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.
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.