Volunteering is a big part of our community and most charities employ volunteers to help make the most of their fundraising dollars. In their 2016 State of Volunteering in Australia Report, Volunteering Australia found that nearly two-thirds of staff in volunteer-involving organisations were in fact volunteers themselves. Nearly 70% of these volunteer-involving organisations stated that volunteers brought new insights into their organisation.
Whatever the size of the charity, engaged and enthusiastic volunteers with the right skills can help maximise the impact of your charity, bring new ideas to the table and ultimately make a difference for your cause.
In recent times, however, charities are struggling to recruit volunteers. Over 85% of volunteer-involving organisations need more volunteers, the report states. Several reasons are to blame for this. Charities have to compete with other well-known and well-promoted charities to attract the best talent. The size of the talent pool also varies depending on a raft of conditions such as the economy. It is not always easy, but there are some ways you can still have the upper hand. Read on to find some tips on how to find volunteers for your cause.
Ask and Ask Some More
People can offer to help only when they know you need help, so be sure to let as many people as you can know that you are looking for help. Try subtle ways to get the message across. Instead of saying, “Could you volunteer for us?” try instead, “We have a great many things planned, but I wish we had a few extra hands to help execute them.”
Remember people may consider volunteering at different times of the year or perhaps at different phases of their life, so never assume that ‘No’ is never. Use your charity fundraiser or next event to bring up the subject again. Explore different avenues for volunteer recruitment, such as social media or highly-targeted online advertising to ensure your marketing dollars are spent wisely.
Have a Compelling Message
Never underestimate the power of words and images in your recruitment strategy. Use the right images and craft compelling messages around why your charity is worth volunteering for. This lets potential volunteers know what they are signing up for and why. Emphasise the benefits to the community and let potential volunteers know what they would get in return for their time.
Again, people volunteer for different reasons, so be sure to tailor your message to different types of volunteers. With charitable giving down across all groups under the age of 55, and significant negative growth (up to -14%) in Humanitarian Services donations*, a one-size-fits-all approach may not attract the right people.
It often helps to treat volunteer recruitment as any other staff recruitment. Ensure volunteers have a job position or a title, and a short and simple description around what is expected of them. This way volunteers have more direction and a set of expectations. This encourages them to develop a sense of pride in what they do. Also, sell what your charity can do for them – for example, the opportunity to develop certain skills, networking and serving the community.
Leave No Stone Unturned
Volunteers can come from any place, so be sure to try as many avenues as possible. Try the Concentric Circles of Influence philosophy. Begin by contacting people from within your immediate social or professional circle, such as your family and your clients. Circulate your message beyond your immediate circle to your indirect contacts, for example, alumni, your neighbourhood and corporates.
While referrals continue to be a great way, make use of online recruitment tools as required. Use volunteer recruitment portals, your website and social channels such as Facebook and Twitter. Tap into universities and corporate organisations. Another great way to spread the word is using your email signature. Include a quick blurb and a URL to the volunteer job description.
Now that you have recruited the right volunteers, you need to ensure you retain the ones who sign up. Volunteers who have a great experience with your charity can become advocates for your cause and may even help you recruit more like-minded volunteers. Consider these simple tips to retain your volunteers:
- Thank your volunteers
Volunteering is a great way to socialise. Even offering something as simple as free cake and coffee can help take the edge off work and make for a great experience.
With the right encouragement, your volunteers can move mountains for your cause. Acknowledge the time and effort your volunteers are putting in for the cause and thank them for that.
* Source: NAB Charitable Giving Index (period: August 2016 and the 11 months prior)
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