For many small nonprofits, volunteers are the heart of their community – they support organizations through events, marketing, fundraising, advocacy, and more.
A recent Taproot Foundation study found that 92% of nonprofits want more high-quality pro bono to help them fulfill their mission in areas such as marketing, IT, and HR, and now LinkedIn is teaming up with VolunteerMatch, Catchafire, Taproot, and BoardSource to connect their talent pool with nonprofits’ needs.
As technology and online giving has made it easier than ever for people to become connected to the causes they care about, it’s provided more opportunities for nonprofits and individuals to recruit volunteers for their specific needs. A volunteer fair or booth at a local event is no longer the only way to fill that sign up sheet – and volunteering is also no longer just about finding people to help pass out brochures or man water stations at a charity walk.
CauseVox understands that setting aside staff resources to manage volunteers can be challenging, on top of everything else that goes into running fundraising campaigns and of course, the operation of your nonprofit or individual cause. But we also believe there is great value in establishing opportunities for the community to support your organization’s mission, so we’ve created this guide to help you get started.
1. Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match!
When you hire new staff, you’re looking for someone that can do the job, fits into your organization’s culture and environment, and has passion and interest in their work. Similarly, nonprofits are spending more time matching up volunteers with appropriate responsibilities based on their interests, skills, and personalities. Services such VolunteerMatch and Catchafire provide comprehensive databases of opportunities based on issue area, expertise, location, and more.
Increasingly so, nonprofits are taking a cue from businesses and arranging orientations, interviews, skills tests, and background checks to ensure that interested volunteers are matched to roles befitting of their availability, experience, and purpose. It would make sense that someone with a background in teaching is assigned to work with youth, whereas an accountant may help with data collection and analysis. Matchmaking will lead to more loyal volunteers, who are likely to serve you longer and with more dedication and commitment.
Ideas to Get Started:
- Send out a short survey to your online community of donors and supporters asking about their skills and interests related to volunteer opportunities and your organization’s needs
- Create an easy to fill out form on your website for those interested in volunteering, with specific fields based on skills, experience, and other demographics, that you can then sort through for recruitment
- Add your nonprofit and available volunteer opportunities to communities like Catchafire, Idealist, VolunteerMatch, LinkedIn, or Taproot+. You can also sign up to be a nonprofit partner with A Billion + Change.
2. Create a Volunteer Recruitment Campaign
Setting aside time to recruit volunteers on a daily or weekly basis in addition to running other campaigns and initiatives can be tough. And if done well, managing existing volunteers is already an ongoing responsibility. So why not designate a time of year to have a campaign just focused on volunteer recruitment and awareness? Perhaps you may want to use summer, when fundraising campaigns generally slow down, and people are looking for things to do. Or you may want to schedule it a couple of months before you have a big event or fundraising campaign to have support in place.
Ultimately, focusing your marketing and programming efforts on a volunteer recruitment campaign for a set amount of time has several benefits:
- You can highlight existing volunteers and their impact
- You can provide new ways for the community to get engaged in addition to fundraising
- You can grow your community
- You can build resources for future activities
Your volunteer recruitment campaign can be as simple as sending out an email to your list, posting on social media, and updating your website for a short amount of time. Or, you could spend an entire month surveying, collecting stories, highlighting veteran volunteers, creating new materials, and more. You could even have virtual volunteer hangouts online, or host a couple of in-person meetups to get to know your volunteers and have them meet each other.
Ideas to Get Started:
- Survey any existing volunteers about how and why they support your cause. Use their stories on social media, in emails, and other marketing and communications materials.
- Create incentives to drive new volunteer signups through mini contests and sweepstakes, rewards, and recognition.
- Reach out to your most active donors and ask them to help guide your volunteer program
3. Ask who you know
It’s easy to think you don’t have anyone to start with when recruiting volunteers. But not so fast! You have donors, right? You have email subscribers, and Facebook fans, and Twitter followers, and so on. All of these people, whether they add up to 100 or 100,000, are already engaged with your cause in some way, and they are just the people to ask for help!
Perhaps many of the people on your email list are just waiting for the opportunity to help you to sort materials, provide marketing support, or work an event. And if they are willing to ask others to fundraise on your behalf, then they’re probably pretty open to the idea of asking friends and family to volunteer with them as well. In fact, DoSomething.org found that for young people especially, they prefer to volunteer with friends rather than on their own. For many people, volunteering is a social activity – a great way to meet new people, and to enjoy giving back with people whom they already spend a lot of time.
It’s like they always say: you don’t know if you don’t ask. So try it!
Ideas to Get Started:
- Challenge your community to a volunteer recruitment competition via incentives and rewards.
- Follow up an online action or donation thank you with a call to action to learn about volunteering.
- Create opportunities that supporters can do in pairs or small groups, online or offline.
4. Be Creative
As we mentioned before, volunteering is no longer just about helping sign people into events, giving blood, or cleaning up trash at the park. These days, volunteers can help with communications, do technology trainings, create presentations, manage funds, and more. It’s important to provide opportunities that can be done offline as well as online, in groups, or individually, one-time, or long-term.
People are busy. They have a lot of things going on in their lives, and nonprofits are competing more and more to snag volunteers and keep them interested, when they have so many other options. And volunteers can find the options overwhelming, so it’s important to cut through the clutter and make the right pitch, just as when you are running a fundraising campaign.
Ideas to Get Started:
- Segment your volunteer opportunities by difficulty and experience level, and think about it in terms of your demographics. Cater to various ages, genders, and skillsets.
- Think of tasks that you might do on your own if you came across it while browsing the Internet. What’s something you can crowdsource out to your community? What could take someone 10 minutes or less to pitch in on?
- Find ways to pair physical volunteer opportunities with other activities related to your cause or that would appeal to the community. Schedule a fun gourmet cookie tasting after a blood drive, or host a concert in the park after a long day of trail cleanup. Make volunteering a full, and fun experience.
There are so many ways to get your community engaged on a deeper level to support your mission, and volunteering is not going away – it’s evolving with technology and philanthropy. If you’re still looking for help with your volunteer efforts, reach out to some of your partners and peers to find out what has worked for them, and just get started!
For more resources and information on volunteering visit the Corporation on National and Community Service. And read through CauseVox’s blog to see how our clients have used volunteers to help them fulfill their mission.
Still want to learn more about pro bono and volunteering? Check out the following resources:
- Network for Good’s Generation Y Engagement Guide
- NPower’s Community Corps
- Taproot Foundation: Why Pro Bono?
Special thanks to Suzanne Craig of Taproot Foundation for contributing to this guide.