottom-line, more companies are choosing to establish employee volunteer programs. Businesses use volunteerism to increase profits, bolster employee retention, and improve internal leadership development. 

Cultivating corporate partnerships with forward-thinking businesses can provide a platform for recruiting skilled volunteers.

Want to learn more? Read our guide about developing successful corporate partnerships

Establish a School Partnership

Increasingly, school campuses are embracing volunteerism to support academic curriculum. As a result, schools and local nonprofits are partnering to forge enriching service-learning programs

Consider Other Community Partnerships

Think about where people gather. Look for other groups interested in your cause, and work to establish an ongoing relationship with these communities. Encourage members to volunteer in teams; they’ll have lots of fun, and you’ll recruit more volunteers! 

Not sure where to start? Reach out to these community groups:

  • Faith-based organizations 
  • Community fitness centers
  • Local book clubs
  • Sports teams
  • Public libraries
  • Scout troops and extracurricular societies

Just Ask

Sometimes the best volunteer recruitment strategies are the simplest. Reach out to those who are already engaged with your cause and ask them to volunteer (they may just be waiting for the opportunity to help): 

  • Social media followers
  • Newsletter subscribers
  • Monthly donors
  • Past donors  
  • Your volunteers’ friends and families

Include calls to action in your regular correspondence to recruit these volunteers.

If you use these practical approaches to volunteer recruitment, you won’t just attract new volunteers; you’ll also strengthen your organization’s image in your community, create awareness about your mission, and save resources. 

          This will walk you through tips for retaining your volunteer recruits.

Volunteer Retention: How to Keep Your Recruits

Research shows that the organizations that adopted best practices to increase volunteer satisfaction have the highest retention rates

What’s the difference between volunteer recruitment and volunteer retention?

Typically, the primary goal of volunteer recruitment is to grow your volunteer base to impact your community. The purpose of volunteer retention helps keep your volunteers around and reduce future recruitment efforts. To maintain a healthy volunteer program, you should strive to boost volunteer retention. 

How do you attract and retain volunteers? 

Attracting and retaining volunteers is all about providing a meaningful and personalized experience. Volunteers should feel prepared for their work and appreciated for their commitment. 

Here are a few ways you can strengthen your volunteer program with the volunteers you already have:

Implementing Orientation and Training

Thoughtful volunteer orientation and volunteer training ensure your recruitment efforts don’t go to waste. 

Volunteer Orientation

The volunteer orientation’s primary purpose is to provide an overview of your organization’s mission and expectations. Additionally, an effective orientation serves to:

  • Welcome new volunteers
  • Acquaint volunteers with your organization’s mission
  • Outline role expectations, responsibilities, and tasks

A well-planned volunteer orientation can improve volunteer retention by fostering a sense of enthusiasm in your volunteer right from the start. If you cultivate the motivation and excitement in a volunteer, you will reaffirm their decision to volunteer for you. 

Volunteer orientation is a critical step in retaining volunteers and turning them into potential donors in the future.

Volunteer Training

The purpose of volunteer training is to help volunteers fulfill their volunteer roles successfully, confidently, and independently. 

Fundamentally, volunteer training should provide volunteers with the knowledge and resources to complete tasks effectively. Additionally, your volunteer training should:

  • Outline role expectations, responsibilities, and tasks
  • Establish volunteer objectives
  • Acquaint volunteers with tools and procedures they’ll encounter on the job
  • Assess any knowledge and skills gaps, then work to fill these gaps
  • Create a framework for further evaluation

Organizations that take the time to implement engaging volunteer training are more likely to enjoy increased volunteer retention and engagement. 

Matching Volunteers by Their Skills and Interests

Volunteers are more engaged when they feel they’re genuinely making an impact and contributing their skills

Volunteer management software can help organizations match volunteers with the right opportunities automatically. Using your volunteer matching tools, you can leverage volunteer data to pair people with the right opportunities. 

An automated system will consider significant volunteer data like favorite organizations and causes, qualifications, and skills to provide informed opportunity suggestions.  

Other considerations for volunteer matching:

If you don’t have access to software, there are still some steps you can take to pair volunteers with your opportunities: 

  • Ensure your volunteers are qualified for the job by gathering the necessary information during the volunteer registration process. Information includes the volunteer’s full name, date of birth, contact information, and appropriate documentation (i.e., driver’s license, license to practice, and signed liability waivers). 
  • Make room for all kinds of volunteers! Offer a variety of opportunities suitable for different ages, interests, and abilities.
  • Accommodate both individuals and teams. Often volunteers will do so in groups. Make volunteering group-friendly when you can. 

Recognizing Volunteers 

While you should strive to find volunteers who just want to help others, it is essential to show your appreciation. Recognizing your volunteers for their time and efforts is key to better volunteer retention. Volunteers are more likely to become lifelong supporters of your cause when they feel appreciated. 

To recognize your volunteers, make sure you’re effectively logging volunteer hours and storing them in an accessible place. Then, thank your volunteers using some of these common approaches to volunteer appreciation:

How to Thank Volunteers:

  • Send a thank-you email or letter.
  • Share photos from a recent event.
  • Recognize participation benchmarks with awards or gifts.
  • Highlight a “volunteer of the month” on social media.
  • Host a volunteer banquet.
  • Encourage handmade cards, letters, and stories of impact from community members.
  • Provide leadership opportunities (i.e., leading orientation or hosting events).
  • Offer career training and personal development.

Showing appreciation and recognition goes a long way toward supporting a welcoming environment where volunteers regularly enjoy participating. 

We have lots more ideas for thanking your volunteers

These volunteer recruitment strategies can help you boost your volunteer program and increase your impact on your community. Once you’ve mastered these strategies, you’ll enjoy a healthy, engaged volunteer base that genuinely cares about your cause.

FREE DOWNLOAD: The Volunteer Manager’s Guide to Volunteer Acquisition [eBook]

Author: Addison Waters