The old saying is true – “Many hands make light work.”
Volunteers can be a huge asset to your nonprofit, donating hundreds or thousands of hours of work each year to your cause.
When your nonprofit is new or young, it can be tricky to find great volunteers and plug them in to a role they enjoy.
It’s tricky, but it can be done.
Volunteers can help with all types of work in your organization. Here are 4 tips for finding great volunteers who can provide extra hands and help you fulfill your nonprofit’s mission.
1. Ask! While this one may seem obvious, sometimes we get so wrapped up in the day-to-day that we forget to let people know we need help.
- Website – Post available volunteer positions on your website, just like you would an employment job opportunity. If people hear you’re looking for volunteers, your website will likely be the first place they go to for information and additional details. Be sure they can find it easily! Have a page dedicated to “Volunteer Openings” with a short description of the job to be done and next steps for those interested.
- Service-Based Sources – Apps like VolunteerMatch and local volunteer resource agencies like HandsOn Network affiliates allow nonprofits to post volunteer positions on their platforms. These technologies also provide mobile, accessible ways for individuals to search for and browse volunteer opportunities in their area.
- Social Media – While this is a great tool for highlighting volunteers and the difference they make at your nonprofit and in the community, you can also use social media to advertise your need for volunteers. And because people who are following you are already your fans, finding passionate people to help out at your nonprofit may be easier than you think! Plus, asking your followers to share these posts opens you up to an entirely new set of prospective volunteers – their friends and family.
- Newsletters – Issue a call-to-action to volunteer and list the volunteer positions you need to fill in your newsletter. Be super clear about how they need to apply – maybe drive them to your website to fill out an application. Otherwise, you might have random people showing up on your doorstep ready to volunteer without you being ready for them!
- Media – Pitch stories to local newspapers and news channels about the impact volunteers make at your nonprofit and include that you’re looking for volunteers. Some recognizable days of service are National Volunteer Week, Global Youth Service Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, and September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance. Your community may also celebrate its own volunteer days, so check those out too.
- Word-of-Mouth – Sometimes, you have to step away from technology and get face-to-face with folks. Chat with your current volunteers and encourage them to invite their friends to volunteer. Get in front of civic groups, service clubs, and faith organizations and talk to them about volunteering. And don’t forget volunteer fairs and other community events! These can be great opportunities to meet new people who are searching for volunteer positions that are a perfect match for their interests.
Be strategic when deciding where best to find the most suitable volunteers for your nonprofit’s needs. If you’re looking for 100 volunteers to help at a one-day event, for instance, use outlets that reach a large audience like social media and your local news channel. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a single volunteer who can teach financial empowerment workshops a couple of times a month, searching within your banking networks may turn up leads that easily help you identify an ideal candidate.
2. Communicate Specific Jobs (and Skills) Needed. Finding volunteers is a lot like recruiting employees.
There are key things individuals interested in volunteering want to know before they sign up. Most of this can be made readily available to them in ‘volunteer position descriptions,’ which you’ll want to create once you know what specific help you need from volunteers within your nonprofit.
- The types of activities volunteers will be completing.
- Expectations and desired result of activities.
- The amount of time they are committing to (i.e. hours and frequency – 9am to 11am, 2 days a week, 2 weeks a month).
- The skills you need them to possess.
- Requirement and restrictions, like background checks, age limits, and waivers to be signed.
All of these are key things interested individuals will look for when they are considering volunteer opportunities, so sharing this information ahead of time with prospective volunteers is important to attracting the right person.
3. Focus on THEM. Sure, your nonprofit needs help…but that’s probably not the most compelling reason for people to want to volunteer with you. So instead of making the theme of your recruitment about your nonprofit’s needs,help prospective volunteers see what they’re going to get out of their volunteer experience with you and what they will gain by it.
Focus on things like:
- Engaging in fun, meaningful experiences.
- Making a difference in the community.
- Meeting new people.
- Helping others in need by using skills and talents.
- Supporting something they believe in.
Giving each volunteer position description a title and stating that they’ll be astrategic part of your team or staff goes a long way, too.
You can also tell them about the perks they’ll receive by volunteering with your organization (if you choose to offer these things), like:
- Tickets or free entry to events
- Stuff we all get (commonly referred to as S.W.A.G.) – branded t-shirts, mugs, koozies, etc.
- Public recognition in social media and newsletters
- An annual volunteer appreciation party
All of these benefits and perks can be included in the position description or in online position postings, so don’t forget to include them!
4. Provide Good Customer Service. Think about the last time you signed up to volunteer with an organization. Was it easy and user-friendly? Were the instructions clear? Were the communications you received informative and friendly?
Be sure people signing up to volunteer with your nonprofit have a positive experience because this will help shape their initial impression of you…and they’ll probably tell their friends and family about it.
Here are some tips:
- Offer a hassle-free application process.
- Provide clear instructions about completing the application.
- Be sure hyperlinks work, if you’re directing people away from a social media post or online page.
- Capture enough information in the application to help you screen candidates – especially if you’re seeking to fill a special position.
- Let prospective volunteers know when they can expect to hear from someone – and if that’ll be by phone or email.
- Assign one person within your nonprofit as the point-of-contact, if prospective volunteers have questions.
- Be kind and understanding when communicating with them. After all, they probably have a million and a half questions and are excited to get started!
- Match their interests with your needs.
Of course, once you find great volunteers, you probably want to keep them! So be sure you have plans in place for leading your volunteers through fun, meaningful experiences and thanking their socks off for their time and energy and service to your nonprofit’s mission.
Want more help finding and recruiting volunteers? Our next Project SmartSprout webinar goes into detail about volunteer recruitment and retention. We’ll be sharing samples and examples you can use right away. Learn more and sign up at www.ProjectSmartSprout.com.