Recruiting Volunteers to Help Your Nonprofit Organization
According to the Corporation for National Community Service, just over a quarter (25.3%) of Americans volunteer. That’s 62.8 million volunteers! On average, each person volunteers 32.1 volunteer hours per person, per year, which comes to 7.9 billion hours of service, the equivalent of $184 billion.
Religious activities are the most popular volunteer activity, accounting for 34% of all volunteer hours. Twenty-six percent of volunteer hours support education and 15% aid social services. Health related fields get 8% with civic duty, sports and the arts getting the remainder of hours donated.
Volunteers can assist your clients and staff, while amplifying your nonprofit organization’s programs and services. Here are a few tips to help you recruit volunteers:
Tip #1: Ask. People like to be asked to volunteer. Ask in person at community events, outreach activities, and open houses. You should also ask for volunteers through your website, social media, or e-newsletter. If you have a volunteer application, background check requirements or a list of volunteer opportunities you are seeking people for, add them to your website under a “Volunteer” section. Always offer a clear call to action
Tip #2: Be specific about your needs. Some people will respond to a general request for volunteers, but it often helps if they can visualize the opportunity available. Saying “we need volunteers” is very different from saying “we need a youth group or community organization to help pack lunches on Saturday for 40 hungry people” or “we need someone to tutor youth in the computer lab after school for two hours a week.”
Tip #3: Use the media to recruit volunteers. Issue a news release inviting people to volunteer . Include quotes from current volunteers about why they volunteer, list possible volunteer roles, and be clear about how someone can sign up. Many newspapers also run brief volunteer opportunities as a column, list, or community section and you can submit yours.
Tip #4: Ask current volunteers to help you recruit additional volunteers. Many people volunteer because they are asked by a friend, so involve your current volunteers in recruitment. Former clients may also be another key group to reach out to because they want to give back to others. Community partners are also a great place to recruit volunteers from.
Tip #5: No may not mean never. Some people will say yes right away when asked to volunteer. Others may need a little more time to get to yes. Don’t be a pest, but do be gently persistent if you think someone could help.
Tip #6: Be able to talk about how a volunteer role impacts your mission – and most importantly, real people. Volunteers need to know that what they are being asked to do – no matter how mundane – serves your organization’s mission and helps people. Help them see how their actions relate to the overall cause.
Tip #7: Use structure to spell out expectations. Job descriptions can help volunteers understand what is expected. Make sure new volunteers are oriented to the task, have the tools needed, and know where and how to ask questions. It’s also important volunteers understand your policies, training requirements, and background check requirements.
Tip #8: Praise your long-term volunteers. Acknowledge your long-term (and short-term) volunteers by providing ongoing recognition. Share photos, short blurbs, or volunteer profiles in your e-newsletter or on your website. Appreciation doesn’t have to be a large or fancy event. It can be as simple as a thank you note for volunteering with a small gift item.
Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, an independent PR practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media engagement, writing services, and creative design for publications and websites (contact to discuss your project, review our portfolio, sign up for our e-newsletter). She blogs about media relations, social media, public relations, and work-family balance. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven