Although I write for VolunteerHub, I also work part-time fora non-profit agency, a public library. Like so many other organizations, over the last few years I have seen a decrease in the library’s funding and have heard the rumblings of more budget cuts to come. The library has responded by attempting to become even more efficient and even leaner in our staffing. As individuals have left, we have not rehired, but simply distributed their duties to remaining staff members. Everyone at the library has more responsibilities now, including the person who finds volunteer coordination as just one of the many components listed in her job description.
Does this scenario sound familiar? In times like these, recruiting volunteers can seem like just one more thing to do and may get put at the very bottom of the list. Although there is definitely an initial time investment in recruitment, I argue that now is the time to make a concerted push for new volunteers.
Lessons from the Business World
When it comes to volunteer recruitment, I think we can take some tips from the business world. Businesses don’t wait for customers to come to them. They actively market their product through advertising. They approach prospective customers through face-to-face meetings as well as cold calls over the phone. And, most compelling of all, business people are trained to ask for the sale. I think the same could be said for volunteer recruitment. Don’t wait for volunteers to come to you. Just as in the business world, be proactive through your advertising. Prospect a little and cold call a few times. Most importantly, simply ask, “Would you have an hour or two a week in your schedule to help us out?”.
Start with Your Nonprofit’s Website
There is a host of avenues for finding potential volunteers. Sometimes we overlook the most obvious route: in-house promotion. Does your homepage prominently display a “Volunteers Needed” area? Do you have a sign on your counter or in your reception area to the same effect? Make sure to have a tag line in emails and, when appropriate, state your need for volunteers in your newsletters, brochures, and other printed materials. Challenge your staff to actively recruit friends or relatives, and do the same for your existing volunteers. You might be surprised at the number of new volunteers this brings in when it is highlighted as a priority.
Reach Out to the Community
Also, take steps to elevate your visibility in the community. Most areas hold a “Community Night”, which showcases local businesses and agencies. Make it a priority to attend these, recruiting volunteers just as strongly as you tout your services. In the same vein, look into getting a booth at local festivals and fairs. You will reach across the gamut of demographics at events such as these.
Turn to your local schools as well. Many high school government and civics classes, as well as National Honor Society groups, require community service as a component. Clearly communicate to the leaders of these groups that you would be interested in helping them fulfill their volunteer hour requirements. Although each individual might only need to contribute a few hours, an influx of numbers might help you get that project done that has been pushed to the back burner for years. While you are in contact with the schools, ask for a list of teachers who are retiring. They are perfect candidates for volunteers.
Partner with Local Agencies
Speaking of retirees, have you tried networking with your local senior center? As we have mentioned in a previous article, this is the age of Baby Boomer retirement. Take advantage of that and make sure to partner with these local agencies. Design a flyer specifically to put on the centers community bulletin board. Perhaps the senior center would even be willing to organize a volunteer event, with a certain day and time each week when a senior group could volunteer at your organization together. This would allow for the group members to socialize while helping your agency out at the same time.
Additional Ideas for Volunteer Recruitment
These are just a few ideas for potential volunteer sources. Of course, don’t forget your other networking opportunities: college fraternities and sororities, churches, Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, local businesses, and service agencies such as Rotary clubs. Brainstorm a little, and I’m sure even more potential volunteer groups will surface. Then go out there and recruit away. Just remember, as the old adage goes, sometimes all you gotta do is ask.