101 Secrets to Great Volunteer Recruitment—Part One

Guest blogger Robert J. Rosenthal (@volmatchRobert) is VP of Communications & Marketing at VolunteerMatch, the Web’s largest network for volunteer engagement. Their new guide (free), 101 Volunteer Recruitment Secrets, showcases the insights of dozens of volunteer recruiters to share what works.

If you know the fundamentals of your work but it still feels like you’re missing out on a secret to effective volunteer engagement, we understand.

It can be lonely being the one responsible for volunteers. All around the organization the rest of your colleagues are dug in doing their work, setting program goals, delivering services, raising funds. Meanwhile you’re trying to figure out the best way to align a prospective volunteer’s need with your own program goals.

You may also be an “accidental expert” on volunteer engagement whose people skills have been recognized but not necessarily rewarded with resources.

Recently VolunteerMatch asked our network of 80,000 nonprofits about their secrets to effective volunteer recruitment. Many tips tips later, we have this guide – a wealth of volunteer recruitment knowledge gathered from nonprofit volunteer managers and local experts all over the world.

Readers of Getting Attention won’t be surprised to see just how many secrets are about communications best practices! Here a few of my favorites:

Go Where the Volunteers Are

Most nonprofits can’t afford billboards or TV ads to advertise volunteer needs. Fortunately you don’t need to. To get the attention of great volunteers, your message merely needs to be in the right places at the right times.

For volunteer coordinator Marjorie Williams, her best prospecting doesn’t start at her organization’s website or Facebook page, but out in the community. “We put bulletin announcements in the local church bulletins,” she said.

Likewise, Tanya Munro Erway says her creative recruiting includes a blurb in her realtor’s newsletter which goes out to thousands of area resident and posting flyers at ethnic gourmet food stores for a specific language need.

Their secret: Target your audience where it already is.

Strike While the Iron’s Hot

I once had the most amazing volunteer reach out to me. A whip-smart former Accenture consultant, she saw one of my ads online and immediately reached out. She was perfect – so too bad I was on a team retreat! By the time I dug her email out of my in-box four days later, her interest had cooled – on my organization and on me.

That’s why Joan Malley, manager of Harbor House in Rochester, NY, has a 24-hour turn-around rule. “This doesn’t allow time for their enthusiasm to cool off,” she says.

Quick response can also turn incidental interest into something deeper. Stephanie Rokich, a volunteer recruiter at a National MS Society chapter in Salt Lake City, follows up with anyone who has expressed interest in her organization because you never know. “When we post about an upcoming event on Facebook and people ‘like’ it, I immediately send them a message asking if they are interested in volunteering,” she says.

Their secret: Use responsiveness to turn the spark of interest into a fire.

OK, 99 Secrets Still to Go!

This is just one of the recruitment secrets that point to the need for smart communications. Why not check out the rest? Download a free PDF copy of 101 Volunteer Recruitment Secrets.

What are your secrets to great volunteer recruitment? Share them here.

P.S. Get more peer guidance on volunteer recruitment and other ways to strengthen your organization’s marketing impact with our no-charge 2012 Nonprofit Marketing Wisdom Guide,

Guest Blogger on April 25, 2012 in Volunteers | 5 comments
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  • http://twitter.com/volmatchRobert Robert Rosenthal

    Hi Nancy – thanks for posting this and sharing with your audience! It’s amazing to me how much collected wisdom there is in the nonprofit field, and it’s an honor to play a role in bringing those ideas to a wider audience of today’s practicing communicators.  I’d also recommend that readers consider following the VolunteerMatch blog for nonprofits, http://www.EngagingVolunteers,org, which focuses solely on how to effectively involve volunteers. Cheers!

  • http://www.esparkinfo.com/ Web Design Company

    Really terrific post..
    Thanks for the sharing.

  • http://nonprofitwebsitesolution.com/ Non-profit Web Sites

    Great “secrets” shared here. I loved the second (Strike while iron’s hot). We really make time to be on the lookout for those who are very much willing to volunteer. Their time is precious too. So if they respond, it’s good to reply at once.

  • Search-Aid

    Downloaded the PDF, great work! Now it is part of our marking folder. Cheers!

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