3 Steps to Recruit More (and Better!) Volunteers

By: Caroline Hoy, Boardable Content Manager

Recruiting volunteers is something that many nonprofits and associations see as a low priority. Unpaid, temporary, non-professional, why bother investing much time and effort? Unfortunately, being shortsighted in this way can do lasting damage to your organization.

Volunteers are not only a public face of your mission, they can also become donors, employees, or maybe even board members. It is worth the extra care to make sure you have a good pool of strong volunteers.

Before we start recruiting though, let’s take a step back. No matter how many great volunteers you have, you will lose them if you don’t have the proper structures in place to use them efficiently. Onboarding should be smooth and painless, and any training and orientation should be flexible and as brief as possible. Be sure your communication methods are effective and people aren’t left wondering where to be and when. Give people a variety of volunteer opportunities to choose from. Don’t forget to thank your volunteers, whether with a simple note in the mail or a yearly volunteer appreciation event. A happy volunteer who feels appreciated and effective is one who will come back year after year, event after event.

To find volunteers, look to the communities affected by your work. Whether they have geographic, demographic, or ideological factors in common with your mission, often the most dedicated volunteers will be those from the populations you serve. Find ways to post volunteer opportunities in their line of sight. Perhaps you can partner with other nonprofits to put the word out. 

Don’t forget to be diverse in your volunteer recruiting sources. I don’t just mean racial diversity, but think about different age groups of volunteers. Many university programs have volunteering requirements. Try reaching out on message boards and campus newsletters. Young professionals groups are another great place to find civic-minded people to volunteer. On the other end of the age spectrum, many adults who are exiting the workforce are eager to get involved in nonprofits and volunteerism. Just be sure to tailor your communication to your audience. Young professionals might respond in greater numbers to a much different social media platform than the more seasoned crowd.

Another great volunteer recruitment source? Your existing volunteer pool. Ask everyone to bring a friend or family member to a fun, social volunteer information night. Not only are you tapping into people who likely have an interest in what you’re doing, but they will be more engaged and accountable with a buddy in the mix, too.

Even people who really want to volunteer might need several communication touches to get around to signing up. One local organization I volunteer with at Christmas time has already started emailing previous volunteers about the upcoming need. Scrambling for last-minute recruits rarely works out with busy schedules and communication overload, so be prepared to reach out well in advance, and with several opportunities to sign up. 

Setting up a rewarding and productive volunteer system is a lot of work. However, the return on your investment is huge! You just might find your next donors or board members in the team of people you have carefully recruited, trained, and recognized throughout their journey with your organization.

About Boardable: 

Boardable is an online board management portal that centralizes communication, document storage, meeting planning, and everything else that goes into running a board of directors. Founded in 2017 by nonprofit leaders and founders, Boardable has a mission to improve board engagement for nonprofits. Boardable is based in Indianapolis, Indiana.

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