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Volunteer Recruitment: Tips from the Field
This resource was developed by Sarah Jane Rehnborg, PhD. and Betsy Clubine with a team of volunteer professionals from around the state of Texas as a project for the Charles A. Dana Center at U.T. Austin. For more information please contact Dr. Rehnborg at the RGK Center.
- Before You Begin or...Pack Your Parachute Before You Jump
- Steps in the Recruitment Process
- Clearly identify volunteer needs and position descriptions
- Know what you have to offer - the "costs" and benefits of volunteering
- Plan a recruitment approach based on volunteer needs and position descriptions
- Implement your plan - making the appeal
- Keep Them Coming Back
Volunteer recruitment is one of the most commonly cited issues of concern by volunteer managers today. Increased demand for volunteers within nonprofit, for-profit, public sector, faith-based and membership groups coupled with changes in the nature of the volunteer workforce have combined to make volunteer recruitment a challenge. Fortunately, a wealth of resources is available to help with the design of an effective volunteer recruitment plan. Many excellent books, articles and tool kits have been written on the topic and professional organizations of volunteer managers (such as DOVIAs) provide opportunities for the sharing of recruitment strategies. The purpose of this guide is to point you to many of these resources and to share with you the practice wisdom of volunteer managers from a wide variety of service settings.
A team of experienced volunteer professionals from around the state of Texas has been instrumental in the development of the materials that follow. In 1997, TxServe and the Texas Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service convened a task force of State Agency Directors of Volunteer and Community Initiatives. From this task force, an action team was formed to explore the challenges of volunteer recruitment and ways to attract volunteers. Team members shared bibliographic resources, volunteer recruitment materials and strategies, and examples of successful volunteer initiatives.
Most of the materials included in this guide were contributed by team members and their agencies, including excerpts from the volunteer management handbooks of several state agencies such as:
- Attorney General, Office of the - Child Support Division
- Health, Texas Department of - Texas Volunteer Health Corps
- Human Services, Texas Department of - Volunteer Services
- Mental Health and Mental Retardation, Texas Department of - Community Relations
- Protective and Regulatory Services, Texas Department of - Community Initiatives
In many ways, this resource on volunteer recruitment is a work in progress - it just begins to mention some of the many topics, strategies and trends in volunteer recruitment today. Critical feedback on the materials presented thus far, stories about successful and not-so-successful recruitment efforts and other recruitment resources are welcome. Modifications and improvements will be made through continued input from the field.
Every two years, the Independent Sector produces a comprehensive profile on patterns of giving and volunteering in the United States. It is one of the most widely recognized sources of information on national trends in service and provides a wealth of information about what motivates people to give of time and money. To date, five reports have been published (1988, 1990, 1992, 1994 and 1996). The 1996 survey was designed to answer the following key questions and concerns of the field:
- Who gives and volunteers? To whom? How much?
- What determines giving and volunteering behavior?
- What early experiences influence giving and volunteering behavior as adults?
- What is the relationship between membership in religious and other voluntary and service organizations and giving and volunteering behavior?
- Do social behaviors, such as visiting on a regular basis with neighbors, have an impact on giving and volunteering?
- What are public attitudes toward giving, volunteering, and the performance of charitable organizations?
- How do economic conditions affect charitable behavior?
(Source: Giving and Volunteering in the United States, page xiii, 1996 edition)
Findings reported in the 1996 publication include:
- In 1995, 48.8% of the population volunteered, that's 93 million people. Volunteers gave an average of 4.2 hours per week.
- Volunteers gave a total of 20.3 billion hours in 1995, up almost a billion hours from 1993.
- When asked how they learned about their volunteering activities, people said (1)they were asked by someone, (2) through participation in an organization, or (3) that a family member or relative would benefit.
- Of people who volunteered or knew about volunteering when they were children, 55-67% volunteered. Only 29-44% of people who didn't know about volunteering when they were children actually volunteered.
- 34.1% of non-members (of religious organizations) volunteered and 54.9% of members of religious organizations volunteered. 75.6% of respondents who were members of both religious and other organizations volunteered.
- 85% of people who were asked to volunteer, did. Members of religious organizations were more likely to be asked to volunteer than non-members.
- 70.7% of college graduates volunteer. 43.1% of high school graduates volunteer.
- 80% of all respondents agree that the need for charitable organizations is greater now than 5 years ago. Of this 80%, 53.7% were volunteers.
- Of the 40% of respondents who volunteered in the last month (April - May 1996), 3.7% were tutors and 1.2% were counselors (like big brother/big sister). 21.5% did religion related volunteering.
(Source: Giving and Volunteering in the United States: Findings from a National Survey, Conducted in 1996 by The Gallup Organization for Independent Sector)
The next update of Giving and Volunteering will be available in 1999. For more information, contactIndependent Sector
1200 Eighteenth Street, NW, Suite 200
Washington, DC 20036
888-860-8118 (toll-free to order publications)
Independent Sector is a coalition of voluntary organizations, foundations and corporate giving programs that encourages philanthropy, volunteering, not-for-profit initiative and citizen action. IS provides information, education, advocacy, research and publications.
Recruitment is a constant, year-round process of keeping your organization's name and its available volunteer opportunities in front of people.
Ellis, Susan J.
The Volunteer Recruitment Book
Philadelphia: Energize, 1994, p. 102.
Recruitment is the ongoing process of securing individuals to do the assignments that you have identified for volunteers within your agency or organization. These assignments can be
- individual or group activities
- direct or indirect service positions
- committee or advisory board task
- fundraising assignments or
- advocacy efforts
Regardless of the type of work to be performed, the basic steps of the recruitment process remain the same. Before looking at these steps, however, let's define what we mean by recruitment.
For many people, the distinction between public relations, marketing and recruitment is unclear.
Public relations is the art of helping the public to understand what your organization does and encouraging the public to regard your efforts positively. It is designed to influence as large a segment of the public as possible at any one time with the message you have selected to share.
Marketing involves determining the needs of select or target audiences and then designing goods, services and opportunities that respond to those needs. "It relies heavily on designing the organization's offering in terms of the target markets' needs and desires, and on using effective pricing, communication, and distribution to inform, motivate, and service the markets" (Kotler 1975, p. 5.)
Recruitment is the act of identifying groups and individuals for service, and then actually asking them to volunteer.
While public relations, marketing and recruitment are not synonymous, they do support each other and benefit the overall mission of your organization. When the public knows the name and service provided by your organization, people are more likely to remember your organization when they think about serving. When employed properly, marketing strategies can help target your recruitment campaign to the people who are most likely to say "Yes!"
Look around before you leap! There's a lot you need to know about your organization and a lot of groundwork to be laid before you are ready to begin the recruitment process. Among other things, you need to
- Understand Your Organization's History, Culture and Cause
- Prepare the Organization for Volunteer Involvement
- Sell the Program Inside Your Organization or Agency
Before going out into the community to recruit volunteers:
- understand your organization's history of volunteer involvement
How have volunteers been used in the past? Which programs were successful and which were not? With what groups has your organization collaborated? What was the outcome? Which staff members have been involved with the organization's volunteer program? How did they feel about that experience? How have volunteers felt about their experiences with the organization? Have volunteer evaluations been consistent over time?
- make sure you are aware of public perceptions of your organization, program or cause
What sort of publicity - good or bad - has your organization or its cause received that might impact your recruitment effort? Understand the issues involved and be prepared to provide an informed and constructive response.
- understand your organization's mission and programs
Can you speak knowledgeably about your organization's mission and/or cause? Do you feel comfortable talking about the organization's programs and initiatives and how they help to accomplish the organization's mission? Can you articulate how volunteers and the work they will be/are performing contributes to the organization's mission?
- know your organization's culture and work environment
Are there clear boundaries and chains of command? Is the workplace open and friendly to newcomers, volunteers and visitors? Does the organization value process, product or a combination of the two? Is the general office demeanor serious or is humor widely employed? Do staff members feel that their positions are stable or insecure? Would you recommend every office/team setting to friends that are interested in volunteering? Why or why not?
Your organization's culture greatly influences the type of volunteer positions you will develop, the type of individuals you recruit and the way volunteer supervision will be handled. If your organization is hierarchical, for example, you will want to recruit individuals who are comfortable following policies and procedures. If your organization is loosely organized and values entrepreneurial ideas, you will want to recruit individuals who are self-starters and comfortable working with less structure and supervision.
Is Your Workplace Hierarchical? Questions To Ask Yourself:
- How many rules and regulations must be followed?
- Is there a policy and procedures book and if so, how big is it?
- Is there an organization chart and is it very prominent?
- What needs to get done to get approval of new programs? (a paper trail, a phone call or your "o.k.")
- Who give assignments? One person or everyone?
TIP: Listen for "I's" and "We's" and the use of names with tasks. This can help you to determine workplace boundaries and lines of responsibility.
- top management has shown their support for volunteer placements and initiatives
- staff are prepared to assist in the interviewing, screening, orienting, training and supervising volunteers
- everyone is fully trained and knowledgeable about their role in volunteer placements
- volunteer materials (flyers, brochures, job descriptions, handbooks, etc.) have been developed and produced
- there is a place for volunteers to work
- policies, procedures and record keeping systems are in place
- legal and liability issues pertaining to volunteer involvement have been resolved
- staff are ready to respond to the inquiries of potential volunteers
- volunteer recruiter(s) can speak knowledgeably and enthusiastically about the mission and work of the organization
- all staff know how to handle and direct calls from potential volunteers
- systems are in place for evaluating the performance of volunteers and the outcome(s) of volunteer initiatives
To ensure that the potential volunteer's first impression of your organization is positive, staff must be trained and a volunteer management system must be in place before any recruitment effort is made.
Interview and screening procedures, orientation and training plans, evaluation processes and record-keeping and risk-management systems must all be established prior to making your appeal. Similarly, your organization's staff needs to be trained and ready to work with volunteers.
Even when no specific recruiting has been done, your organization may receive inquiries from potential volunteers. Everyone in the office who receives calls from people who express an interest in volunteering should know who key volunteer management staff are and be prepared to transfer the call or forward a message. Never ask a volunteer to call back! By the same token, many of your organization's employees are in contact with potential volunteers every day. Make sure that they know about the range of service opportunities available throughout your organization and where to refer individuals who express an interest in volunteering.
Tips from the field:
- create cross-organizational / cross-functional teams and advisory groups that involve staff in program planning, decision-making, policies and development
- get on the agenda of new staff orientations
- integrate volunteer management topics into the general staff training calendar
- empower other staff to recruit, train, evaluate and supervise volunteers
- initiate an employee volunteer program
- get a line item assigned to you in the agency's budget
- make sure that your program is included in the annual report
- know who staff listen to and involve that person (or a representative of that group) in promotion of the volunteer program
- be proactive in responding to perceived and 'real' barriers to volunteerism (such as lack of space and people's ideas of what volunteers can do)
- gather and disseminate success stories
- advertise the activities of volunteers in visible locations such as the bulletin board at the entrance to your building and your organization's newsletter
- drop-in on volunteers at remote locations, so that the programs they work with associate you with the volunteers
- recognize daily the staff who work with your volunteer program
- place volunteers in strategically "visible" or "high-status" positions with assignments that matter
- start small and play on your strengths - build your program slowly and begin by working with employees who are already supportive of volunteers and volunteerism
Finding volunteers to meet your agency's or organization's needs requires careful thinking and planning before an appeal is made. Prior to actually going out and asking people to help, you must
- Clearly identify volunteer needs and position descriptions
- Know what you have to offer - the "costs" and benefits of volunteering
- Plan a recruitment approach based on volunteer needs and position descriptions
- Implement your plan
Once the groundwork has been laid, you are ready to implement your plan and make the appeal.
Clearly identify volunteer needs and position descriptions
- Identifying Meaningful Assignments
- Meeting the Realities of Today's Volunteer
- Writing Volunteer Job Descriptions
A volunteer program that is well planned and executed and offers meaningful work lays the groundwork for successful recruitment.
Texas Department of Protective
and Regulatory Services'
Volunteer Manual, p.12
The volunteer manager - in concert with staff, board members and volunteers - helps clarify the work that needs to be done by volunteers to achieve the goals of the organization and then segments that work into components that reflect the reality of today's volunteer work force.
Almost any work that needs to be done to meet the objectives of your group, agency or organization can be done by volunteers. There is no rule that says that only certain assignments can be done by a volunteer! Remember, physicians regularly staff 'free' medical clinics and board members often provide professional services at no cost. If the person is qualified for the task and is interested and willing to perform the work without monetary compensation, then the task can be performed voluntarily.
Several strategies can be used to identify meaningful service opportunities in your organization or agency, including:
- Cross Agency and Advisory Teams
Advisory teams of employees and volunteers can be very helpful with the design of appropriate volunteer tasks and the integration of volunteers into the staff team.
The Arc of the Capital Area, for example, has an advisory team of staff, volunteers, and volunteer leaders from other organizations that discusses possibilities for volunteer service and recognition. In addition, the volunteer coordinator sits on several cross-agency planning teams. The planning results in broad descriptions of client, agency, community needs. From there, program leaders, in consultation with the volunteer coordinator, develop volunteer positions geared towards addressing specific needs.
- Formal Needs Surveys
Surveys can also be used to identify volunteer assignments that will help advance the goals of the organization. Here are some sample staff surveys that can be modified for use at your organization or agency:
Job Development Report,Texas Department of Health Volunteer Health Corps
This report is generally used with programs that the volunteer staff has never worked with or in areas of high staff turnover. It elicits information that is critical not only to task development but to volunteer matching and placement. Sometimes program staff members have a specific volunteer request but they haven't had the time to consider other ways that volunteers can support their goals and objectives. The Job Development Report helps the volunteer coordinator and the agency staff flesh-out new areas for volunteer involvement.
Request for Assistance, Texas Office of the Attorney General (OAG) Volunteer Program
This form is sent out to all volunteer liaisons (3) times per year. The OAG asks liaisons to fill out the form even if they don't want any volunteers. This forces liaisons to think about what tasks they want a volunteer to do, instead of just saying "send me one and I'll find a position for them." It makes them consider what qualifications and skills the task really requires and how much time it will take.
- NOAH Process by Ivan Scheier
NOAH stands for the Need Overlap Analysis in the Helping Process. Essentially Scheier advocates a process whereby staff members are each asked to identify the tasks that they perform on a regular basis. Next they are asked to identify a list of tasks that they wish they had time to perform. The lists are then analyzed to ferret out those pieces of work that the staff member either must perform or most enjoys doing. Items of work that remain on the list become starting points for a discussion about assignments that could be performed by volunteers.
In the final analysis, elements of enjoyment and challenges must be present in both staff and volunteer positions. Be sure that your discussions with staff don't lead only to volunteer assignments that are considered unfulfilling and/or menial. The same process can be used with clients and volunteers to identify additional service assignments.
This process is the basis for the discussion of "Creating Volunteer Jobs" in Essential Volunteer Management (1989) by volunteer management experts McCurley and Lynch.
It is very important to listen to the needs of your organization. Exciting new volunteer opportunities can emerge from informal conversations with colleagues, volunteers and customers. Here are a couple of tips from professionals in the field:
- Insert yourself into settings or meetings where the needs of your organization are articulated - the cafeteria, cross-agency teams, staff meetings, after-hours get-togethers, etc.
- Get a grasp on larger trends within the organization by talking with colleagues and clients and reviewing agency publications and correspondence.
It's then up to the volunteer manager to translate identified needs into volunteer task assignments.
When designing volunteer positions to meet your organization's needs, its important to take into consideration the realities of today's volunteer workforce. Create a diverse portfolio of volunteer opportunities. Different pieces of work or types of service attract different types of people. Some volunteers are looking for positions that tap their creativity, present a challenge or provide the opportunity to learn new skills. Other individuals may want to support your cause, but need a break from the demands of their 'day' jobs. By identifying a range of positions requiring different skills, abilities, inclinations, backgrounds and levels of commitment, you can appeal to a wider array of potential volunteers.
Trends and groups to consider when designing service opportunities include:
- Short-term or Episodic Volunteering
In the past few decades, researchers and practitioners have recognized the demand among volunteers for short-term or episodic assignments. Episodic volunteer opportunities include both positions that are short in duration - with definite start and end dates - and positions that occur at regular intervals such as annual events. (MacDuff 1991, pp. 7-8) While some volunteer positions require a long-term commitment on the part of volunteers, many assignments can be successfully completed on a short-term basis. In addition to allowing time-crunched people to serve, short-term service opportunities "provide the volunteer with the opportunity to see how they like working with the agency, its staff and its clientele". (McCurley 1991, p. 10, full citation) Try breaking up a long-term commitment into several short-term placements that can build on one another.
- MacDuff, Nancy. Episodic Volunteering: Building the Short-Term Volunteer Program. Walla Walla, WA: MBA, 1991.
- Family Volunteering
Increasingly, adults are looking for opportunities to perform meaningful volunteer work while spending time with their families and teaching them the value of service. When adapting an existing volunteer task for family volunteers, the Points of Light Foundation (POLF) suggests that you consider:
- Is it a safe activity for families of various ages? Why or why not?
- How can risk and liability of this activity be minimized?
- How can volunteer families benefit from this activity?
- What is the minimum age requirement for this activity?
- How much training/supervision is needed?
- Could this activity be conducted with flexible hours (e.g. weekends and evenings)? Why or why not?
- Can this project be expanded to include activities for families of various ages?
Family volunteering projects can involve children, parents, grandparents, foster parents, aunts, uncles and the extended family - or any combination thereof. When designing family volunteer programs for the first time, be sure to connect with local volunteer programs that already have a track record of successful family involvement.
- Ellis, Susan J., Anne Weisbord, and Katherine H. Noyes. Children as Volunteers: Preparing for Community Service. Philadelphia: Energize, 1991.
- Thurmond, Donna P., and James Cassell. Family Volunteering: Putting the Pieces Together. The Points of Light Foundation, 1996. Call 202-223-9186, Ext. 206 to order.
- Includes steps for addressing some of the most common barriers to family volunteering such as time constraints, liability issues, and the challenge of finding volunteer tasks that are age-appropriate and meaningful for all family members.
- College Volunteers and Interns
"About 25% of American Colleges and dozens of high schools have recently instituted volunteer work in the curriculum" (Brudney, 1990, p. 161). In addition, most institutions of higher education have offices that coordinate on-campus student organizations and activities, including service groups. Some tips for recruiting college volunteers and interns are:
- Find out the campus' policies with regards to flyers and on-campus recruitment before you begin.
- Contact the campus' office on student activities or volunteer center to find out how to get in touch with volunteers, student organizations, and clubs on campus. Student government, Greek organizations and on-campus clubs/membership groups are generally registered/coordinated through a central office.
- Post flyers and recruit volunteers where students hang-out, such as the student union or local campus restaurants. Similarly, residence halls may coordinate volunteer opportunities for their students.
- Students are most likely to initiate new volunteer activities at the start of the fall and spring semesters. As the semester progresses, it can get harder to recruit volunteers. Remember: many students leave town during holiday breaks and the summer months.
- Colleges and universities often sponsor volunteer fairs where you can recruit support. These are generally organized by the campus' office on student activities or volunteer center. Some classes and departments have well-established internship/field-study programs and classes. Find out what types of placement opportunities they are looking for to determine if there's a match with your organization's needs.
- If you are recruiting students with a particular expertise, initiate contact with the school or department that is most consistent with your volunteer needs. If your agency needs help with Web page design, for example, you might contact the campus' school of library and information science. If your agency needs volunteers to help with health screening, you might contact the nursing or medical school.
- Lowenthal, Phil, Stephanie Tarnoff, Lisa David, Eds. Recruiting College Volunteers: A Guide for Volunteer Recruitment and Management, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America, 1995 (28 pages).
- Virtual Volunteering
Many people are looking for volunteer opportunities that they can complete via their home or work computers and the Internet. Family commitments, personal time constraints, a disability and other factors can all make it difficult for individuals to volunteer their services. Virtual volunteering allows anyone to contribute time and expertise to not-for-profit organizations, schools, government offices, and other agencies that utilize volunteer services, without ever leaving his or her home or office.
Although still a relatively new trend, there are numerous examples of both technical assistance and direct service Virtual Volunteering. Here are just a few:
- Individuals "visiting" via electronic mail someone who is home-bound, in the hospital or in a nursing home.
- People helping design Web pages, newsletters and brochures using their home computers. Volunteers answering managerial questions and conducting online outreach for nonprofit organizations.
- Volunteers with Disabilities
People with disabilities are an excellent yet often underutilized source of volunteer talent. 19.1% of the U.S. population has a disability and "of all people with disabilities, 66% are unemployed; 79% of them want to be engaged in meaningful work." (Taylor 1995, p. 15)
The Americans with Disabilities Act provides for full participation in and access to all aspects of society, including volunteering. Many reasonable accommodations can be made with little effort and expenditure. Other agencies and organizations can sometimes lend adaptive equipment for the use of a specific volunteer.
Texas statewide agencies and groups that might serve as resources in your outreach to persons with disabilities include:
- Arc of Texas (800-252-9729)
- Brain Injury Association of Texas (800-392-0040)
- Coalition of Texans with Disabilities (512-478-3366 voice or TDD)
- Learning Disabilities Association of Texas (800-604-7500)
- Governor's Committee People with Disabilities. (512-463-5740 voice or 512-463-5746 TDD)
- Texas Commission for the Blind (800-252-5204)
- Texas Commission for the Deaf and Hearing-Impaired (512-407-3250 voice or 512-407-3251 TDD)
- Texas Department of Health (512-458-7112)
- Texas Department of Human Services (512-438-3011)
- Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services (800-252-5400)
- Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation (512-454-3761)
- Texas Planning Council for Developmental Disabilities (800-262-0334 or 512-424-4099 TDD)
- Texas Rehabilitation Commission (800-252-7009)
- Taylor, Lisa. "Disability as a Part of Diversity", The Journal of Volunteer Administration, Volume XIII, Number 2, Winter 1995.
- Texas Planning Council for Developmental Disabilities, People First Language and Describing People with Disabilities. For copies, call 412-424-4092.
- Paraquad, Words with Dignity, available online at: http://www.paraquad.org/iandr.html#wwd
- Virginia Office on Volunteerism. The ADA: Information and Implications for Volunteer Program Administrators. 1992.
- Position Title
A specific, descriptive title that gives the volunteer a sense of identity and helps the salaried staff and other volunteers understand the assigned role. A title should reflect the function of the position, not the position's pay scale. For example, since you do not call the salaried receptionist "Paid Receptionist," why would you therefore title the volunteer receptionist by his or her pay status?
- Work Location
The location where the individual will be working. Can this assignment be done at home or must the person be on site? Is there public transportation near the work site?
- Volunteer Impact
The purpose of the overall project and/or program and how the volunteer's work will impact the project's outcome, clients, or mission. It is critical to identify expected impact in both direct service and administrative assignments so that volunteers will be aware of the importance of their work.
- Responsibilities and Duties
List responsibilities and duties that are specific and clearly define what the volunteer is expected to do on the assignment.
Be clear and concise. List qualifications required for the position. Include education, personal characteristics, skills, abilities and/or experience required.
- Commitment Required
Commitment asked of the volunteer in terms of the minimum length of service, hours per week, and any other special requirements.
Indicate nature and length of all general and position-specific training required for the assignment.
The date the description was written or the date that it was most recently updated.
- Volunteer Supervisor and their Contact Information
Whom to call for more information about the opportunity.
- Descriptions should be developed for committees as well as for individuals.
- You may want to include signature lines for the volunteer manager and the site supervisor to make sure that they are in agreement.
- Many factors motivate people to volunteer and individuals may decide to serve for several of these reasons. People may be moved to volunteer by the cause or client being served, the type of work being performed, the opportunities provided to meet new people - or all of the above! People may decide to volunteer to:
- improve the quality of life of members of the community
- do something useful or enjoyable
- support something in which they believe
- because it's fun
- explore new career options and network
- receive professional experience or training
- maintain skills during an interruption in paid employment
- acquire new skills to enhance their marketability
- fulfill the service requirement of a club, school, church
- complete mandated community restitution requirements
- be creative, solve problems, perform challenging work
- make new friends and affiliations, join peers, belong to a group or community
- repay what they have received
- develop and grow personally, cultivate new interests
- contribute to a cause that is important to them
- explore their own strengths
- relieve boredom and monotony
- feel like they are needed
- While some volunteer positions may clearly relate to these concerns, others positions may require that you articulate the relationship between the work and the benefit to either the consumer or the volunteer. For example, the fact that well maintained clothes build the self-esteem and pride of the client may be an important piece of motivating information for a group that comes to sew and mend on a regular basis.
- Like the benefits of volunteering, the perceived "costs" of volunteering can vary according to the individual involved. Whereas "time away from family" may be viewed as a 'cost' to some individuals, a stay-at-home caregiver may perceive "time away from family" as a benefit. With that caveat in mind, some of the potential 'costs' of volunteering include:
- Time away from family and friends, hobbies and career-related pursuits
- Travel, parking, childcare, meals and other expenses
- Expenses related to the volunteer position (gasoline and mileage for the delivery of hot meals; xeroxing of instructional materials for tutoring sessions; the purchase of boots for use in trail maintenance programs; and so forth)
- In most successful volunteer initiatives, the benefits of volunteering outweigh the costs for both the organization and the volunteer.
- Recruitment Strategies
- Making Volunteer Recruitment More Manageable
- Secrets of Success
- Where to Look for Volunteers
- Places to Distribute Recruitment Information
- Who will be qualified for and interested in the position?
- Who will be able to meet the time requirements of the position?
- Where will you find these people?
- What motivates them to serve?
- What is the best way to approach them?
- Keeping a high profile with the media
What projects and fund-raisers are you involved with that might qualify as feature articles? Who is working with you that might be considered newsworthy? Public Service Announcements (PSAs), while they may generate only limited response, do keep your name and your cause visible. Present a clear and straight forward message and make sure that people are asked to volunteer.
Remember: any materials distributed to your target market (internal or external) are a reflection on the image of your program and your organization.
- Strategic distribution of quality print materials
Brochures and flyers strategically placed in the community call attention to your efforts. But remember, often the only person who will pick up a brochure with the word "volunteer" on the front, is another director of volunteers or the person already working as a volunteer. Find other, more compelling ways to spark an interest in supporting your organization's work.
- Use of existing volunteer opportunity directories and referral services
Be sure to register your volunteer opportunities with existing volunteer referral services in your community such as volunteer centers and university student volunteer centers. Your community library and city web site may also distribute listings of local volunteer opportunities. And don't forget about the Blue Pages!
- Networking with community groups and leaders
Make it your business to know the service groups in your area: what they are interested in, when they meet and the type of programs they offer. Can you provide a program for one of their meetings and promote your service opportunities simultaneously? School fairs, chamber of commerce events and community group gatherings may be good places to have a display. Who are your community leaders? Networking with these individuals provides you with a support system to turn to for special projects and opportunities.
Best recruitment tool: word of mouth.
- Volunteers can be male or female (nearly equal percentages of men and women indicate they volunteer,) have a range of abilities, and come from all backgrounds, races, nationalities, religions, political parties, and generations. Do not limit your recruiting efforts.
- Recruitment is a year-round responsibility. Have a plan to keep your organization's name and your need for volunteers always in the public eye. Cultivate friends, keep a finger on the pulse of your community, network, and keep written materials about your volunteer needs up-to-date and visible. People hear a lot of messages every day and while they may not initially respond to your appeal for support, they may remember your organization when they are ready to volunteer.
- Build a diverse volunteer workforce. To do this, volunteer administrators must actively recruit individuals of different cultural and racial backgrounds and with diverse skills. This includes involving volunteers who have disabilities.
- The majority of volunteer coordinators use word of mouth to recruit volunteers (Fisher and Cole, 1993, p. 90, full citation), relying on existing networks of volunteers and community stakeholders to attract new individuals to serve. While this can be a very effective recruitment strategy, it will most likely draw individuals who are similar in background and abilities to your current volunteer workforce.
- developing partnerships with service organizations and institutions of higher education.
Community colleges frequently engage students in workforce re-entry training programs. Do your volunteer opportunities offer work-related skills that would be valuable to one of these programs? Colleges, high schools and youth groups often have internship and service-learning requirements. Maybe your group could offer a service placement. Be creative as you explore partnership options. Once established, these relationships can become long-term sources of volunteers. Some of these organizations even provide administrative support, coaches and volunteer supervision!
- sharing your recruitment work with others
Community groups such as corporations, civic, church, or student groups often have existing methods of mobilizing and supervising volunteers. Involving them in one-time and ongoing projects can be an efficient way of meeting your volunteer needs. In addition, many large corporations have full-time community relations staff that will actively recruit volunteers from corporate employees. It is important to nurture your relationship with groups that provide volunteers. Know their timelines and their needs.
Work with another community group or organization to staff a volunteer recruitment booth. The collaboration will enable you to cover more territory and learn about other groups and organizations. To ensure the success of such collaborations, however, be sure to carefully outline expectations and duties.
- joint marketing and public relations, particularly with an area business
Companies, small and large, want to be viewed favorably by the community. A local business may be willing to develop an advertisement that simultaneously promotes their service and your volunteer opportunities. They may also be willing to provide volunteer recognition gifts or food/supplies for volunteer initiatives. The sky is the limit with such joint ventures, but remember that some services and companies may bring "baggage" to the venture as well as possibilities.
- collaboration with internal contacts
Internal collaborations are often overlooked but highly valuable. Make it your business to learn where your executive director has been invited to speak and encourage him or her to mention your recruitment effort. Sending recruitment brochures to such events can yield substantial contacts. By the same token, if your agency has a public relations arm, explore ways that you can work together to gain visibility and community involvement.
- Sincerity (be honest and open about your volunteer program - its strengths and opportunities for growth)
- Passion (have and exhibit passion for your program or effort. Enthusiasm is contagious, it is your greatest recruitment tool)
- Innovation (be creative and flexible, and always remember to have fun)
- Risk-Taking (be willing to break the bureaucratic mold. Let go of control and new management structures.)
- Inclusiveness (be inclusive and empowering of others)
- Thinking like a Visionary (envision things the way they could be, not just the way they are and think strategically)
- Advocacy groups
- AmeriCorps Programs
- Business and professional organizations
- Chambers of Commerce
- Churches and religious groups
- Community Service Restitution Programs
- Conferences/Special Events
- Corporations and small businesses
- Employment Assistance Programs
- Job seekers
- JTPA and other job training programs
- Military units and retired military personnel
- New residents of the community
- Parents' groups
- Public agencies and retired personnel
- Realtors (welcome wagon packages often include volunteer information)
- Rehabilitation agencies/programs
- Retired Executives, Teachers (associations of)
- Schools, especially service-learning programs
- Scout troops or other youth groups
- Senior citizen groups
- Senior Corps Programs
- Service organizations such as Kiwanis, Rotary Clubs and Junior Leagues
- Sororities and Fraternities
- Students seeking internships and service opportunities
- Student vocational training programs
- Unions and Trade Associations
- United Way
- University/college/community college organizations
- VISTA volunteers
- Volunteer Centers
- schools that work specifically with disabled populations
- independent living centers
- vocational rehabilitation agencies
- disability service groups
- regional offices of rehabilitation services of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare
- statewide agencies and groups that work with persons with disabilities
- Chambers of Commerce
- Community Centers
- Corporation and Utility Buildings
- Doctor's Offices
- Job Counseling Offices
- Listservs, Electonic Bulletin Boards and Web sites
- Personnel Directors
- Pre-retirement Seminars
- Public Service Announcements
- Public Transit Bus Cards
- Schools and Universities
- Service Clubs
- Shopping Malls
- Speakers' Bureaus
- Telephone Books
- Tourist Information Bureaus
- TV and Radio Stations
- University Job Offices
- Volunteer Centers
- Volunteer Recruitment Fairs
- 10 Pointers for Effective Invitations to Volunteer, an adaptation of Leadership Training Network's Starter Kit for Lay Ministry by Sarah Jane Rehnborg
- Tips on Speaking with Groups by Sue Vineyard and Steve McCurley
- Be prepared. Have a completed position description, and know the gifts, knowledge and time necessary for this position. Understand and communicate why this assignment is necessary to the work of the group or organization. Share why is it important and meaningful to you.
- Be sure that you are the right person to extend the invitation. Find a member of the group who knows the prospective volunteer, or a person with good communication and people skills. Identify the best person to share the volunteer opportunity.
- Personalize your invitation. Why do you want the particular individual you are asking? What makes this person "right" for this position? Talk about how this opportunity will meet an important need that he/she may have expressed, will provide an opportunity for involvement, or will offer a chance to give back to the organization.
- Think about how the invitation will sound to the prospective volunteer. Ask positively and enthusiastically. Don't apologize, distort the facts or ask negatively "You won't want to, would you?" or "You are the last person on my list. Would you?" And don't beg. Show your interest in this position and commitment to the organization's mission.
- Be enthusiastic. Your best recruiter values the work of the organization and genuinely supports this effort. Always speak from the heart. Remember: enthusiasm is contagious.
- Be realistic with your expectations. A newly retired person may need a flexible schedule; a year's commitment to a 15-year-old is the equivalent of asking a 45-year-old for three years of service; a divorced parent searching for a family [volunteering] opportunity may need an alternating weekend schedule.
- Remember the "courtesy factor". Whether you phone a person or initiate a conversation face to face, determine if this is a good time to talk. If not, schedule a time when you might visit with each other.
- Bring closure to the conversation. A member may want to think about the request or may need to consult with family members or a work schedule. Agree upon a time when you will complete the discussion and learn of the prospect's decision.
- Follow up quickly. If the person is willing to serve, be sure that necessary orientation or training is readily available. Introduce the volunteer to others so that newcomers feel welcome and included.
- Accept "No" Graciously. The time and situation may not allow a member to accept the opportunity, even one that seems "perfect" for the individual. Determine if a follow-up invitation is in order and thank the person for taking the time to listen to your request.
Deliberately select the groups before whom you wish to speak. There are two types who are most helpful: those groups whose membership regularly participates in helping out in the community (Rotary, service clubs, etc.), and those groups whose membership as individuals are likely to have a common interest with your cause. Schedule these types of groups first.
In seeking entry to speak to the group, consider going through a group member. The member can serve as your authenticator to his/her peer group, paving your way to a more receptive audience. They can also make it more likely that you will be invited to speak. Many groups have program chair who is often desperate to find speakers.
Try to time your speaking to meet with the group's process and your needs. Find out what other projects the group is already committed to and time your talk to coincide with their need to develop a new project. Determine how much lead time they need and make sure that your request is not too precipitous for them to meet.
Pick your presenters carefully. Make sure the person who is speaking can explain what your agency does and exactly what is needed from the group. Consider sending a volunteer who can speak forcefully about the worth of the effort.
If possible, utilize a visual presentation, with slides, pictures, etc. to increase interest. If your presentation is boring, the group may assume that your jobs will be too.
Be prepared for people to offer their services. Take along brochures, examples of jobs for which they are needed, sign-up sheets, etc. If someone expresses interest, don't leave without their name and phone number and commit yourself to following up with them. Follow-up as quickly as possible.
Be prepared for too much success. You may need to have a back-up plan to handle the entire group wanting to volunteer together to help you out, not just a few individuals. If several group members decide to volunteer, you will need to consider ways in which they might work together while performing the volunteer work.
Remember that at some point during your presentation you should directly and unequivocally ask the audience to volunteer. Very few people will insist on volunteering for your program without being asked to do so.
- Career Enhancement
- helping volunteers acquire new skills and relating these skills to the marketplace
- providing opportunities for advancement by building in 'career' ladders
- resume writing and job interviewing classes
- showing your appreciation often, in many ways, and in ways that are individual-specific
- Meaningful Work
- periodic orientations that link volunteer assignments to the broader mission of the organization
- making the work meaningful and never wasting their time
- making good matches from the start
- creating positions which are diverse in tasks
- Personal Growth
- letting them grow with the program
- giving them opportunities that they wouldn't get outside of a volunteer position
- treating volunteers as staff by inviting them to attend staff meetings instead of manning the phone, placing a volunteer on your management team and giving them a voice within the organization
- accepting their recommendations/taking their advice
A volunteer position description outlines the work that needs to be done by the volunteer. An incredibly useful tool, the description forms the basis for your recruitment effort because it defines the assignment, skills, abilities and interests necessary to perform the task successfully. Although there are any number of ways to develop task assignments, the following items reflect key components of the assignment guide.
Know what you have to offer - the "costs" and benefits of volunteering
An increasing number of organizations are recognizing the added value of volunteer involvement. Service programs are more sophisticated and volunteers are being regarded as customers to be satisfied, not just community persons to share the workload. As emphasized by Fischer and Cole,[Volunteer Managers] need to satisfy the interests and needs of prospective volunteers, who, like discriminating consumers, can choose from a multitude of alternatives in the volunteer marketplace. Simply having a worthwhile cause and meaningful volunteer activities to offer are no longer sufficient. Source: Fisher, James C. and Katherine Cole. Leadership and Management of Volunteer Programs. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1993, p. 81. To attract and hold volunteers, you need to determine what you have of value to exchange with the volunteer for time contributed. Specifically, you need to know:
The Benefits of Volunteering: why people serve and what they gain through volunteer service
The Costs of Volunteering: what the volunteer position requires of potential applicants (time and resources)
Once you have clearly identified your organization's volunteer needs and have created position descriptions that take into account the costs and benefits for volunteers, you are ready to develop a recruitment plan. The process of developing a recruitment plan begins with close examination of the volunteer assignment(s) to be filled. For each assignment, ask yourself:
In general, your recruitment strategy - who you will ask to volunteer and how will you ask them - depends on the needs of the organization as specified in your volunteer position descriptions. When the assignment requires a specific commitment, a high level of expertise or an ability that is not commonly available, a targeted recruitment plan is best. When the assignment requires no special training or commitment and/or a lot of people, broad-based recruitment approaches can be used. Most directors of volunteers find it necessary to establish a recruitment strategy that combines these two approaches and provides multiple access or entry points.Targeted Recruitment
Targeted recruitment is specific, focused, and addressed to the audience where you believe that you will be able to find people with the skills, interests and availability needed for the position. It requires you to analyze the position and define, as clearly as possible, the type of person you are seeking and the type of message that will motivate them to serve.Broad-Based Recruitment
While targeted recruitment is good for identifying people to fill positions that require special training and specific abilities/characteristics, broad-based recruitment can be effective for positions that can easily be done with minimal training. It is particularly useful when you need a lot of people for a short-term term event such as a walk-a-thon or a fundraising event.
In a broad-based recruitment plan, the goal is to keep your organization's volunteer needs in the public eye through media campaigns, public-speaking engagements, the distribution of recruitment brochures, and other techniques geared towards the general public. Instead of targeting a particular market sector, broad-based recruitment or "undifferentiated marketing (generally) assumes that everyone is alike in their needs and motivations for volunteering." (Fisher and Cole, 1993, p. 88)
Broad-based recruitment strategies include:
Things to Remember:
Making Volunteer Recruitment More ManageableAlthough easily regarded as an overwhelming task, recruiting volunteers is often less difficult than it seems. In fact, by the time you have developed position descriptions and considered the questions raised at the beginning of this section, you have already done much of the work of recruitment. Listed below are a couple of suggestions to help you get started.
Take advantage of your existing network
When the volunteer manager begins to think about their community, their most common reference point is geographic - their city, neighborhood, county or region. It's easy to overlook the community most available to you and your organization - your organization's existing network of employees, clients, volunteers and community organizations. Think about your circle of influence beginning with your program, group or organization. What individuals are you in contact with on a regular basis during the course of a day? What groups do you regularly work with? By sharing your volunteer opportunities with these contacts, you may be surprised at the number of recruitment ideas and sources that emerge.
Another place to begin your recruitment effort is with your office building, your block, or area businesses and stores within walking distance of your office or volunteer project.1 Who are your neighbors? Do they know what your organization does? Do they share similar concerns with you? Would they be willing and interested in helping with your project? Even if they aren't interested in volunteering, a neighborhood store may be willing to make an in-kind donation to your program of food or parking space.
The primary reason people volunteer is because they are asked. So look around and ask!
Enter into collaborations and partnerships
Suggestions to consider include:
Secrets of Success
The importance of:
Dana Renschler, Waco Center for Youth
Whether you are seeking volunteers to collect tickets at a major charitable event, or an accountant to audit the books of a fledgling grass-roots organization, it helps to have some ideas about where to look within your community for potential volunteers. The following lists are provided to help you begin to think about the wide range of individuals and groups that may want to support your efforts:
You can reach people with disabilities via many of these recruitment avenues. However, there are several ways that you can outreach specifically to volunteers with disabilities. Send your volunteer opportunities to:
Your recruitment message should be the same as it is for all volunteers, in that it should explicitly state that the organization is committed to placing individuals into the volunteer setting that best matches their interests with the needs of the organization.
Remember to ask each person that you interview how they learned of your program. Keep track of the information. It will help you focus your efforts in the area with the greatest return on your investment of time and money.
Don't forget to look for volunteers within your own organization or agency. Staff members and their families, current and former agency clients and other people already familiar with the work of your organization can be great volunteer prospects.
Places to Distribute Recruitment Information
Don't forget about the Internet! Look into posting volunteer opportunities on your organization's Web site or on one of the many online resources designed to promote volunteerism.
10 Pointers for Effective Invitations to Volunteer
Originally written for the Directors of Lay Ministry, the following pointers are applicable to volunteer recruitment in a wide variety of service settings. With permission from Leadership Training Network (LTN), they have been adapted for inclusion in this guide. To purchase the Starter Kit, contact LTN at 1-800-765-5323.
Source: The Starter Kit for Mobilizing Ministry, Leadership Training Network (Dallas, Texas), 1994, p. 2-83.
The following tips have been included here with permission of the authors.
Source: Vineyard, Sue, and Steve McCurley. 101 More Ideas for Volunteer Programs, Downers Grove, IL: Heritage Arts, 1995, p. 12.
Keep Them Coming Back
Finding volunteers qualified to meet the needs of your group requires work. Once you've successfully secured a volunteer's support, it is important to ensure that the benefits of volunteering continue to outweigh the costs.
When volunteer initiatives are well managed and individuals are matched to service opportunities that are mutually beneficial to the organization and the volunteer, your recruitment job becomes much easier. Satisfied volunteers can be strong advocates for your organization's mission and persuasive partners on your volunteer recruitment team.
There are many ways to foster volunteer retention. Just as people are attracted to volunteer at your organization for a multitude of reasons - the cause or people being served, their religious beliefs, the recreational aspect of volunteering, and so forth - there are many reasons why they continue to serve. Oftentimes, these reasons are different than the ones that persuaded them to give of their time in the first place. For example, a 1983 study of volunteer firefighters by Pearce "found that these subjects stated that they joined the organization for predominately service reasons, but friendships and social interaction were more influential in their decision to remain with it" (cited in Brudney 1990, p. 162).
Tips From the Field
In the Fall of 1997, TxServe convened an action team of managers of volunteer initiatives at several Texas state agencies and nonprofit organizations to discuss volunteer recruitment. They shared the following successful retention strategies:
A Word of Caution: In an environment of down-sizing, staff may see volunteers in "high" or professional positions as a threat to their job-security. The topic of volunteer-staff relations is well handled in Building Staff/Volunteer Relations by Ivan H. Scheier.
The best incentives emerge from listening to volunteers. Not every volunteer or group of volunteers will be motivated by the same set of incentives. Ideas that work with one group or individual may not appeal to another. Jayne Cravens of UN Volunteers tells a story that illustrates this point beautifully:
An organization that recruits volunteers to help nonprofits and small community groups with technology issues such as building Web sites and networking their computers decided to host a recognition event. In addition to thanking volunteers for their time, the goal of the reception was to provide a forum where volunteers could network and socialize with each other. Out of 100 invitees, only 2 arrived.
What went wrong?
Because this particular group of volunteers was very technology-focused and performed much of their volunteer work at home, they weren't interested in attending what appeared to be primarily a networking event. A more successful approach might have been to present the gratitude of the Executive Director or the Board via the Internet - including information about how their work has benefited the organization. The sign of appreciation was appropriate but the networking angle of the event and the method of delivery were out of touch with the interests of the group!
At the same time that you are listening for ways to keep them coming back, be sure to listen for organizational barriers to continued volunteer involvement. Some of the reasons why volunteers leave are out of your control; others may speak to program management, organizational culture, or logistical issues that can be addressed. Just as positive word of mouth by volunteer supporters can enhance your recruitment efforts, negative word of mouth by former participants can undermine future endeavors to attract volunteers.
Once you've 'lost' a volunteer due to program or organization inadequacies, it is hard to get them back.
Brudney, Jeffery L. Fostering Volunteer Programs in the Public Sector. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1990.
Ellis, Susan J. The Volunteer Recruitment Book. Philadelphia: Energize, 1994.
Ellis, Susan J., Anne Weisbord, and Katherine H. Noyes. Children as Volunteers: Preparing for Community Service. Philadelphia: Energize, 1991.
Fisher, James C. and Katherine Cole. Leadership and Management of Volunteer Programs. San Francisco: Jossey-B