Find and Recruit Volunteers for the Job

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To find and recruit volunteers (and skilled ones at that) takes a significant investment of time and effort—so once you acquire that fantastic volunteer, foster a culture of engagement and appreciation to keep that volunteer for life.

You know what needs doing at your nonprofit organization, but how do you find the right volunteer for the job? And how do you make volunteering appealing enough to woo them? Before you start to recruit volunteers, walk through these five steps to identify exactly which skill-set you need—then use a targeted approach to recruit the people who have it:

1. Identify which volunteer positions need filling within the organization

What are the requirements of those positions in terms of time commitment and scheduling? What skills would a volunteer need to have to be successful in this job?

Warm bodies: Some volunteer positions require specific skills, while others can be filled simply with “warm bodies.” Generally, you can recruit warm bodies through a broad call for volunteers, whereas more skilled volunteer positions require a targeted approach (such as LinkedIn for Volunteers).

2. Target your approach

Who has the skills that you need, and where do you find those people? Brainstorm which sectors or professions require the same skills that you’re seeking, then use that to guide and target your outreach to them. Then, once you’ve located your potential volunteers, how do you woo them? Use your existing circles to locate volunteers—other employment, friends and family, and organizations you’re also a part of, such as a church or another nonprofit. Try VolunteerMatch.

3. Ask lots of questions

Find out what they’re hoping to get out of volunteering. What motivates them? What kind of work would they like to be doing? For some volunteers, experience in a particular field is a big draw. For others, it’s satisfaction. A volunteer could even simply want to use their specific skill set in a new, creative way outside of work.

How much of a time commitment they expect, and what sort of schedule flexibility they need? Volunteers are afraid of getting sucked in and being asked for more and more time, so come up with a concrete schedule that will not change without their say-so, and be flexible with when they can give their time.

Find out what they want and tailor your relationship to that. Each volunteer is unique in what they have to offer and what they’re there to get. Sometimes, a simple ‘internship’ or ‘consultant’ title added to a volunteer position is what someone is looking for to establish their participation and translate it to their portfolio or resume. Example: SVP’s Rising Leaders Program.

4. Woo them!

Make volunteering appealing, but be honest about the work volunteers will be doing and your expectations of them. Communicate clearly the need your organization has for volunteers, and how critical they are to your mission.

Portland Leve Volunteers
Leve in Portland embodies the “cool” factor by recruiting young female professionals as volunteers and hosting fun gatherings where the girls can network as well.

Case studies: Volunteers want to make a difference! Show them photos or video of a previous volunteer activity that had a big impact to help inspire them. Focus on your cause, not your organization.

5. Actually ask!

The term “volunteer” is somewhat deceptive—most volunteers don’t volunteer on their own, but must be approached and courted. General calls don’t usually yield a lot of volunteer sign-ups. No one will volunteer unless you come right out and ask for it, so go to your targets and make the ask directly!

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