Ways to Recruit Volunteers for Nonprofits: 4 Essential Tips

Published on December 26, 2018

In the war to improve the world, if the conflict that you want to overcome is the enemy, then your infantry, cavalry, and artillery are definitely your volunteers!

Whether your nonprofit is a global and well-established one or a fledgling organization concentrated in a tiny neighborhood, you simply cannot achieve your goals without the help of volunteers. They are the army battling it out on the front lines for a cause that they, and you, passionately believe in. Whether it’s to spread the word about your mission or to raise funds, volunteers contribute their time and effort.

Which makes it necessary for nonprofits to recruit as many of them as possible. While this may sound easy on the surface, nonprofits make several mistakes when it comes to recruitment, without even realizing what they are. In this article, I’ll give you some simple ways to recruit volunteers for your nonprofit, so that you’re able to fulfill your mission in the long run.

Decide the Type of Your Recruiting

Depending upon what your nonprofit is aiming to achieve, the way in which you recruit a volunteer will certainly vary. Recruiting someone for a solitary one-time project will be different from recruiting a volunteer who will work with you for an extended period of time.

There are three ways of recruiting volunteers, based on this essential volunteer management document by Rick Lynch and Steve McCurley.

The first method is the “Warm Body Recruitment” wherein you’re either looking to recruit several volunteers for a brief period or if their assigned tasks would be simple which require minimal training. To recruit volunteers through this method, you’d typically distribute brochures or posters, communicate with them through word-of-mouth, or put out ads in weekly periodicals and newspapers.

The second method is the “Targeted Recruitment” where you’re only targeting a small group of people since the work you’re recruiting for requires some expertise. You’ll have to address these questions before you proceed: What do we need and who could provide it? What would motivate our target audience and how do we communicate with them?

The last method is the “Concentric Circles Recruitment” which is reaching out to and recruiting the people who are already in contact with your nonprofit such as your clients and their acquaintances, people in your neighborhood or community, or the people affected by the problem you’re addressing. This method is really helpful for volunteer recruitment since these people are already aware of your organization and hence would be more easily persuaded to contribute.

Once you’re sure of the type of recruiting you’re going for, it’ll be easier to streamline the accompanying steps.

Prepare a Strong Message and Be Transparent

Since the message that you use while recruiting is the first touchpoint you’ll have with potential volunteers, you should use storytelling to make your message eye-catching and noteworthy. First impressions do matter, after all. Make sure that your message is compelling and gives people a clear reason as to why your nonprofit and cause merits their time and effort.

It certainly helps if you’re specific, too. Instead of saying ‘We’re currently hiring volunteers’, post messages like ‘Volunteers required for teaching positions at government aided schools!’—and accompanying this, specifically, mention the skills volunteers would need and what their responsibilities would be. With this kind of transparent messaging, prospective volunteers are sure of what they are expected to do without there being any unnecessary misinterpretations.

Also, focus on the need of the community or cause as opposed to that of your organization. Instead of saying ‘Our Nonprofit needs you’, say ‘{insert cause} requires you to step up and play your part!’. A subtle change of phrasing can be crucial to your recruitment efforts.

Whether you’re using peer-to-peer or mass texting, sending emails, making phone calls, or recruiting people via social media, make sure your message really stands out and is clear to make the impact you’re looking for.

Habitat for Humanity does a great job with their volunteer recruitment messaging where they clearly outline how volunteers can help families and communities rebuild their lives. The video included on this page also defines how volunteers would be helping i.e. by building homes and shelters. Apart from this, they’ve included different ways in which they can contribute ensuring that recruitment accounts for different volunteer preferences.

Recruiting Volunteers for Nonprofits_Habitat for Humanity Screenshot1

Recruiting Volunteers for Nonprofits_Habitat for Humanity Screenshot2

Remove any Barriers that May be Present

When you want to recruit volunteers, you should make the signup process as smooth as possible so that a trivial issue like people being unable to locate signup forms on your site doesn’t deter them from joining and making a difference. Ensure that your nonprofit website gives visitors clear directions on the steps they need to complete in order to become a volunteer.

Some common and totally avoidable problems would be:

  • Asking for too much information initially: The first ask that you make i.e. volunteer information should be restricted only to that which is necessary such as their email id or phone number. You can always get more information from them later on.
  • Having a slow website: In today’s impatient world, even a few seconds of delay in the loading of your webpage can cause people to wander away. Get your IT team to fix it or do it yourself.
  • Confusing site architecture: People want to get from A to B in the least amount of clicks. Make sure that people coming to your site immediately know which button they have to click to volunteer, with a linear flow in navigation.
  • Not segmenting your contacts: This concerns the people who’ve already indicated their interest to volunteer. If a person wants to volunteer for Project A but you contact them with details regarding Project B, they’re going to be put off. Use a CRM database to segment contacts appropriately and then reach out to them. CallHub integrates with a bunch of CRM’s so that your calls and texts reach the right person.

You can even use a software to facilitate volunteer recruitment. If you’re running a phone banking or text messaging campaign, we let you create a simple web form which directly adds volunteers who’ve recently signed up to a live campaign in no time!

The main keyword here is being accessible to your potential volunteers so that your recruitment happens easily.

Give People Different Options

Not everyone has the same preferences when it comes to volunteering. While some want to volunteer on a full-time basis, others would only want to volunteer on weekends. As a nonprofit, you should aim to make room for as many people as possible so that you don’t miss out on anyone.

Give people different ways of getting involved in your work based on the level of commitment required. Give those interested in full-time work the option to organize a rally or an event, while people interested in part-time could be assigned with the task of calling or texting people to attend that rally/event, a task they can even do sitting at home.

Make it clear on your website and social media accounts that you offer different volunteering opportunities based on different commitment levels so that people understand they can contribute in different ways. This will make recruiting much easier.

Volunteer recruitment is the first step towards making a difference. Use these different ways to recruit volunteers and collectively achieve your goals.