Recruitment Strategies

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:

  • 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?

Remember: specific messages are needed for specific audiences. There isn't one blanket recruitment message that will successfully entice all potential volunteers.

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:

  • 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.

Things to Remember:

  • 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.