Twenty-one Quick Tips for Recruiting Nonprofit Volunteers (Part 1)

Amanda Luzzader

Twenty-one Quick Tips for Recruiting Nonprofit Volunteers (Part 1)

Many nonprofit organizations would be unable to operate without volunteers. Volunteers not only reduce the operating costs of nonprofits but according to a study by Fidelity Charitable states that volunteers are likely to donate to the nonprofits for whom they work. Importantly, volunteers connect organizations to local communities and groups–they can make the nonprofit organization seem more like a neighbor than a business.

The roles volunteers play in nonprofit organizations vary greatly, but anything from mission-critical staff positions to giving guided museum tours to simply handing out flyers from a booth at the county fair. However, make no mistake–nonprofits value every volunteer who signs up.

Some nonprofits require only a few volunteers while others must recruit and maintain armies of helpers. However, there’s one thing almost all more nonprofit organizations have in common when it comes to volunteers: they’re always looking for more of them.

So, how can nonprofits do a better job of recruiting volunteers? There is no practical end to the tips and strategies, but after reading and evaluating a couple of dozen articles on the topic, here is the first set of seven of the best and most interesting twenty-one tips I found for improving the recruitment of volunteers for nonprofit organizations.

  1. Get your house in order.

This tip comes from the blog of Donorbox, a charitable-donation collection platform. Before asking for volunteers, says Donorbox, have a highly organized and well-thought-out system of onboarding, which clearly describes what will be expected, what training will be given, and what skills are required. This will ensure every volunteer has a job, and every job has a volunteer.

  1. Use your existing volunteers as a recruiting resource.

This tip from Qgiv, another charitable-donation collection platform, suggests that one of the best ways to recruit volunteers is to ask your existing volunteers to recruit volunteers. This may seem intuitive, and you’ve probably already encouraged your volunteers to bring friends. However, this tip goes further than simply assigning your volunteers to ask their friends to come to an upcoming event. It’s more about providing rich and meaningful training to volunteers so that they can explain your organization’s mission, needs, and programs in the same terms and with the same level of expertise that you use to recruit volunteers.

  1. Ask for regular feedback from your volunteers.

This tip from VolunteerHub, a volunteer management platform, would agree with something we’ve discussed frequently here at Pulse For Good–data collection. By having your volunteers provide quantitative and qualitative data after working for your organization, you can pinpoint what is and is not working within your volunteer system. Weeding out bad experiences and replicating good ones will not only help attract new volunteers, it will help strengthen your existing volunteer team.

  1. Use titles and positions.

This tip comes from the blog of TopNonprofits, an organization that provides support and coaching to emerging nonprofits. Assigning a volunteer to a position with its own title, the thinking goes, will help the volunteer feel more like a member of the organization rather than just a “warm body.” Allowing volunteers to take part and manage the events they assist with will likewise allow them to become a part of the organization instead of bystanders.

  1. Focus on benefits for the volunteer rather than just the nonprofit organization.

Be assertive but honest about the benefits that a volunteer will reap, says CauseVox, a fundraising and promotion web application. These benefits might include things like: Making a difference, using their skills and talents for good, meeting others in the community, working for a cause they believe in, and the opportunity of helping others.

  1. Offer training.

This tip, from software company Springly, is another way to help your volunteers feel like part of a team rather than just someone who showed up one morning. Making time to train volunteers, especially if the training is valuable (e.g., CPR, computer skills), will make them feel valued and will give them something in return for their service.

  1. Ask and ask again.

Many organizations and articles include “just ask!” as an important tip. Yes, your organization has a recruitment program, but are you personally reaching out to friends, family, and new acquaintances to see if they might be interested in helping out? Also, remember that “no does not mean ‘never’.” If you’ve asked someone to volunteer and their answer was no, there is nothing wrong with asking again.

This series will continue in part two, with another seven tips, and will conclude in part three with seven more!

Technology by itself doesn’t completely solve this problem. The fear that email will be tracked and IP addresses recorded can keep people inside of the vulnerability gap.

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