Volunteers probably make up a large percentage of your nonprofit’s team, providing their unique skills and perspectives to help drive your mission forward.
Volunteering dipped during the first couple of years of the COVID-19 pandemic but has recently rebounded. However, 33% of volunteer managers still reported volunteer recruitment as their biggest challenge in 2023.
We want to help set your nonprofit up for success and make volunteer recruitment the best part of your job. This comprehensive guide offers insights and tips on how to recruit outstanding volunteers for your nonprofit’s events and programs.
We’ll cover the following topics:
- Volunteer recruitment plan FAQs
- 5 volunteer recruitment strategies
- Push and pull volunteer recruitment strategies
Every nonprofit is unique, meaning that volunteer recruitment strategies that work for some organizations aren’t always as effective for others. As you read through this guide, note the strategies that you think will work best for your unique target audience.
Volunteer recruitment plan FAQs
Since volunteer recruitment can be a major challenge, volunteer managers tend to be uncertain about whether they’re using the best strategies to boost recruitment. Let’s reduce some of this apprehension by answering a few frequently asked questions right away:
Why are volunteers so important for nonprofits?
For many nonprofits, volunteers are the face of the organization. They are out in the community providing services, collecting donations, and working to help the nonprofit achieve its mission and goals.
Volunteers offer valuable skills, time, and enthusiasm to ensure nonprofit programs and events can take place. Volunteers don’t just give their time, either—many are also donors. This makes them long-term partners that contribute significantly to the success of the nonprofits they support.
What does a volunteer recruitment plan look like?
A volunteer recruitment plan is a strategy for attracting and recruiting new volunteers who have skills and interests that align with a nonprofit’s core needs.
An optimal volunteer recruitment plan should include the following components:
- A clearly-defined target audience. Develop your volunteer recruitment plan with a specific audience in mind. This ensures that your recruitment efforts reach and resonate with the right people. We’ll cover this in detail in the next section.
- Your volunteer program’s case for support. This is your argument for why potential volunteers should consider working with your organization. Your case for support should detail the potential impact volunteers can have through their participation and the personal benefits of volunteering. These benefits could include social and networking opportunities or the chance to earn new skills.
- Clear role descriptions. Clearly communicate expectations with potential new volunteers about what they’ll be working on. This helps new volunteers feel more comfortable in their roles, creating a better experience.
- Marketing channels. Determine how you’d like to spread the word about your volunteer opportunities. Consider using a multichannel marketing approach that combines traditional channels like direct mail and flyers with digital channels like social media, email, and your website. This blended approach will help reach a larger audience and different demographics within your target audience.
- An easy-to-use volunteer registration form. Your signup page should only ask for necessary information, like volunteers’ names, contact information, emergency contact, and details about their skills, interests, and availability.
We’ll take a closer look at these elements later on, but this is a basic overview of the points you should include when developing your volunteer recruitment plan.
Who should you target with your volunteer recruitment strategy?
Dedicated volunteers come from all walks of life, backgrounds, and abilities, which is why it’s so important to incorporate inclusive volunteer recruitment practices when creating your plan.
Not all volunteers speak the same language, have the same access to transportation, or work the same hours. All these factors can become barriers that prevent interested people from signing up for volunteer opportunities they are passionate about.
Here is a quick list of key volunteer demographics to consider targeting in your volunteer recruitment approach, along with ways to better meet their needs:
In your volunteer management solution, you may have profiles for volunteers who haven’t actively participated in any programs or events in a long time. These volunteers are often considered inactive and are generally underutilized in recruitment efforts.
While it’s always great to try and encourage active volunteers to sign up to join new opportunities, it’s also a fantastic idea to do that same thing for your inactive volunteers.
Consider segmenting or filtering your existing inactive list of volunteers in your volunteer management solution by interest, skills, or other attributes that are relevant to the roles you are looking to fill. Then, send them an email inviting them to sign up to volunteer for your new opportunities.
This will help you re-engage them and can also be the first step in converting them into active supporters and even donors!
Many nonprofit organizations strategize how to convert volunteers into donors. But what about getting your donors involved in hands-on volunteer work? Your donors are some of your nonprofit’s greatest supporters, and many of them will leap at the chance to make an even larger positive impact.
Make sure to include easy sign-up links to new volunteer opportunities in all your donor newsletters and updates, along with information about the purpose and progress of your volunteer program.
Working professionals and the self-employed
Working professionals and self-employed people who are already highly trained in what they do can be a gold mine for volunteer recruitment. These volunteers offer specialized skills to help fill in gaps in your operations.
You can find these volunteers through word-of-mouth advertising or searches on social media platforms like LinkedIn.
Be sure to make weekend, evening, and short-term opportunities available and have volunteer spaces open for drop-ins. This can help busy working volunteers fit your activities into their schedules. Consider promoting online volunteer opportunities to this demographic as well, since those opportunities usually require a specific skill set and are more convenient to work into a busy workday.
People with mobility or transportation issues
Make sure to consider the needs of people who don’t drive or who have limited mobility when creating your volunteer opportunities and recruitment approach. Ensure that your volunteer workspace is accessible for individuals with walkers, crutches, wheelchairs, and other types of mobility equipment. Have handicapped parking available and be sure that everyone honors those spaces.
For those who may have difficulty getting to your volunteer opportunities, consider having a team member schedule transport for them. This job could be done on a one-or-one basis, or you could have a van service or other carpooling arrangement in place. The transportation coordinator may also arrange for someone to meet groups of volunteers at central locations and drop them off at your organization’s volunteer site(s).
5 volunteer recruitment strategies
Your volunteer recruitment plan should include a variety of approaches that help you connect with your target audience on multiple levels. Start with these tried-and-true strategies for recruiting more volunteers:
1. Share well-written role descriptions.
To find volunteers with skills and preferences that match your volunteer opportunities, you need to communicate exactly what each volunteer role entails. This way, people know what they’re getting into and there won’t be any surprises on the day of the opportunity.
Clearly outline everything a potential volunteer should know about a specific role or opportunity before they agree to work. Cover the following components in your role descriptions:
- Who: Who do you need to fill the role? Are there any special requirements or skills people should have?
- What: What will volunteers have to do? Be clear about expectations to avoid any misunderstandings.
- When: Specify the date and time of the shift and any required training sessions.
- Where: Where will the opportunity take place? You may need to explain parking information or highlight alternative transportation options like buses or commuter trains.
- Why: Explain why the role is important to your nonprofit’s overall mission.
- How: Explain the steps to getting involved. Include a clear call to action such as “Fill out our registration form” or “Sign up for a volunteer orientation now.”
Include these descriptions on all volunteer recruitment materials, such as your volunteer landing page and informational social media posts.
2. Craft a straightforward volunteer application form.
Now that you’ve established what roles need to be filled and the skills that are required to do them, translate that information into your online volunteer application form. Your application forms should collect the relevant information you need to do a preliminary screening of your candidates, such as:
- Basic personal and contact information
- Official certifications
- Relevant work or volunteer experience
Your application fields should sync up with the role requirements you have created in your volunteer management solution. By doing this, you will be able to quickly filter your applications by roles and send suggested volunteer roles to new supporters based on their skills and interests.
3. Leverage online channels to promote volunteer opportunities.
A multichannel marketing strategy can help you reach a wider online audience. Promote your volunteer sign-up page on digital channels such as:
- Your website. Keep your volunteer calendar updated with current open positions. Make sure your volunteer landing page also includes easy access to your role descriptions.
- Social media channels. Promote your open roles on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. You can even use LinkedIn to directly message top volunteer prospects who have the skills you’re looking for and send them your volunteer signup link.
- Email. About 80% of American adults check their email at least once per day, making it a crucial platform for staying in touch with volunteers. Announce any new volunteer shifts to your volunteers and donors through email.
Ensure your volunteer sign-up form is mobile-friendly by keeping the page simple and short and making buttons large and easily clickable. This ensures that the page will be easy to navigate whether visitors are using their mobile devices or desktop computers.
4. Take a peer-to-peer recruitment approach.
Word-of-mouth advertising leverages your existing network of supporters, making it a powerful way to recruit more volunteers. Consider asking your existing active volunteers to invite their friends and family to volunteer with them. You can simply ask them to share your social media posts to promote your volunteer opportunities with their network.
To help motivate your volunteers, consider offering a prize for the volunteer who recruits the most people, such as a free t-shirt or a gift card to a local restaurant.
5. Consider exploring corporate volunteerism.
Every year, more corporations and businesses invest in corporate volunteer programs for their employees. This presents an opportunity for your nonprofit to partner with businesses that are eager to supply dedicated volunteers to nonprofit organizations.
Recruiting corporate volunteers is a great way to bring in reliable and skilled help because these volunteers are often reimbursed for their volunteer work by their employer (such as through paid days off). These volunteers are often also eligible for volunteer grants which can bring in more donations for your nonprofit through corporate-sponsored contributions.
Push and pull volunteer recruitment strategies
Adopted from push and pull marketing, push and pull methods of recruitment are two very different but valid ways to manage your volunteer teams for your event or program. Let’s take a look at each method, along with the benefits that it can offer volunteer programs like yours:
The push method
This approach emphasizes conducting a detailed vetting process, gathering recruitment and scheduling information, and leaving the decision-making in the hands of the volunteer manager.
Here are the steps that are typically involved:
- Launch a strong recruitment campaign using the top digital media channels. Be sure to include detailed descriptions of the unique benefits of volunteering with your organization. Send your custom registration form to your database of volunteers and start your vetting and scheduling process.
- Vet your responses thoroughly, matching volunteers to specific roles based on position requirements, certifications, and other relevant information. It’s helpful to give a detailed background survey to your recruits to get all the information you need.
- Instruct your volunteers to send their availability, and then schedule everyone as appropriate. For example, Bloomerang’s volunteer scheduling tool allows organizers to create unlimited schedules, send shift reminders, and track attendance.
This approach is great for dealing with newcomers who appreciate an organized, detail-oriented leader.
The pull method
The pull approach gives volunteers the power to choose their own shifts and roles, saving you administrative time and resources. Here’s what’s involved:
- Attract volunteers through your customized online sign-up page and registration form. Share it across multiple channels including email and social media.
- Place all roles and shifts on the table so volunteers can register themselves for shifts and roles that best work for them.
This type of management empowers your volunteers to choose the engagement opportunities that are best for them, giving them greater independence in the registration process. This works best for roles that don’t have any specific skill requirements. This approach is also quicker, as your event administration team will communicate directly with volunteers. It’s up to the volunteers to find their own shift replacements when a time conflict occurs.
Using a combination of both
You can use a combination of the push and pull methods to fit your management style. For example, try using the push method to attract volunteers initially. Once you’ve closely vetted them, have them self-schedule and take a “pull” approach.
There is no denying how important your volunteers are for each of your programs and events. This dedicated group of individuals ensures your organization meets its goals and mission.
That’s why it’s important to invest in the right volunteer recruitment strategy for each program to ensure you attract the right people for the jobs. Spending more time crafting your recruitment plan will pay off in the long run when you can recruit reliable volunteers that stick with your organization for years to come.