Recognize The True Representatives Of Your Nonprofit
Believe it or not – you are very likely overlooking and underutilizing the most valuable off-balance sheet asset in your agency. I am talking about the face of your organization, those who actually do much of the work your mission statement describes. I am talking about your volunteers.
Many people think of a non profit volunteer solely as someone to help hold down costs, but smart leaders know volunteers are an invaluable piece of the organization. Smart leaders spend time and effort on volunteer recruitment.
Volunteers are like revenue: they don’t just show up. You have to be intentional and seek them out. And, much like finding new board candidates, identifying volunteers is a 24/7 job. Here are a few best practices for finding volunteers:
Innovative Ways To Practice Volunteer Recruitment
- Keep a private, running list of potential volunteers, even if you do not need any at that time.
- Recontact former volunteers to see if they either are ready to return or if they know anyone else who is interested in serving.
- Whenever you ask someone for help finding volunteers, be very specific about what kind of help you need: i.e. a receptionist, caseworker, driver, someone with accounting skills, or marketing skills. A broadly defined need is too general, you must be specific in your requests.
- See if your town’s or any local foundation’s website has a feature connecting nonprofit agencies to would-be volunteers. Be sure you are registered there.
- Is your agency a member of any chambers of commerce? Many nonprofit leaders belong and participate in chamber events as a way to network, remain in the public’s eye, and to engage others in the agency’s mission.
- Some high schools, colleges, or service organizations have very specific community service hour requirements. Have you checked into that?
- Post your volunteer needs on your website’s home page or in all of your social media platforms.
- Include a soft ask for volunteer help in your community presentations.
- Many businesses have an executive development program or a community relationship department. Have you reached out to them to discuss a creative opportunity whereby both partners come out ahead, not to mention the community you both live in?
- If you are a faith-based agency, reach out to churches’ Ministry of Care leaders for volunteers.
- Ask your current and former directors for suggestions and encourage them to get the word out. Ask them to bring 3 names of candidates to your next board meeting.
- Do you have a local community career center/jobs council? If so, contact them. Job applicants can grow their network through volunteering at your agency.
Empower Your Volunteers To Serve
So, let’s assume you have done a great job with volunteer recruitment your agency. How should you treat the eager participants ready to support your cause? Well, just like any valuable staff member. Don’t fall into the trap of looking at them as “just volunteers”. They should be treated the same as any valuable staff person you have on board. What does that look like? Try this approach:
- When volunteers come on board, fully orient and train them, just like a full time employee.
- Thoroughly review the agency’s mission, vision, values, any appropriate policies and procedures. Do not just train them in the task you plan for them to take on.
- Include them in every staff meeting; don’t treat them as second class citizens.
- Include them in all major communications you send out and keep them up to date on important goings on.
- Show your appreciation by having some sort of recognition award. You might host an ice cream celebration, or mention them in a public one minute praising when you catch them doing a stellar job. And, you certainly want to recognize them at any annual gala’s or parties you host.
- Show them the respect they deserve all the time. They do not have to be there helping you. Like you, they have other things on their plate.
- When on boarding new volunteers, ask them what they would like to do, assuming it was available.
- Persist in embedding and integrating them into the fiber of your agency.
A spirit of volunteerism is embedded in most American hearts, so be bold and tap into that whenever you need to enhance volunteer recruitment efforts. Those you speak with will not be offended and may, in fact, have a name or two for you. Let me know if I missed any great methods of recruiting. Good luck on your search!
Is Your Nonprofit On The Track To Success?