How to recruit volunteers for a nonprofit

You’re competing against multiple other organizations around the world. Let’s dive into the best way to recruit volunteers for your nonprofit.

Every organization needs a way to move business goals forward. Donors help bring funds in, board members create key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the success of each event, cause or volunteer opportunity, and recruits keep the company gears moving. The people who maintain the day-to-day operations are vital to meeting the initiatives set forth by management. 

In 2021, one in four Americans spent their time volunteering for an organization or association, according to a survey conducted by AmeriCorps from 2010 to the present day. 

But, how do you find the right volunteers and keep them engaged? Let’s dive into why you need volunteers, how to attract incredible individuals and what volunteer software can do for your nonprofit organization. 


Why you need to recruit volunteers

To recruit potential volunteers means to ask individuals to work for your association without the expectation of monetary compensation. You could ask people to apply for a position via an application, ask your current volunteers to seek help from the people in their inner circle or anything else in between. 

Volunteer recruitment is very helpful in nonprofit organizations because they help a nonprofit in several ways:

  • Fundraise the money necessary for the nonprofit. 
  • Help reduce operating costs and overheads. 
  • Expand donor networks and community connections. 
  • Improve stakeholder engagement and satisfaction. 
  • Offer new skill sets to the team. 

Organizations can benefit from volunteer engagement when they recruit at the right time, know the types of volunteers they want for the next opportunity and follow a clear structure for recruitment. 


When to know you need volunteers

While you may have been able to operate on a fairly lean team so far, you’ve noticed that the organization is gaining more traction or there is more activity than normal. Sometimes volunteers will naturally sign up for nonprofit organizations because it’s well known or recommended. 

But, what do you do when that steady supply of walk-ins is no longer available or enough to keep up with demand? Here are a few signs that you may need more volunteers:

  • You identify a gap in the skill set of your volunteers and require a more diverse range of volunteers to fulfill specific roles at an upcoming event or opportunity. 
  • You notice patterns of high or low turnover depending on the season (such as students needing volunteer hours to complete certain projects throughout the school year). 
  • You are struggling to operate with your current database of volunteers.
  • Your organization is going through a lot of staffing churn. 


It’s okay to be picky

You don’t want to cast your net too wide so that just anyone can get a volunteer spot. This could result in not only high volunteer turnover, but potentially lower fundraising numbers and a lot of frustration. It’s important to attract the right prospective volunteer who will show up for your association the way you need them to: with dedication, commitment and consistency. 

This means recruitment should be an engaging activity for both your organization and the volunteer. Instead of waiting for talent to show up at your door, you should put forth an effort to find the right people. Keeping in mind that not every volunteer is right for every project, you need to be clear about the types of people that you want. A huge benefit to building an engaged volunteer roster is eventually, recruitment will become less work overall as engagement and referrals increase. 

But, what do you need to do to actually find the people you want representing your nonprofit? 


5 best practices to attract and engage nonprofit volunteers

Volunteers are the foundation of your nonprofit, and finding the right people for your event or organization is essential to the success of each project. Just like recruiting in any other vertical or industry, the goal is always to attract and engage nonprofit volunteers. Let’s jump into five tactics for finding and keeping volunteers that could make a difference to the future of your organization:


1. Start by recruiting volunteers locally

Finding volunteers locally and giving them opportunities in the area can be a great place to start building your nonprofit as you grow. Volunteering often gives locals the chance to connect with their community, and give back to the spaces and people that have made their community home. Connecting with your community locally can embed your organization as the nonprofit of choice for people searching for volunteer opportunities. 

Many volunteers may be coming from high schools in the area that require volunteer hours for graduation eligibility, or they could be retirees looking to fill their time. You can let volunteers know that you’re looking to fill roles by appearing in several places they could be looking for opportunities:

  • Facebook community groups.
  • Google job postings, using keywords such as “volunteer” or “nonprofit impacts.”
  • The local paper.
  • Local school boards.
  • Word-of-mouth referrals.
  • Reaching out to former volunteers. 

The more awareness you can generate about both your network and the opportunities available, the more likely you are to find people willing to donate their time to your cause. 


2. Write a stellar job description

Most volunteer positions require a certain set of skills to meet the needs of the project. Writing a comprehensive job description serves two important purposes: finding qualified candidates and better volunteer satisfaction. When people know what is expected of them, they are more likely to know whether they can meet those requirements or not and in turn, whether or not it’s worth their time. 

In your volunteer program job description, include all of the duties and responsibilities for the position, organized from necessary to nice to have. Adding your company culture and benefits in the job description can attract more applicants as well.

Casting a wide net without a detailed job description could result in volunteers and management that are confused about what needs to be done. This can result in either not enough work for the volunteer to do, or too much work that doesn’t seem relevant to the volunteers skill set. As you work through each application and interview qualified prospective volunteers, you’ll find that a detailed job description can help cut down on unqualified applicants. 


3. Offer flexible volunteer position opportunities

Being as specific as possible in your job description can help find the right people for the project; this includes the length of the job. If you need a new volunteer for a single event or a six-month stint, this should be clearly defined in the job description. 

Short-term opportunities with flexible hours can help find those who may have fluctuating availability throughout the year, but still want to help out. Some volunteers prefer shorter commitments, whereas others have more time on their hands and are happy to commit to something on a more ongoing basis. For example, a volunteer who works multiple jobs but still makes time to volunteer when they can, may look for shorter commitments (after hours) versus someone retired who may be interested in investing more of their time (during the day). 

If you want to gauge when the greatest availability of time is for your volunteers, sending out a survey to your existing volunteers on their availability is a great way to forecast the best chance of volunteer attendance. 

Regardless of how long a volunteer can offer their time, it’s important to track their attendance on the job. This could be significant not only for measuring individual impact but may be vital to apply for grants or fundraising opportunities. It also becomes useful for forward planning, where requirements from one year can be used to determine requirements for the years to follow. 


4. Offer support and training

Most people can’t show up to a job without any guidance at all. If you allow even your quality volunteers to work by themselves without any supervision or onboarding, you could face a confused team of people that are more likely to become disengaged. 

An onboarding program can help your volunteers feel more prepared for their roles and better understand your expectations. Your goal should be to streamline your onboarding so every volunteer gets the information they need, and feels welcomed to the organization and connected to the role. Most nonprofit volunteer programs aren’t possible without the individuals who offer their time and skills, so make sure to give them the attention they deserve to feel welcomed and informed

Onboarding doesn’t have to be in person, though. Nowadays, most volunteer onboarding programs happen online, where volunteer management systems like Rosterfy can be used to better manage your remote teams. This means setting up video calls, virtual training videos, online shift check-in and more. 


5. Emphasize volunteer impact

Volunteers want to know that their work is making a difference for the organization. Before even posting the position, you could publish some of the important things a volunteer could help with within the nonprofit and the impact that this will deliver to your nonprofit. 

How many volunteer hours will it take to feed a certain number of people for a season? What will happen when volunteers meet the company’s expectations? 

Knowing how much of a difference their time will make to the people that could benefit from the organization can help motivate more volunteers to sign up and put in quality work. 

Another great way to emphasize volunteer impact is by recognizing an exceptional volunteer who has committed to putting in a lot of effort. This can be inspiring for other volunteers who might strive to be highlighted as well. Consider sending out a newsletter or dedicating a celebratory call-out during an event to a stand-out volunteer. Recognition for a job well done can go a long way for nonprofit organizations. 


How volunteer management software can help

Recruitment tactics vary based on the volunteer work and how long you need their services. Finding the right volunteer and keeping them engaged can feel especially challenging when your nonprofit is growing and you need more volunteers to run operations. The good news is that there is volunteer management software that can help support your organization. 

By replacing manual processes with robust technology solutions that can meet the needs of your company to save time, money and effort, you should find you have more time to focus on what’s important - like recruiting and engaging your volunteers. Volunteer management software can help:

  • Streamline nonprofit operations.
  • Onboard volunteers automatically.
  • Create easy workflows and recruitment.
  • Recycle volunteers from past events.
  • Create regular engagement opportunities.
  • Track and optimize volunteer activity.

Rosterfy’s end-to-end volunteer management solution can help you recruit and engage volunteers with reward systems and online learning badges. Watch as certain volunteers excel and express excitement about the next project and extend their service to you. We’ll make sure that your existing technologies operate with our software to minimize the manual work you have to do. 

With Rosterfy, you can recruit and connect with the right volunteers from anywhere. 


About Rosterfy 

Rosterfy exists to connect communities to events and causes they’re passionate about through volunteer and paid workforce management technology. Our proven end-to-end technology allows charities, events and nonprofit organizations to recruit, register, screen, train, manage and report with ease. Rosterfy can help replace manual processes with automation to better engage and retain your volunteers and paid staff.

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