Just as in fundraising, effective volunteer recruitment means you need to get out there and communicate with your supporters.
But you already know that.
What you might not be sure of are the best methods to engage your supporters. Your chosen volunteer recruitment channel needs to let you reach the people you want to reach and also convince them that volunteering for you is worth their time.
Before we look at potential ways you can recruit volunteers, let’s understand a volunteer’s motivations for volunteering and how that can inform the message you communicate across various channels.
Why do people volunteer?
What is the most exciting proposition that you can offer a volunteer?
The obvious answer is the chance to make a difference, both in their own lives and in the lives of others. Some other answers include:
- A chance to expand their professional network
- Leadership experience
- The opportunity for recognition
- Growing their personal brand
Survey your past and existing volunteers to find out why they volunteered and what they gained from their experience with your organization. You can even use those surveys to create volunteer testimonials for further social proof.
In addition to highlighting what potential volunteers will gain for volunteering, your messaging should also tell them how much time and effort you expect from them, what they can expect to do as a volunteer, and the desired impact from their efforts and your project overall.
Not all prospective volunteers are comfortable with the long working hours that working for a charity or any other type of nonprofit implies. Making everything clear in your communications before they sign the dotted line will help you avoid future complications.
Once you have your message, customize it for the various volunteer recruitment channels you plan to send it through.
Here’s a quick rundown of the volunteer recruitment methods we look at in detail further on:
- Volunteer recruitment websites
- Social media
- Digital Ads
- Flyers and posters
Volunteer recruitment methods and tools
Let’s assume you know how many volunteers you need, and you know in what capacity you need them. All that’s left for you to do is to initiate conversations with potential volunteers and let them know that you need their help. Here are the main methods you can use to attract volunteers:
Instant, mass communication is always an attractive proposition. And that’s exactly what email lets you do.
Take advantage of email for volunteer recruitment If you have a list of supporters from which you want to attract volunteers.
Email offers you the flexibility of opting for a plain text email or trying to grab your supporters attention with a colorful HTML email. However you decide to go about it, what matters most is the message you convey to supporters.
One thing that could attract volunteers is the inclusion of testimonies by other volunteers in your email. That gives your email an extra level of credibility in the eyes of your supporters.
Here’s an example of an effective volunteer recruitment email from the American Marketing Association, that takes full advantage of the medium:
Not only have they included their organization’s branding, they have also included multiple calls to action in the text, which all lead to their volunteer recruitment page. That means there are plenty of opportunities for reads to click the link and volunteer.
If you think a more formal approach might work for your volunteers, go old-school with direct mail. It’s more effort compared to email, but it can come off as a more sincere appeal, especially for older folks.
Volunteer recruitment websites
Once you’ve sent emails to all your subscribers, you might want to turn to the world wide web for help.
Websites like VolunteerMatch and Idealist let you connect with volunteers across the globe.
You don’t need to do much. Just create a volunteer opportunity for your organization on your platform of choice and wait for volunteers to come to you.
Here are some sites to look at:
Idealist asks for a fee to post-paid job opportunities, but posting volunteer opportunities is completely free. All you need to do is sign up on their platform to start posting.
With 2 million site visits per month, Idealist is a worthy platform to supplement your list of volunteer recruitment tools.
Create the Good is a free platform for organizations to post their volunteer opportunities. Nonprofits—large and small— can post opportunities for their volunteer recruitment.
Create the Good has over 200,000 people in their network.
VolunteerMatch is a popular volunteer recruitment tool, with over 100,000 nonprofits registered on their platform. Their platform allows volunteers to get specific with their search, letting them filter by cause and city. You can opt for the free version of VolunteerMatch, or the premium package for access to analytics, surveys, and some other nifty features.
An online volunteer platform offered by Points of Light, All for Good pulls in volunteer opportunities from around the web, making it a comprehensive place for volunteers to find opportunities. You can connect your organization to the platform to manage volunteer sign-ups.
Since posting volunteer opportunities is a passive form of volunteer recruitment, use it to supplement your main recruitment efforts.
If you feel like you aren’t getting the engagement you expected from your supporters with your solicitations, text messaging is your solution.
Here are four fast facts that make texting a great candidate for your volunteer recruitment campaigns:
- A text message is instant. Solicit volunteers for a time-sensitive event in no time.
- You don’t need access to an internet connection to send or receive a text. You can reach supporters wherever they are.
- The average open for a text message is 98%.
- Text messages have a better engagement rate than most other modes of communication, e.g., emails.
You have the option of choosing between a broadcast and a peer to peer text message campaign to reach out to supporters.
With a peer to peer texting campaign, your staff and existing volunteers can reach out to supporters with personal appeals to help your organization.
By having one-to-one, personal conversations, you can better engage your potential volunteers and convince them to contribute their time to your organization. Here’s an example of a volunteer recruitment message you could send:
A broadcast SMS campaign, much like email, lets you send a message to all your supporters at once. Unlike email however, your message is much more likely to be read, making it a perfect communication method for your time-sensitive volunteer needs. You can even use it to send your volunteers a message after an event:
To make it easy to keep track of your communications with prospective volunteers and keep them engaged, use a platform like CallHub. CallHub was built with the needs of nonprofits in mind.
Social media for volunteer recruitment
Over 72% of US adults are on social media in 2019. So it makes sense to make it a part of your volunteer recruitment efforts.
If you already have social media followers, it can be an inexpensive way to supplement your existing volunteer recruitment activities. If you don’t, paid ads on social platforms like Linkedin and Facebook can put your volunteering opportunities in front of the people you want to reach.
Like most other communication channels, you will need to lay out a strategy to get the most out of social media. Be sure to conduct research and identify the population of people you want to reach out to, since different demographics tend to use different social platforms.
Social media best practices
Here are some things you can to optimize social media as a volunteer recruitment method:
- Be conversational. The usual formula of sending out an update and crossing your fingers is a waste of the potential this channel has. Engage your supporters in back and forth dialogue by responding to them in your posts and answering questions.
- Make real-time posts. A social post in the middle of an event gives your existing volunteers a chance to share their experiences and show your supporters what they’re missing out on.
- Use tags and mentions. Tagging followers when replying to them alerts them about your reply and keeps the conversation going.
- Create engagement outlets. Facebook groups and Twitter hashtags give supporters a way to continue the conversation and let you monitor the impact of your volunteer recruitment campaigns on social media.
Creative content with plenty of links to your volunteer page will encourage your followers to get involved with your charity. Here’s a post from Pinterest from San Antonio Food Bank that gives supporters all the information they need:
Ads for volunteer recruitment
Nonprofits that are tight on funds might skip digital ads as an option when it comes to volunteers recruitment.
Here’s why you shouldn’t:
Google’s Ad grants initiative gives registered nonprofits $10,000 in in-kind advertising. For small to mid-sized organizations, that is a lot of value, for free, that you can direct towards volunteer recruitment. Learn more about Google grants here.
Ads are a great way of catching the attention of potential volunteers that are looking for opportunities online. Much like anyone else looking for something on the web, they use a search engine (Google, most likely).
Here how you can target potential volunteers through ads:
First, set up a new ad campaign. Give it a name like “Event Volunteer Recruitment” to make it clear what the campaign is for. You have the option to pause a campaign, meaning you can stop running it whenever you aren’t actively looking for volunteers.
Set the geographic areas where you want the campaign to run. If your organization works in a locality and the volunteer opportunity you are offering is not remote, then it makes sense to only show your ads to the people in that area and save precious advertising dollars.
Set up Ad groups. The three main ways that potential volunteers search for volunteering opportunities are: Searching for opportunities in their area, searching for opportunities based on they cause they want to support, and searching based on the volunteer work they want to do. Use ad groups to serve each kind of search and keep track of your ads.
Target the right keywords. You have to option to go broad or narrow in the selection of your keywords. A broad keyword would be something like “Volunteer opportunities in New Jersey.” A narrower keyword would be more specific to your cause (meaning less traffic, but more intent), like “Volunteering with children.” Try out both approaches and see what works best for your organization.
Finally, your ads need to lead to a landing page built for volunteers. Include visual elements, and stories and testimonials from your volunteers to seal the deal.
Here’s a sample volunteer ad targeted towards a narrower keyword:
Flyers and posters for volunteer recruitment
Posters have been the tried and tested way to recruit volunteers for ages. Volunteer recruitment posters have lead to some of the most iconic images in popular culture, such as the one below, encouraging young men to join the US army during the 1st World War.
If you are a local charity looking for volunteers, then strategically placing posters and distributing flyers might be the way to go.
Here are some things to take note of when creating your recruitment poster or leaflet:
- Introduce your organization
- Talk about the opportunity
- Find the balance between colorful and professional
- Most importantly, provide contact information – email address, phone number, website, etc.
This poster by OPAL Services is an example of a good volunteer recruitment poster that has everything a prospective volunteer would need to make a decision.
If you opt for a volunteer recruitment brochure, you can go more in-depth into the work that your volunteer will be expected to do and include volunteer testimonials, like in this brochure from CASA:
The methods you use to recruit volunteers for your organization obviously need to be informed by your organization’s needs:
- If you have a list of supporters that are subscribed to your communications, direct channels like email, direct mail and SMS, or social media platforms are the way to go.
- If you want to attract civic-minded people that aren’t aware of your nonprofit, setup digital ads to target those prospects who search for volunteer opportunities and create postings on volunteer websites.
- Or, If you are a local nonprofit looking for volunteers, create and distribute material like posters, flyers, and brochures.
Have a volunteer recruitment method that worked for you that you want people to know about? Drop a note below.