So, your organisation wants to work with volunteers? Great!
Before you get started, below is some information and advice for you to read before you start recruiting for roles.
Getting enough of the right people is the most basic challenge of working with volunteers. Recruitment is an ongoing concern for every organisation; a constant turnover of volunteers is inevitable, as people’s circumstances and their ability to volunteer change over time. An increasing number of organisations are now looking for people to help them on a voluntary basis, at the same time as the demands on individuals’ free time are getting greater. While it is true that volunteering rates have dropped slightly over the past few years, it has to be remembered that most people who currently do not volunteer would consider doing so if they were asked.
Before you recruit
If you plan to recruit volunteers, you will need to do some homework first! Firstly, you need to know:
- why you want volunteers
- what they will be doing (develop a simple ‘role’ description for each different volunteering role)
- what type of people you are looking for (develop a short person specification for each role)
- if and how you will select/screen potential volunteers
- how you will support them once they start volunteering with you
It is essential to think strategically and to be prepared, and if you’re looking for a long-term volunteering commitment, you might need to think about your recruitment process.
Who should recruit volunteers?
It can be helpful to involve a number of people in the recruitment process and it may even be appropriate to set up a recruitment team or subcommittee. You could also involve current volunteers (if you have any) in the recruitment process. There is no reason why the person with overall responsibility for recruiting volunteers cannot be a volunteer, provided s/he is well trained.
Marketing your organisation to potential volunteers
It’s unlikely that anyone will just decide they want to volunteer with you, without first knowing about your organisation and having a positive impression of it. Its therefore important to promote your organisation positively and professionally. Sharing details of your activities, and indeed how you involve volunteers on your website, social media and in the local press can encourage others who might like to get involved.
It’s easy to get so caught up in your day-to-day activities, that you lose the ability to express what you do, or even why you do it to people who don’t know about your work!
Look at things from the perspective of the potential volunteer
You must learn to take into account the potential volunteer’s perspective if recruitment is going to be a success. Putting yourself forward as a volunteer can be daunting.
Organisations should make it easy for people to volunteer, by being as approachable, undemanding and unbureaucratic as possible, and by not to expecting too much too soon. If you give people the opportunity for a trial period or give them an easy job before progressing on to something more demanding, people are less likely to be scared off. What is it about the work that is likely to appeal to people? Is the work meaningful and will it be enjoyable?
It is also important to remember that people volunteer for different reasons. If you can tap into what motivates different people, you can ‘segment’ the potential pool of volunteers and adapt your recruitment message accordingly.
The recruitment message
Always keep your message as clear, simple and upbeat as possible. Whenever you recruit, you should outline the following:
- What social or other need is the organisation trying to tackle?
- What does the voluntary work consist of?
- Allay any fears that the potential volunteer may have (‘I wouldn’t be able to do that’, ‘why would they want me?’, ‘would it mean travelling home late at night?’, etc)
- Outline the benefits to the potential volunteer of working with you (new friends, training, making a difference, getting work experience, etc)
- How the potential volunteer can find out more; and what are the next steps they should take?
Where should I advertise for volunteers?
There is no one correct way to recruit. The type of person you are looking for will inform what the appropriate recruitment medium is. For example, if you need to find a volunteer with specialist skills, such as a professionally qualified counsellor, you will have to target your methods much more than if you are simply looking for lots of ‘bodies’ to assist you in your fundraising event. Always think of where the type of people you are looking for are likely to be found.
You will, of course, have to balance the resources you have available to you with the likely response you are going to get.
Some ideas for places you can advertise your volunteer roles:
- your website
- your social media (and ask others to share)
- Your local media – either by advertising, or issuing a press release
- in the local notes of your newspaper
- notice boards and leaflet dispensers in schools, libraries, council offices, hospitals, doctors’ and dentists’ waiting rooms, sport centres, churches, shop windows, supermarkets, launderettes, restaurants, bars, Citizens Information Centres, Youth Information Centres, community centres, etc.
- Your own mailing list
Therefore don’t miss any opportunities, especially free ones, of advertising the fact that you are recruiting volunteers.
The vast majority of volunteers are recruited by word of mouth, through existing volunteers, staff, clients, supporters and so on, so make sure everyone who is involved with your organisation is aware that you are trying to recruit volunteers.
Consider running a brainstorming session identifying all the people your organisation knows and/or ask people to introduce a friend or family member to the organisation.
How do I use I-Vol to post an opportunity?
Here’s how it all works!
What to do when people show an interest
Once you start getting enquiries, It is important that you follow these up quickly and professionally. Consider having an information pack ready, perhaps containing background information on your project, details of the voluntary work and an application form. Try to meet with potential volunteers as soon as possible after they first make contact.
And finally …
Evaluate the success of your recruitment campaign so that you can learn for the future, what was and what was not successful.
And remember – recruitment is only the beginning; keeping hold of volunteers is much harder! Acknowledging and rewarding your volunteers and making them feel like an important part of your organisation is really important.
Published with the permission of Volunteer Ireland