Nonprofit organizations need volunteers – even more than money.
More than 62.6 million Americans volunteer for great causes, which is about 24 percent of our country’s population. Though we still are -- as Arthur Schlesinger once wrote -- a “nation of joiners”, the number of people who give of their time has been declining.
Volunteers collective provide more than $175 billion worth of services. Getting them involved, however, is becoming more challenging. People are working longer hours and retirees – a great source of volunteers – often have to work part time to make ends meet.
If you find yourself in charge of recruiting volunteers, as a board member or organization leader, there are proven ways to get people into the fold. Here are some:
Tell your story in person.
Potential volunteers need to feel connected and see who is doing the work. By sharing your mission personally, your message is more likely to resonate. Invite yourself to speak to service organizations such as the local Rotary Club. Set up an information table at a popular store or restaurant and invite people to chat for a moment. Give presentations at special community events.
Invite prospects to participate in a limited project.
People sometimes are reluctant to sign up for a three-year (or evergreen) board term commitment. They will, though, help out on a short-term activity such as a one-day community project. Make certain there is time for socialization among the volunteers. The human connection can be powerful, especially if you meet someone new.
Recruit people with specific skills.
Assess your nonprofit and determine your volunteer needs. Maybe your organization requires someone with accounting, fundraising or operational management experience. Identify a small audience of people and ask them to have lunch or coffee. People love to be noticed and wanted (recruited) – especially if they know their skill makes a difference.
Seek prospective volunteers whom already know one another.
People love sharing time with family and friends. Have your existing volunteers recruit others they already know or love. Besides feeling good about helping a cause, people volunteer for their socialization needs. This type of recruitment requires you to identify people who are already in direct or indirect contact with your organization and then to contact them with your recruiting message.
Engage people who have benefitted from your nonprofit.
If your organization provides help through donations or services, connect with those who were served. They are more likely to pay it forward and get involved. They can be great advocates for the impact of your mission.
Leverage the power of social media.
More than 76 percent of adults 40 and older actively use Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. An AARP study found that engaging these social media users is the best way to recruit and engage volunteers. You can tell your powerful stories more easily on Facebook, especially using videos.
A few other points about recruiting volunteers:
- Have a compelling message to share. Make it simple, direct and brief.
- Communicate what a volunteer’s service would mean to your organization.
- Have answers to the basic questions potential volunteers ask.
- Make certain you check out potential volunteers by knowing their backgrounds.
- Be honest about expectations. Don’t ask them to volunteer for two hours once a month, when you really need someone willing to provide several hours of help per month.