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Recruiting for Nonprofits: How to Engage More Volunteers

Here’s a guest post that goes into a playbook to recruit volunteers for non-profits.

Wayne Elsey
Founder and CEO of Elsey Enterprises
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Recruiting volunteers can be a difficult task, but your nonprofit can’t function without them. They provide you with the workforce you need to keep working toward your organization’s goals. So you’ll want to find the best, most connected supporters that you can.

An advertisement for more volunteers

Finding these individuals is difficult enough on its own. Once you finally locate them, you’ll have to convince them to support your cause, which can take a lot of time and effort from your team.

There are numerous recruitment methods available, so it may take some trial-and-error to find what works best for your organization. Once you grab their attention, you’ll need to keep them involved throughout all your nonprofit’s efforts continuously. Start by implementing these best practices:

  1. Create enticing volunteer opportunities.
  2. Implement volunteer management software.
  3. Optimize your online recruitment process.
  4. Show your appreciation for volunteers.

Volunteers are the heart of your organization. Find supporters who will dedicate their time to making your mission possible without hesitation because they feel connected with your cause. Much like businesses, passion is an essential criterion for hiring. These will turn out to be your most dedicated supporters, and they’ll likely stick around if you implement these strategies.

Ready to start engaging the best volunteer prospects? Let’s get started!

Create Enticing Volunteer Opportunities

The best events for volunteers are those that get your whole community involved. Community-based fundraisers allow you to get the word out about your organization. Plus, you’ll get to know your current supporters and possibly recruit several new supporters in the process.

Start with a unique event idea tailored to your community, like a fun run or a gala, and have your current volunteers manage the event. They’ll be able to spread the word about your organization and express how much they enjoy lending a hand to your worthy cause. Also, if you pick an event based on supporters’ suggestions, they’ll be more likely to volunteer for it!

Try coordinating a unique fundraiser with your event to encourage deeper involvement with potential volunteers. For instance, a shoe drive fundraiser gets the whole community engaged and is a change in pace from traditional nonprofit events.

It typically works best with a walkathon or race. But, you can incorporate a shoe drive fundraiser for people to repurpose their running shoes with almost any event you hold. It serves as an excellent opportunity for coming into contact with new volunteer prospects. Here’s how it works:

  1. Contact an organization to facilitate your shoe drive fundraiser. They’ll send you the instructions, paperwork, and tools you need to advertise and host your shoe drive fundraiser.
  2. Recruit your volunteers to help with your event. Set realistic but ambitious goals so that everyone can coordinate their efforts to match.
  3. Ask your event attendees to bring gently worn, used and new shoes. Most people have shoes they don’t wear anymore, and they’ll be glad to clear up some extra space in their houses by donating them to a good cause!
  4. Arrange a pickup time with the facilitating organization. Once they’ve processed the shoes, a check will be mailed to your organization.

Learn what inspires volunteers to serve your organization and incorporate it into your future volunteer opportunities. Remember, not everyone enjoys the same types of events, so offer a diverse set of volunteer opportunities. That way, you’ll appeal to the highest possible number of potential volunteers.

To entice more supporters to get involved with your nonprofit, check out these unique fundraising ideas from Funds2Orgs.

Implement Volunteer Management Software

Volunteer management encompasses every step of the volunteer process, all the way from recruitment to retention. As your organization grows, you’ll likely need software to help you manage these relationships.

As a nonprofit professional, you’re likely familiar with donor databases. These databases can track demographic information about your donors and volunteers. But with volunteer management technology, you also receive so much more insight into who your volunteers are and how to keep them engaged. This software simplifies this process and allows you to do the following:

  • Create volunteer profiles. Each volunteer will have a profile where you can track their engagement history, interests, skills, and so on. You can also attach related documents and notes, so you’ll have all the information you need with just one click.
  • Schedule volunteer opportunities. Create a calendar that you can easily post to your website. That way, it might catch the eye of someone who’s browsing your site who wouldn’t have found out about your volunteer opportunities otherwise.
  • Segment your volunteers. Like with donor databases, you can group supporters into certain categories to find the best volunteers for specific events, like those with the skill sets that you need. You’ll be able to quickly communicate with these segments by creating email lists, too!
  • Automate communication. Instead of having to manually enter email addresses to advertise volunteer opportunities or having to remind volunteers about upcoming shifts, automate your outreach. With this feature, your system will contact these individuals for you!
  • Create volunteer applications. Once you’ve enticed volunteers to sign up to help your nonprofit, they’ll need to fill out a form. With a volunteer management system that offers application templates, you’ll be able to include all the necessary fields so that you gather the information you need.

So much more goes into acquiring and retaining volunteers than you might initially think. Utilize a volunteer management system in your nonprofit’s strategy to ease this process and free up your time to focus on recruitment.

For more tips, visit this volunteer management guide by Double the Donation.

Optimize your Online Recruitment Process

If you want to recruit more volunteers, go to where they are: online! Most people’s first impressions of your nonprofit are online, so make it count. Keep your online recruitment strategy up-to-date by doing the following:

  • Write clear volunteer job descriptions on your website. Your website is where most people will come into contact with your organization, so take the time to craft compelling job descriptions and explain the responsibilities of volunteer opportunities.
  • Optimize your volunteer application. Keep it straightforward so that you effectively capture essential data. Also, include an optional section that invites prospects to check off their skills and interests.
  • Call on volunteers for peer-to-peer fundraisers. By sharing your fundraisers with their networks, your volunteers can promote your nonprofit to people who are highly likely to share the same interests and values as them. There are also dedicated peer-to-peer campaign tools that’ll simplify the fundraising process.
  • Promote your fundraisers and events online. Effective marketing means taking your promotion online. Advertise volunteer opportunities on your social media platforms to reach more potential supporters, and start implementing marketing automation to save time making these announcements.

Keep your website and social media platforms updated so anyone can get a sense of your organization’s mission and how your supporters make it possible. Understand the importance of up-to-date online branding at the same level as corporate businesses. That way, anyone, no matter how unfamiliar they may be with your organization, can understand who you are.

Plus, if your posts are compelling and send a powerful message, your current supporters will share it on their own social media pages. Use your online platforms effectively through proper digital marketing, and new volunteers will start showing up in no time!

Show your Appreciation for Volunteers

Often, volunteers feel as though their efforts go unrecognized, making them feel unappreciated. That’s exactly what you don’t want. Your volunteers will start dropping left and right if you don’t show them some appreciation. Additionally, your current volunteers will likely spread the word to their friends and family if your team shows its gratitude for them.

You should continuously thank your donors. A simple thank you can go a long way. But sometimes, you’ll want to show your appreciation to the world to truly let volunteers know how much they mean to your organization. To express your gratitude, try the following:

  • Throw a volunteer appreciation event. Go big or go home! Appreciation events provide a great incentive for potential volunteers to get involved with your organization. They’ll know you treat your volunteers with care by making sure they have an enjoyable experience.
  • Post on social media. It’s a great way to recognize your volunteers publicly. Plus, it’s an effective recruitment strategy you can measure. Your volunteers will likely share your appreciation post with their network, prompting others to recognize how well you treat your volunteers. Best of all, these social media posts can be automated and will go live exactly when you want with marketing software!
  • Feature volunteers on your website. Instead of generic stock photos, incorporate photos and videos of your volunteers lending a hand at an event. When potential volunteers visit your site, they’ll instantly see this, and if their interests align with yours, they’ll feel compelled to volunteer as well. This approach is excellent for social media, too!
  • Reward them with quality branded merchandise. Everyone loves receiving gifts! Offer your volunteers some free merchandise, like a T-shirt, after they devote time to making one of your fundraisers a success. You can even offer different types of merchandise as incentives along the way during a peer-to-peer fundraiser. For more appreciation ideas like this, click here.

Volunteers don’t ask for much in return for their hard work and the time they devote to your nonprofit. But the least you should do is say "thank you." Mix up your approach; surprise them every once in a while with a grand gesture like a full-blown appreciation event! You’ll probably see a boost in volunteer retention as well as a jump in your new volunteer rate.

Your organization can only strive towards its mission because of its passionate supporters. Take the time to maximize current and potential volunteers’ experiences and let them know they’re appreciated.

Volunteer recruitment can be tricky, but now that you know a few tips and tricks to capture their attention, you should find the process much easier. If you’re ready to start acquiring new, passionate volunteers, get started now!

Want to know more about recruitment?

Wayne Elsey
Founder and CEO of Elsey Enterprises
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Wayne Elsey is the founder and CEO of Elsey Enterprises (EE). Among his various independent brands, he is also the founder and CEO of Funds2Orgs, which is a social enterprise that helps schools, churches, nonprofits, individuals and other organizations raise funds while helping to support micro-enterprise (small business) opportunities in developing nations.

Featured in: Ezine Non Profit Pro Almost Isn't Good Enough (Book)

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