Enthusiastic volunteers are the hallmark of a respectable, well-run nonprofit organization. Whether your volunteers commit a few hours here or there or whether they’re daily fixtures in your offices, they are an integral part of your operations.
In addition, dedicated volunteers are often your biggest fans and your most committed financial supporters. According to a report by the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund, people who volunteered donated to the organization ten times as much as non-volunteers. Perhaps what is even more remarkable is that 67% of those who volunteered said that they would be happy to financially support organizations where they volunteered their time. These statistics make it clear what nonprofit organizations have to gain by recruiting and retaining volunteers to support the work of their organization.
Nearly every nonprofit is hungry for volunteer help. One of the many challenges in recruiting volunteers for nonprofits is that every other nonprofit organization in your area needs volunteer assistance as well. Your challenge in recruiting volunteers is to get a sufficient quantity of volunteers to support your valuable work while getting the quality of volunteers to help your organization progress. What you don’t want is to be responsible for managing a bunch of volunteers that aren’t remotely the right fit which will cost you more time and hassle than they are worth.
Recruiting Volunteers that Fit Your Mission
You will want to know as much information about your volunteers as you can. Bear in mind that they will have plenty of questions for you too. With that in mind, it’s important to proceed in a way that yields the right information without overwhelming them at the start, which can be a real turnoff when someone is willing to volunteer their valuable time.
When interviewing potential volunteers for your cause, your interaction should be much like a conversation. If you think about a conversation with another person, it has a very natural flow with an exchange that goes back and forth. Hold a few questions at the back of your mind and insert them into the conversation as naturally as possible. Refrain from bombarding them with a list of questions.
Use your time as a chance to get acquainted. Pause after asking them a question and listen to what they have to say. Their response may prompt a question that you hadn’t thought about earlier. A good question to ask is whether they have a special connection to your cause. Sometimes your volunteers’ stories make good testimonies for your cause. Be respectful if they’re not willing to share their experiences publicly.
Another way to start the conversation is to ask what interests them about your organization. What drew them to you or prompted them to make contact to find out about volunteering? There are many other questions you can ask along the lines of volunteering like what their motivation is and whether they have any special skills that they can offer to the organization.
Remember that your volunteers get as much out of helping as your organization receives from them. During your interview, it may be meaningful to point out some of the new skills that they have the opportunity to learn if they wish to take advantage of them. If this is the case, be sure to create a follow up so that you can fulfill their expectations down the line.
Plan to leave them with a call to action. Offer an encouraging invitation like, “As a nonprofit, we rely on the help of people like you. Would you mind filling out this Volunteer Information Form?” If they’re not quite ready, send the form home with them and ask if you can follow up within a certain timeframe.
Your volunteers are often the face of your organization. Do your due diligence and do a little background work on them as well. Screen them as well as you can. Check out their social media accounts to find out more about who they are. If you expect they will be working with vulnerable populations, follow through with an appropriate background check. These steps will protect both of you.
Establish Your Expectations
Get on the same page about your expectations for their volunteer time. Find out if their schedule will allow for volunteer time and how much of that they’re willing to donate to your organization. Pave the way for a good start by agreeing on how much time they will serve. Leave them an out if it starts to sound like they don’t have sufficient time to be of assistance. You don’t want to waste your time or theirs.
Create a Tone and a Message
As the face of the organization, do your best to reflect the tone and message of the organization. Talk about terms and phrases that are iconic to the organization’s work. Keep the tone and message consistent and inspire them to be a part of your mission. Share any flyers or promotional materials with them, highlighting important issues and events. In getting more information, volunteer recruits may recruit other like-minded individuals to your cause.
When all the pieces fit, this is the start of a mutually rewarding relationship. Remember that healthy relationships take time and need to be nurtured. Make it a priority to your volunteers to demonstrate your appreciation for their service. Try to make time to stay connected outside the organization on occasion.
Nonprofit events and activities can get hectic at times. Carve out time to ask your volunteers for feedback on how things are going. Inquire and look for assurance that they’re getting the experience they hoped for. Regular communication gives you a chance to show your appreciation for their efforts and will help both of you to establish a mutual sense of trust. By relaying to them how their time translates to the betterment of the mission and how their time and dedication strengthens the cause, you’re giving them new reasons to stick around.
Consider that a BoardEffect board management system is a secure and efficient way to document volunteers and recruits. It offers a secure place to store resumes, log volunteer hours, and store other important documents and communications for your nonprofit.
Recruiting volunteers for nonprofits is a valuable endeavor that yields great benefits for the volunteer, the board, and the people the nonprofit serves.