As a thought leader on volunteer management, our team at VolunteerHub is committed to delivering unique perspectives on the topic. We recently partnered with VolunteerMatch, an online volunteer engagement network, to develop the following blog posting. The article, written by Shari Ilsen, takes a look at the emerging trends in volunteer recruitment.

We love volunteer recruitment at VolunteerMatch. I suppose it might be a weird thing to love, but it’s just kind of our thing. And we also love working with experts and members of our own community to help nonprofits do it better.

So as we approach the second half of 2012, we figure it’s time to share some of the great trends we’re seeing this year that are shaping the future of volunteer recruitment. In other words: what cool stuff are nonprofits doing to successfully connect with dedicated volunteers?

Visual Storytelling to Grab Volunteers’ Attention

From the Nonprofit Technology Conference to the Nonprofit Blog Carnival, everyone is talking about how nonprofits can better convey their messages visually. Three of the tools generating the most buzz and activity are:

  • Pinterest
    • Pinterest recently surpassed LinkedIn to become the third most popular social network in the world. Nonprofits are catching on to the engagement potential of Pinterest, and there is a growing collection of volunteer-related boards on the platform. Just ask California State Library or United Way of Central Ohio how successful you can be recruiting volunteers via Pinterest.
  • Instagram
    • It’s trendy, it’s easy, and it’s mobile. Instagram has the ultimate trifecta when it comes to being useful for nonprofits. Not only will Instagram enable you to reach a population of potential volunteers that is (most likely) different from your normal crop, but you can outsource your Instragram duties by recruiting tech-savvy volunteers to help!
  • YouTube for Nonprofits
    • Over the past few months YouTube has released a number of great new features for its nonprofit users. In addition to increased upload capacity and the cool Call to Action overlay feature, you can drive fundraising with Google Checkout, stream content live, and increase your visibility on the YouTube Nonprofit videos page. This program is quite simply a no-brainer.

Virtual Volunteering

As the online world continues to expand, more nonprofits are exploring the value of virtual volunteering. Engaging volunteers outside of your community can have a number of benefits:  you don’t have to worry about space, they can work whenever they have time, and they often will share their connection with you with their friends.

Platforms like have contributed to the growth of microvolunteering, a specific form of virtual volunteering that harnesses the power of skilled crowds to accomplish discrete tasks for nonprofits.

And if I may, I’d like to cross over into another realm of nonprofit focus and talk about fundraising for a minute. Online social fundraising is exploding, with platforms like RazooCausevox and Give2gether (not to mention Causes,) enabling individuals to become evangelists for the causes they care about and raise money from their networks.

These online social fundraisers are volunteers! Nonprofits are engaging their most passionate community members and empowering them to amplify their support by becoming virtual fundraisers.

Skilled Volunteering

Way back in 2011 VolunteerMatch released a new way for nonprofits to list volunteer opportunities in our network called the Listing Wizard. Among other things, this tool enables nonprofits to more easily specify the specific skills they are looking for in a potential volunteer.

We tweaked our tool in this way because we believe this is more than just a trend – it’s a paradigm shift. 96% of nonprofits report a need for skilled volunteers, but most have trouble finding people to fill those needs. The skilled volunteering movement is also growing among individuals – organizations like Taproot Foundation and Catchafire have joined VolunteerMatch to connect skilled volunteers directly with nonprofit projects.

Corporations are also interested in making skilled volunteering a larger piece of their community involvement activities, and companies like Microsoft, HP, American Express and The Gap are publically and actively building more skills-based and pro bono volunteering programs.

Social Media Volunteers

The availability of all these new technologies to recruit volunteers is a huge step forward for the field as a whole. But sometimes nonprofits just don’t have the capacity to manage all of the social media platforms and technology tools that they need to engage potential supporters.

What do we tell these nonprofits? Recruit a volunteer!

There are thousands, if not millions of people out there itching to help nonprofits with their social media and technology needs. This is a great way to engage virtual volunteers, since the manager of your Twitter feed certainly does not need to physically be in your office.

What are some new ways your organization is engaging volunteers this year? We’d love to hear about them!

Shari Ilsen is Online Communications Manager for VolunteerMatch, the Web’s largest volunteer engagement network. VolunteerMatch helps more than 80,000 organizations around the country connect with the volunteers they need. Connect with Shari and VolunteerMatch at @VolunteerMatch.