Volunteer Recruitment and Training Best Practices for Nonprofits

By Peter Gamache, Ph.D. & Jackie Sue Griffin, MBA, MS, Turnaround Life, Inc.

Nonprofits rely on volunteers to maximize impact while minimizing overhead. Therefore, volunteer recruitment is a crucial component of a successful volunteer program. Finding the right volunteers can come as a challenge and some recruitment methods may be more appropriate for your nonprofit and its needs than others. Let’s explore three tried-and-true methods your volunteer program team can consider.

Recruitment Methods

When it comes to recruiting volunteers, there are three basic ways to do it:

  1. Targeted recruitment. Targeted recruitment is a planned approach that involves targeted campaigns geared toward a small audience. This recruitment method is best for nonprofits that are trying to reach volunteers with unique characteristics or specific skills. When you locate a source of such volunteers, reach out to them directly. EXAMPLE: speak at your local professional association meetings about your need for skilled volunteers such as nurses or lawyers.
  2. Warm body recruitment. When the qualifications are minimal, and you need a large number of people for a short period, you should go with warm body recruitment. Virtually anybody willing to volunteer can do the work, so you should create and promote a message to as broad an audience as possible. EXAMPLE: recruit large groups for clean-ups or water stations by speaking to the largest employers and churches in your area.
  3. Concentric circles recruitment. This recruitment method requires you to contact people who are already in contact (directly or indirectly) with your nonprofit. Those people might be your current and former staff, friends, family, clients, friends and family of your clients, etc. It’s more likely that you’ll persuade them to volunteer than complete strangers. EXAMPLE: your board, staff and clients can identify and recruit their like-minded connections for everything from small, one-time projects to recurring events.

Beyond your nonprofit’s immediate professional and social networks, you can find volunteers in places such as:

  • Community groups and clubs
  • Schools and universities
  • Local government offices

Also, consider placing announcements in the media and across your social media channels.

Create the Right Recruitment Message

Your recruitment message must be compelling, regardless of the method used. Make it simple, short and direct–and make sure it explains why your nonprofit is worthy of their time. Communicate the need for their services and outline the impact of their gift of time. Point out the benefits they’ll receive and stress the needs of the community for their contribution. Provide reasons for them to want to volunteer and explain what the job entails, and you won’t have any problems with recruiting the best volunteers for your needs.

Conduct Interviews

If looking for volunteers with specific skills or to work with specific audiences, like children, trauma survivors or anyone sharing confidential personal or health information, you should conduct interviews with potential volunteers. Ask them about the causes they are passionate about, the type of work they’ve done before, and experiences that got them into volunteering. Also, ask about their training, if they’re able to handle unexpected situations, and whether they prefer individual or group work. You may also wish to run background checks.

Volunteer Training

Once you’ve selected your volunteers and done any necessary vetting, the next step in any successful volunteer program is orientation and training. Set aside time to explain what your nonprofit does and how it came to where it is today. Describe who your nonprofit serves, the programs and how it is organized. Relate all of this information back to the volunteer, pointing out how their gift of time and service makes them an active and crucial part of your mission. As you go over general procedures and policies and explain how your volunteer management system works, relate the tasks and procedures back to your mission and its impact

The training should address the particular work they will do, including:

  • How to perform the task
  • What not to do when performing the task
  • The goals of the task
  • How performance will be evaluated
  • How to handle unexpected situations or emergencies and who to contact
  • How to use any required equipment
  • Hands-on training, while being supervised by a coach or manager

Your volunteers may be onsite for a short time only, to perform simple tasks, or they may be the backbone of your nonprofit. Regardless of the situation, approach recruitment and training as if they were your paid staff and treat them as the essential part of your nonprofit that they are.

Here at Turnaround Life, Inc., we aim to help organizations and programs that make it possible for people to turn their lives around. For more information about us, visit our website.

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