How to recruit volunteers for a nonprofit organisation: A step-by-step guide

Recruitment is an essential part of volunteer management but it's difficult to get right. Non-profits will benefit hugely from sticking to a tried and test recruitment strategy and in this article we'll show you, step-by-step how to set one up.

Volunteers are the lifeblood of nonprofits, bringing fresh perspectives and new ideas to help the organisation adapt and grow. Volunteers bring value to the nonprofit through the services and assistance they offer, usually at little or no cost to the organisation. There is no doubt volunteers are an essential component of a nonprofit’s operations, but it can be difficult to know how to recruit volunteers and get them involved.

This step-by-step guide will help you create and implement a comprehensive volunteer recruitment strategy to find dedicated and passionate volunteers for your organisation. Plus, we’ll share insights on how using volunteer management software can make volunteer recruitment easier and more efficient. So keep reading for effective tips and strategies to help you recruit the best volunteers for your organisation.


Why is active volunteer recruitment important?

In a sector where there is often more work to do than staff to do it, volunteers can boost a nonprofit’s scope, reach and impact. Active volunteer recruitment is crucial for nonprofits to achieve their goals. More volunteers provide more support to an organisation’s programs and services. With additional volunteers available, organisations can expand their services and offerings, making a greater impact on the individuals and communities they serve. Without volunteers, organisations may struggle to keep up with the demands placed on them.

Active volunteer recruitment can help a nonprofit diversify its volunteer base, bringing in new skills and perspectives to support its work. It can open up new opportunities for partnerships and help build a sense of community and engagement amongst volunteers and supporters.

When it comes to volunteer recruitment, it's not just about having more people. It's about finding the right ones who share the passion for what the organisation is working to achieve.


Prepare a volunteer recruitment strategy  

Having a good recruitment strategy in place is essential for attracting and retaining the right volunteers for your organisation. A well-crafted recruitment strategy is a plan that outlines the steps the organisation will take to find and attract volunteers. The strategy should focus on how to recruit volunteers effectively.

To create a successful volunteer recruitment strategy, it is important to identify the specific areas where volunteers are needed. This includes assessing the organisation's current volunteer needs and considering any potential future needs. Once the areas of need have been identified, the organisation can determine whether volunteers with a certain skillset, background or level of experience are required. 

The next step in creating a volunteer recruitment strategy is to identify the target audience for the recruitment effort. This information can then be used to create targeted recruitment campaigns that will reach the right people.

Effective communication is key when recruiting volunteers. Having a clear, easy to use volunteer application process, a comprehensive volunteer management system in place, and an active volunteer retention program are essential components of a successful volunteer recruitment strategy.

It is important to have a plan for reaching potential volunteers through various channels such as social media, email, and other forms of communication. The goal is to make the recruitment process as easy and seamless as possible to encourage potential volunteers to join the organisation.

Let’s examine the key elements of a successful volunteer recruitment strategy in more detail, including how to retain volunteers over the longer term.


Create a job description

Having a job description for volunteer positions helps to clearly define the tasks and responsibilities of the position, as well as the required skills and qualifications. It is an essential step in the recruitment process, especially when it comes to understanding how to recruit volunteers effectively.

The job description should clearly outline the expectations of the volunteer's responsibilities and duties. This helps to ensure the volunteer is fully aware of what is expected of them and understands the scope of the role before committing to it. 

The document should also specify the qualifications and skills required for the position. This will help attract volunteers who have the necessary skills and experience to effectively carry out the role. It will also allow the organisation to properly train and mentor the volunteer, which can lead to a more successful and productive volunteer experience.

When writing the job description it is important to consider the organisation's overall mission and goals. The job description should align with the organisation's objectives and explain how the volunteer's role will contribute to achieving these goals. This will help attract individuals who are passionate about the organisation's mission and are more likely to be engaged and committed volunteers.


Conduct reference checks

Reference checks help to ensure the organisation is recruiting the right individuals who are suitable for the volunteer role and align with the organisation's mission and values. Reference checks can provide valuable insights into the volunteer's past experiences and performance which can help predict how they will perform in the role.

When conducting reference checks, it is important to contact a variety of referees including previous supervisors, colleagues, and other professional contacts. Information gathered from a range of sources will provide a well-rounded view of the volunteer's work history, skills, and character. Information that may be useful to obtain during a reference check are the volunteer's length of service in a prior position, job title, responsibilities, and the type of organisation they worked in.

It's important to ask open-ended questions that allow the referee to provide detailed information about the volunteer. For example, asking about the volunteer's strengths, weaknesses, and areas of improvement can provide valuable insights into their work habits and potential fit for the role. Also ask about the volunteer's attitude and work ethic, as these are key indicators of how they are likely to perform in the role.


Volunteer onboarding

The onboarding process helps to ensure that new volunteers are properly oriented and trained for their role. It should start with a clear and detailed orientation program that includes an introduction to the organisation's mission, values and goals, as well as an overview of the volunteer's role and responsibilities.

The orientation should also include information about the organisation's policies and procedures, such as how to report volunteer hours, how to access resources and support, and how to communicate with staff and other volunteers.


Provide ongoing training

Ongoing training helps ensure that volunteers are equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to perform their role effectively.

When developing a training program for volunteers, it is important to consider the specific needs and skill levels of the volunteer group. Training can include in-person and online training options such as webinars, video tutorials, and workshops. It is also important to provide training on soft skills, such as communication and teamwork, in addition to any specialised skills that are required for the role.

Training should be accessible to all volunteers and offered at a convenient time. Providing flexibility for scheduling such as offering training in the evening or on weekends helps to ensure that volunteers can attend. Additionally, it's important to provide support and follow-up training, such as one-on-one coaching or mentoring to help volunteers apply what they have learnt in training, to their role.

Sustained engagement with volunteers

Ongoing engagement with volunteers helps them feel valued and supported, which can lead to increased volunteer retention. When volunteers feel that their contributions are appreciated and they are having real impact, they are more likely to remain committed to the organisation.

One way of engaging volunteers is to provide regular opportunities for feedback and communication. This can include regular check-ins, surveys, or focus groups. These methods can provide valuable insights into volunteers' experiences and can be used to identify any issues or areas for improvement. It is important to actively listen to and act on feedback provided by volunteers.

Another way to engage volunteers is to provide opportunities for professional development and advancement. This can include training, mentoring, and leadership development programs. These opportunities not only help to improve volunteers' skills but also help recognise their contributions and potential. This can lead to increased volunteer retention because volunteers feel that they are valued and have an opportunity to grow and develop in the position.


Reward and recognise volunteers

Rewarding and recognising volunteers helps show volunteers that their contributions are valued and appreciated. When volunteers feel that they are making a real impact, they are more likely to remain committed to the organisation.

One way to reward and recognise volunteers is through offering them tangible rewards such as certificates, merchandise or gift cards. These rewards can be given for milestones such as completing a certain number of volunteer hours or achieving a specific goal. Rewards are a great way to recognise the volunteer's efforts and show that their contributions are appreciated.

Another way to reward and recognise volunteers is through non-tangible rewards such as public recognition or opportunities for leadership roles. This can include publicising volunteer accomplishments or providing opportunities for leadership development programs. These types of rewards can help to create a positive and supportive environment and show volunteers that their contributions are valued.

Volunteer contributions and achievements can be celebrated by hosting events or ceremonies. Events can be an effective way to bring volunteers together and show them that their work is appreciated. These events can include volunteer thank you events, recognition ceremonies, or volunteer of the year awards. Celebrating volunteers in this way can help create a positive and supportive environment and show volunteers that their contributions are valued and appreciated.




Methods for recruiting volunteers

Now that we have shared some initial insights on how to recruit volunteers, let’s take a closer look at the ways your organisation can effectively recruit volunteers. 

There are a variety of methods organisations can use to attract and engage potential volunteers. These methods include social media campaigns, community and corporate partnerships, and word-of-mouth referrals. By understanding the different methods available and the unique strengths of each, organisations can use this information to inform their recruitment strategy.


corporate partnerships 

A corporate volunteering partnership can provide a sense of legitimacy and support for a nonprofit, which in turn can help attract volunteers who are looking for opportunities with reputable organisations. By forming partnerships with businesses, nonprofits can tap into the resources and networks of the company to recruit individuals who may not have otherwise been exposed to volunteer opportunities.

One way that organisations can use corporate partnerships to recruit volunteers is by working with the company to create volunteer opportunities that align with the skills and interests of the company's employees. For example, a tech company may partner with a local school to provide volunteers who can help with a coding program for students. By providing opportunities that match the skills and interests of the company's employees, organisations can make volunteering more appealing and accessible to a wider range of individuals.

Another way that corporate partnerships can help organisations recruit volunteers is by leveraging the company's communication channels. Many businesses have a large employee base and a wide network of contacts which can be used to promote volunteer opportunities to a broad audience. By working with the company to create a communications plan, nonprofits can use the company's networks to reach potential volunteers and raise awareness about their opportunities.

Corporate partnerships can also provide organisations with access to resources and funding that can be used to support volunteer recruitment efforts. For example, a company may provide financial support for volunteer programs, or offer in-kind donations such as office space or equipment. These resources can be used to create more volunteer opportunities, provide training for volunteers, or develop marketing materials to promote the organisation's volunteer programs. 


Partnering with schools, colleges and universities 

One way nonprofits can use school, college, and university partnerships to recruit volunteers is by working with the institution to create volunteer opportunities that align with the curriculum and interests of the students. For example, an environmental focussed nonprofit may partner with a local college to provide volunteer opportunities on a conservation project to environmental science students. By providing opportunities that match the curriculum and interests of the students, organisations can make volunteering more appealing and accessible to a wider range of individuals.

Another way nonprofits can partner with schools is by offering programs for student volunteers who need to increase volunteer hours for their college applications. This can be beneficial for both the nonprofit and the student. The nonprofit can recruit a new group of volunteers who are motivated to volunteer and the students gain valuable volunteer experience to help them stand out in the college application process. This type of partnership allows students to fulfill their college application requirements while also contributing to the community and supporting a cause they care about.


Use Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software

Using CRM or another type of database can be an effective method for recruiting volunteers. By using a centralised system to store and manage information about potential and current volunteers, nonprofits can streamline their recruitment efforts and target their outreach to individuals who are most likely to be interested in volunteering. CRMs can provide organisations with valuable insights into the demographics and interests of their volunteer base, which can help identify new recruitment opportunities.

One way that organisations can use CRM to recruit volunteers is by using it to track and manage the progress of recruitment campaigns. By having a clear overview of which recruitment methods are working and which are not, organisations can adjust their strategies and allocate resources more efficiently. CRM can store contact information for potential volunteers making it easy for organisations to contact them with new volunteer opportunities.

Another way organisations can use CRM to recruit volunteers is by creating targeted email and newsletter campaigns. By segmenting the volunteer base on demographics and interests, the nonprofit can create personalised messages that are more likely to resonate with potential volunteers. For example, an organisation can create a newsletter specifically for parents, that highlights volunteer opportunities that are suitable for families with children. CRM can track the open and click-through rates of newsletters which can provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of the organisation's recruitment efforts.

CRM can also be used to track the progress of individual volunteers throughout their engagement with the organisation. By keeping detailed records of volunteer hours, roles, and feedback, organisations can ensure that volunteers are engaged, content and motivated to continue volunteering. 


Use social media 

Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn provide organisations with a wide reach, making it easy to connect with potential volunteers and promote volunteer opportunities. Social media can be used to build relationships with potential volunteers and create a sense of community around the organisation and its cause.

Nonprofits can use social media to recruit volunteers by creating a dedicated page or group for volunteer opportunities. This page can be used to share information about upcoming volunteer opportunities, share stories and photos of previous volunteers in action, and provide a platform for volunteers to connect and share their experiences. By creating a dedicated page or group, organisations can build a community of people who are interested in volunteering, making it easier to reach out to them with new opportunities.

In addition to posting volunteer opportunities, organisations can use social media to share general updates about the organisation and its activities. Sharing this information can help create a sense of engagement and connection with their community and attract more potential volunteers.


Establish a referral program

A referral program is a popular method for recruiting volunteers as it leverages the power of word-of-mouth recommendations. By encouraging current volunteers to refer their family, friends and colleagues to the organisation, a referral program can help increase the pool of potential volunteers.

One key benefit of referral programs is that they can help attract individuals who are a good fit for the organisation. Since the referrals come from people who are already involved with the organisation, they are likely to share similar values and interests. This can make it easier to find volunteers who are a good match for the organisation's mission and goals.

Referral programs are usually cost-effective as they do not require a significant investment in advertising or recruitment efforts. Instead, the organisation can rely on the recommendations of its current volunteers to spread the word about the opportunity. This can help keep costs low while still effectively recruiting new volunteers.


Post opportunities on volunteer job boards

Volunteer job boards are websites that list volunteer opportunities and allow individuals to search and apply for volunteer positions. These job boards are a great way for organisations to reach a large audience of potential volunteers and for individuals to find volunteer opportunities that align with their interests and skills.

Volunteer job boards collate volunteer opportunities from various organisations, making it easy for individuals to find and apply for volunteer positions. These job boards often have filters and search functionality that allows users to find opportunities that align with their specific interests and location. Volunteer job boards often provide resources and tools to help individuals prepare for and make the most of their volunteer experience.


How to recruit volunteers using volunteer management software

Volunteer management software like Rosterfy can help streamline the recruitment process and make it easier to find the right volunteers for your nonprofit. This software is a valuable tool for organisations seeking to recruit, organise, and optimise their volunteer efforts. The use of volunteer management software can help streamline the recruitment and onboarding process, and provide an efficient way to manage and track the progress of volunteers.

One advantage of volunteer management software is that it allows organisations to efficiently manage their volunteer recruitment process and track the progress of their volunteers. Using the software, organisations can easily post job openings and manage the applications they receive. The software allows recruiters to quickly review applications and contact potential volunteers, while also providing a platform to track the progress of existing volunteers. 

Volunteer management software also offers organisations a platform to recognise and reward the efforts of their volunteers. The software helps organisations keep track of volunteer hours worked, provide feedback and recognition for their volunteer’s hard work, and create awards to recognise achievements. 

Knowing how to recruit volunteers for a nonprofit begins with creating a solid volunteer recruitment strategy that focuses on identifying the needs and goals of the organisation, as well as the skills and interests of potential volunteers. 

By using various recruitment methods such as social media, corporate partnerships, and referrals, organisations can increase the visibility of their volunteer opportunities and reach a wider audience. 

Having a well planned and executed volunteer recruitment strategy is crucial for helping nonprofits achieve their goals and serve their community.


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About Rosterfy

Rosterfy exists to connect communities to events and causes they are passionate about through volunteer and paid workforce management technology. Our proven end to end technology allows charities, events and nonprofit organisations to recruit, register, screen, train, manage and report with ease, replacing manual processes with automations to better engage and retain your volunteers and paid staff.

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