The Importance of Recruiting Volunteers
When I thought of writing this article, I did so because an organization I currently volunteer for just finished a special event. What amazed me was the fact that there were more than 200 volunteers for this event last year. I was told we had 50 volunteers this year.
No wonder I felt that I had to work twice as hard, covering several tasks. In fact this week alone, I volunteered to assist a public school foundation, a university where I am a proud alumnus, two church special fundraising drive events I am leading, plus I attended a service club event where I am a board member. This is in addition to my volunteer weekly writing efforts for my NonProfit PRO readership!
I also volunteered advice, counsel and guidance to several colleagues. No wonder I am tired, but happy because I feel it is my duty to volunteer. I wonder why others do not feel as obligated.
PlanHero said that a study of the Bureau of Labor and Statistics data on volunteering will show that volunteering is on the decline in the U.S. It is not dire, but it is on a downward trend. Rotary International, Boy Scouts, the Elks and other organizations have suffered from declining membership over recent years. PlanHero believes that the following play a role: more women are working, online communities, people relocating more frequently, kids having too many activities and the rise of youth club sports. If more people would volunteer, they would find improved mental and physical health, happiness, self-esteem and life satisfaction.
Phys.org noted that fewer volunteers are engaging with nonprofits. The percentage of Americans who contribute time and money has fallen to its lowest point in two decades, according to the University of Maryland’s Do-Good Institute. The report found that in 31 states, particularly in rural and suburban areas, there were significant declines in volunteering between 2004 and 2015.
Engaging Volunteers said VolunteerMatch president Greg Baldwin argued that volunteer rates are falling because we, as a nation, don’t invest enough resources in the nonprofit sector. Without resources, nonprofits simply don’t have the capacity to effectively engage volunteers. Volunteerism decline could be attributed to a shifting trend away from community involvement, social media and people have simply less free time to devote to volunteerism.
Stanford Center on Longevity notes that while more than 90% of us want to volunteer, only one in four Americans do. Research has shown that there are three common barriers to volunteering. These are: “I don’t have enough time and volunteer schedules are too inflexible”; “I do not have enough information and most volunteer roles aren’t interesting”; and “no one asked me to volunteer.” You should ask people to volunteer and make them feel that their work is valued and appreciated.
TopNonprofits stated the “volunteer power” seven tips to recruit volunteers are:
- Just ask. People want to volunteer.
- Team. Ask people as a team to volunteer.
- Lifetime volunteers. Create a lifetime relationship with volunteers.
- “No” is not never. Start recruiting volunteers as early as possible.
- Leave seats empty. Seek to find the right volunteer.
- People driven. Recruit individuals who want to be part of your team.
- Position title. Volunteers like to have a title as they do in a work context.
The Balance stated that nonprofit organizations need volunteers, but finding them and convincing them to help can be a challenge. Consider the jobs you need filled and then consider who could do those jobs best and who might be interested.
Rick Lynch and Steve McCurley, authors of “Essential Volunteer Management,” suggest there are three basic ways to recruit for volunteers:
- Warm body recruitment. When you need a large group of volunteers for a short period and the qualifications for the task are minimal, distribute brochures and materials.
- Targeted recruitment. Create a targeted recruitment message toward a small group of qualified volunteers and carefully plan your recruitment approach.
- Concentric circles recruitment. Contact people already in direct or indirect contact with your organization. These might be clients, friends or family members of clients, friends of current staff, or those aware of your organization.
You must share a compelling message to recruit and explain why your organization is worthy of a person’s volunteer time. You should also attempt to recruit volunteers through online vehicles.
According to DonorBox, volunteers are shown to be one of the most valuable resources a nonprofit can gain access to assist them in their mission. Studies estimate that about 100 million people volunteer each year with an annual value of $150 billion.
Seek to give your volunteers autonomy, mastery of their roles and purpose to the cause. Believe in recruitment and retention. Always seek to obtain the “right” volunteers for your organization.
In summary, my strongest recommendation to improve your volunteer program at your organization is for you to immediately become a volunteer for your program. By being an actual volunteer, you can critique the volunteer program in a unique way and provide input to improve processes from the inside out. The importance of recruiting volunteers has never been greater. It is a nonprofit’s most natural resource. Constantly take steps to preserve, protect and enhance this resource.
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at email@example.com or 317-224-1029.