Volunteers are the backbone of most nonprofit organizations. They provide the manpower to accomplish your mission (for free!), and are nearly 75% more likely to donate financially to your organization than community members who don’t volunteer.
But where do you find these benevolent go-getters? And how do you convince them to donate their time to your organization?
#1: Do your prep work
In order to set your volunteer recruitment efforts up for success, you need to do your homework beforehand. As enthusiastic as volunteers may be, if they donate their time to a nonprofit that feels disorganized or ineffective, you’ll likely never see them again.
So what does this preparation entail?
A) Provide specific volunteer job descriptions.
It’s your job to figure out exactly what you need help with before you go looking for volunteers. Are certain projects falling behind? Do you need manual labor? Admin? Staffing for outreach events?
After you’ve identified where volunteers can make a difference, take the time to write detailed descriptions for each of the roles you need filled. A volunteer is likely to be unsatisfied with their experience if they aren’t a good fit for their role, so be thorough!
If you require a specific skill set, include it in the role’s description. Have the time to teach that skill to someone? Say so! You don’t want to inadvertently make great candidates count themselves out.
B) Create a smooth onboarding process.
Don’t make your volunteers work to figure out what they need to be doing. That’s your job (and should be much easier once you’ve written those job descriptions).
Handbooks, online training videos, and in-person information sessions can be helpful tools for this step. Once finished with the onboarding process, new volunteers should have a clear understanding of:
- Expectations and tasks for their role
- The nonprofit’s mission
- Who to contact if they need any help
- Opportunities to connect with staff and experienced volunteers
A messy onboarding process creates unnecessary stress for everyone. Before you ask a single person to volunteer their time with your nonprofit, get your ducks in a row. You’ll be glad you did!
#2: Just ask!
As in life, the squeaky wheel gets the grease—and the nonprofit with an effective outreach strategy snags the volunteers! The most important thing is to simply start asking, but you can also try the tips and tricks below.
A) Reach out to local businesses and schools.
Businesses are often looking to boost their reputation in the community by giving to local nonprofits. Some businesses even offer VTO, or Volunteer Time Off. Consider searching for companies that offer this benefit—since employees will be paid to help your organization, it’s a win-win for everyone.
Young and enthusiastic students are also a fantastic pool to reach out to. Some high schools require service hours to graduate, while local colleges may be willing to offer internships for students who volunteer with your nonprofit.
It’s smart to inquire with the guidance counselor or student services department about how to build a connection with your local schools.
B) Post on national websites.
Utilize volunteer matching websites to connect with people looking for service opportunities! Since these volunteers are actively searching for nonprofits to partner with, you don’t have to spend any time convincing them to donate their work.
C) Contact current and former volunteers.
Nothing can replace word-of-mouth recruitment. Ask current staff and volunteers to spread the word to their friends and family. People are more apt to join an organization if they know and love someone who believes in it!
Volunteers step away from an organization for all sorts of reasons. Life may have gotten in the way, or they could have been unhappy with their experience. Either way, it’s worth reaching out to former volunteers to ask for feedback. You just might end up fixing something you didn’t even know was broken!
#3: Host events for prospective volunteers.
Information sessions appeal to people who want to dip their toes in before signing up to volunteer for a particular organization.
If you plan on conducting your sessions in-person, consider hosting a few of them online to improve your reach. You might even try recording and posting your latest online information sessions to your organization’s website.
Think of each information session as a mini-onboarding process. Prospective volunteers should leave with a clear idea of your mission, training procedures, and upcoming opportunities. If it’s in your budget, also leave them with a little swag bag! (Who doesn’t love a free T-shirt?) You’ll be showing your appreciation for their interest while increasing brand awareness in the community.
#4: Offer flexibility.
A successful volunteer program is one that offers different levels of commitment. It’s important to welcome any community members who want to help, whether they have 30 minutes or 30 hours to spare. You’ll increase visibility in your community, expand your social network, and build awareness about your mission.
Micro volunteering consists of small tasks that can be done by anyone in the community. These tasks should be easily achievable in 30 minutes or less. This style of volunteering offers people the ability to do good without any long-term commitment to an organization.
If you decide to take on micro volunteers, make their experience a positive one! Even though you won’t be taking them through a comprehensive onboarding, provide your volunteers with the information they need to feel confident with their task. You don’t want them to feel lost or confused.
A prospective volunteer with a full-time job and other responsibilities may find the commute to a volunteering session daunting. That doesn’t mean they can’t offer their talents online! Fundraising, data entry, and social media management can all be done from a volunteer’s phone or computer.
Recruit a team you can trust.
The work doesn’t end after you’ve enlisted your volunteers! Stay tuned for our blog post next week on retaining and managing those volunteers.
And while volunteers may be the backbone of your organization, the heart of your success lies in the smart management of your nonprofit finances. Contact KYN today to see how your nonprofit can flourish with a team of trusted financial experts at your back.