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Recruiting Volunteers with Heart

"Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart." Elizabeth Andrew

Most nonprofits need the support of reliable volunteers. Yet, finding, training, and retaining volunteers can quickly become one of the biggest headaches.

This week, we want to share some wisdom when it comes to recruiting, engaging, and maintaining a volunteer base for your nonprofit.

Below are 3 areas to consider as you recruit volunteers:

1. Know Your Needs

Before you can recruit, you must know exactly what you need. Create specific job descriptions that include time commitment and work expectations. Doing so allows you to understand how many volunteers you will need as well as manage the volunteer expectations.

2. Determine First Steps for Volunteers

Before recruiting, ask yourself these questions:

How will your volunteers apply?

Are they able to apply on your website?

Is it clear where they will click to apply?

Who will receive the application forms?

What is your turnaround time?

If volunteers wait more than one week to move through your process, they are likely to move on to the next opportunity. It is vital that someone in the organization reaches out within a couple days of the application date, even if it is just to communicate the next step.

Do I have the next steps in place?

  1. If you need a background check, be sure to include it with the application.

  2. Set up interview/screening questions that will help you determine if they are a fit for your mission.

  3. Set up a training plan. Volunteer training is key! It should be simple and short, yet this is when and how you will share your vision, your organizational goals, your needs, their value, and make sure they are equipped and feel prepared for the work you have for them to complete.

  4. Set up a volunteer agreement. This is not a contract. However, when volunteers feel needed, they will stick around longer. An agreement may contain clauses to protect the volunteer (their boundaries and time), reiterates their time commitment, and names their specific role. This agreement also protects the organization.

3. Recruit!

We recommend recruiting volunteers, first through word of mouth, then if all else fails, through one of those multiple volunteer recruiting websites. Here is a list of some that are completely free.

1. Idealist