Last week, Gyasi Parker-Ross, Director of Programs at L.A. Works, hosted 5 Secrets to Volunteer Recruitment Success, a webinar that discussed strategies and tactics for volunteer recruitment and engagement. During the Q&A portion, lots of terrific questions came in. Many of them were specific to the volunteer manager/organization making the inquiry. But others were questions that are asked all the time by volunteer managers and others responsible for volunteer recruiting and just general volunteer program management. So that a larger audience might benefit, we thought it would be helpful to post responses to some of those questions in a blog. Here we go – 5 common volunteer recruitment questions answered, in no particular order:
1. What are some best practices for recruiting student volunteers on a college campus?
College campuses are brimming with awesome volunteer recruitment opportunities.
But, first thing’s first: you must identify the volunteer roles or opportunities that your organization needs to fill. Do you simply need bodies to assemble boxes of food for the hungry? Do you need students with graphic design skills to help your nonprofit with a marketing project?
The types of tasks or projects you need to recruit for will determine the type of student you want to get on-board. This is important because students’ expectations of their service experience vary. Some students are looking for one-time opportunities to fulfill required service hours. Others want to explore an interesting issue area, to network, or to acquire valuable skills and experiences to help them pad their resumes. So:
- Understand the roles and projects available.
- Match those opportunities to the type(s) of student(s) who would be interested (i.e. a one-timer, folks with specific skills, etc.).
- And then start recruiting on college job/internship boards. Use targeted messaging and be specific in your opportunity postings so you get the right individuals to apply.
Be sure to cultivate meaningful relationships with the Career Center and Volunteer Centers at all local colleges (including community colleges). They can prove tremendously valuable as you recruit for these positions.
Another great tip: email Greek councils and ask to do presentations during their weekly meetings. Sororities and fraternities often participate in service projects – both short-term and long-term.
2. Is appreciating volunteers through blogs, social media or newsletters just as effective as holding appreciation parties or giving gifts to volunteers?
Social media shout outs, blogs, and newsletters are great ways of making volunteers feel appreciated in between recognition events, but they should never be used as a substitute. That’s because volunteers want face-to-face contact every now and then – it helps them feel connected to the organization and the cause. Bonus tip: volunteer recognition on social media is a great recruitment tactic, as it broadcasts to a wider network that your organization values its volunteers.
Check out these low cost volunteer appreciation ideas.
3. What are some best practices for volunteer screening?
There are a number of factors to take into consideration when developing your organization’s volunteer screening policies. The most important of these? Who your volunteers are working with.
Best practice is to screen all volunteers that work with any of your organization’s constituents. This becomes an absolute must if volunteers are in contact with vulnerable populations like children, the elderly or the disabled. Screening all of these individuals will help ensure the safety of all those involved in your volunteer program – your staff, your other volunteers, and anyone you are helping in your community.
You should also develop a rescreening policy. Remember, volunteers can commit a crime after they have started working with your organization, so don’t consider screening to be a “one and done” type of activity.
For more best practices on volunteer screening, check out Verified Volunteers’ resources page or contact Verified Volunteers and speak with a representative.
4. What about letting a volunteer go if they're not fulfilling their role in a satisfactory way?
Let’s step back for a moment and address how you can avoid this type of situation in the first place. As you are recruiting, make sure you are clearly defining all your volunteer roles and responsibilities. Outline a comprehensive orientation* process that covers this as well, and make sure to focus too on the organization’s mission. Finally, always ask the volunteer what they want to get out of their volunteer experience.
All of this will help determine if the volunteer will be a good fit, and helps a volunteer avoid feeling blindsided or caught off guard when starting work with your organization.
If all this fails, that’s okay too. Sometimes a volunteer will struggle with a role even if they were made aware of the responsibilities and expectations ahead of time. If this happens, it is perfectly fine to direct them to a task that they may be better suited for.
*ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: In the 5 Secrets to Volunteer Recruitment Success webinar, we asked the following poll question: “Do you have an official onboarding and training program?” Over 30% of our attendees answered that they either do not have one or do not feel that the one they do have in place is adequate. Are you part of this group? Is it because you don’t have the resources to allocate to it?
5. How can I get more skilled volunteers to volunteer during the workday (not just at night or on the weekends)?
There are a few ways to get skilled volunteers working with your organization during the daytime:
- Reach out to retired skilled volunteers.
- Post the desired hours for the volunteer position. This will attract people with that availability.
- Folks in between jobs or switching careers also like to volunteer to fill up their daytime availability, so utilize job recruitment boards like Indeed.com or Craigslist.
Special Bonus Question!
6. How can I recruit male volunteers to work with youth as part of long term volunteer opportunities?
Do you already have a couple of male volunteers? They can serve as excellent ambassadors for your organization. Feature them in your newsletters and on social media sites. Prospective volunteers like to hear testimonials about current volunteer experiences. Plus, using these volunteers in this way helps to reinforce the idea that men can and do serve in traditionally female volunteer roles. Also try conducting outreach amongst male-centric organizations such as fraternities or the Boy Scouts.
Meghan is the AmeriCorps VISTA Nonprofit Relations Coordinator at L.A. Works. She is a native Angeleno that is committed to public service and advocating for social justice. She is an alumna of UCLA, graduating with a B.A. in American Literature and History with a minor in LGBT Studies.