Key Components for Successful Volunteer Recruitment

By Meghan Maloney, L.A. Works AmeriCorps VISTA

Volunteers can prove to be a huge benefit to your organization. Aside from providing extra hands and eyes to your projects, they offer unique perspectives that can help strengthen your organization’s mission.  Here are some key components that need to be implemented to ensure successful recruitment for your volunteer program.

Identifying where exactly volunteers can contribute is one of the first steps in recruitment. Having an open dialogue with your team about incorporating a community workforce is key to building a foundation to a successful volunteer program. This conversation could include the roles volunteers can fill in, the frequency of opportunities, and the supervising staff members for the program. There will definitely be a structural change in your organization once a volunteer program is incorporated, and change can be uneasy for some. If your team is on board with recruiting volunteers, great! If some feel uneasy about the switch, then more dialogue about how your organization plans to utilize volunteers will be key. These growing pains are necessary, but will ease as you gain support in recruiting and managing volunteers in the future.

11133927_10153352650765955_2138150001715835132_oOnce you’ve identified the roles and responsibilities for your volunteers take on, you can focus on writing the catchy service opportunity descriptions to find the best match. Traditionally unpopular volunteer opportunities–but still incredibly vital–such as fundraising can sound more appealing if the job descriptions are written in an engaging way. Advertising these positions will be crucial in how your recruitment pans out. Consider this: Is your organization willing to set aside a budget for posting on websites with wide reach such as idealist.org? Are there any volunteer hubs (like LAWorks.com) that offer free submissions of volunteer opportunities? Do you have a strong media presence? Is the local volunteer center at a nearby university open to recruiting volunteers for you? Dedicating a “Volunteer Now!” tab on your website is also a great way to recruit, as this is the first place people will look for these opportunities. Determine where your organization would like to find volunteers, and then use those medium to assist you with recruitment.


Deciding what sort of budget to allocate to volunteers will also be an area of conversation for successful recruitment. Your volunteer budget may include items such as food, T-shirts, and the swag items. Materials needed to complete the volunteer project will also need to be factored into this budget.   Other investments to consider when proposing your volunteer budget are background checks and TB tests, especially if they will be working with youth. Your organization may not be able to cover full costs, but can partially cover some of those expenses. Additionally, your organizations may elect to refund that money back to its volunteers when they have volunteered for a specified amount of time. Ultimately, when volunteers see a marked investment in them, they will invest more into your organization.

Now that you’ve started getting some responses from interested volunteers, your organization must devote some thought into orienting the volunteers to the work at hand. Having an engaging on boarding and training curriculum in place is essential for successful recruitment. Having the volunteers understand the magnitude of their impact is key for their buy-in; they must feel that what they are doing has purpose and meaning. This includes clearly outlining the reasons for why they are volunteering, and how the opportunity will make a tangible impact. Hosting a formal orientation, followed by a detailed training of their task, is an effective  way of having the volunteers understand your organization from a broad perspective as well develop personal relationships with people on staff or other volunteers. Including an organizational chart of staff members and what they oversee will acquaint volunteers to different aspects of the organization. A handbook/manual with contact information, the mission statement, and other essential volunteer information can help the volunteer take pride in their service.

Leadership is an indispensable aspect of volunteer recruitment and retention for both skilled and general volunteers. Skill-based volunteers require more check-ins from leadership to ensure that their skills are not being manipulated as free labor. Having them feel like they are part of the larger staff is a great way for them to feel valued and appreciated for their skill-based volunteering. With general volunteers, having a staff member as their point person–even better if it’s a volunteer coordinator–shows that the organization has a more sophisticated volunteer program. General volunteers also like the comfort of knowing that they have someone to report to; that person becomes the face of the organization for them.

The final key is retention. Recruitment is only as successful as how well an organization can retain their volunteers.  Volunteer appreciations every couple of months will help them feel connected to the organization and feel like their contributions are recognized by the team. Having a database of volunteers will be the cornerstone for retention; this will be the organization’s starting point in reaching out to past volunteers. Engaging them is imperative, and can be accomplished through social media shout-outs, newsletters for upcoming events, or even mailing out personalized thank-yous. The culture surrounding volunteers will be a determining factor for recurrent volunteerism. Reflect and consider how your organization incorporates and integrates volunteers into the mission and organization.

Volunteer recruitment is normally a challenging feat. With patience, persistence, and a solid action plan, your volunteer program will soon reflect the efforts put into recruiting awesome volunteers!

For more information or resources, please check out the following blogs/links:

Volunteer Central: Recruit, Train, and Retain! 

HandsOn Network: Effective Volunteer Recruitment Strategies

World Volunteer Web: 16 Tips in Recruiting Adult Volunteers

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LA’s Promise Awarded Service Enterprise Certification

We are proud to announce that LA’s Promise has been awarded Service Enterprise certification by L.A. Works. serv_enterprise_landing04a The Service Enterprise Initiative is a national program administered through Points of Light that recognizes nonprofits with exceptional volunteer programs. Nonprofits that operate as Service Enterprises more effectively address community needs and run on almost half the median budget than those nonprofits that do not leverage volunteers across all levels of the their organization.

To qualify for certification, organizations must go through a year long process that consists of attending a series of best practices workshops, creating action plans, and strategize with expert coaches from the Executive Service Corps on ways to best implement their plans.

We spoke with Caitlin Krier, Associate Director of Community Partnerships, about LA’s Promise’s journey in becoming certified.

L.A. Works:
Tell us more about LAP! How does your organization engage volunteers?

LA’s Promise:
Our mission is to graduate every student attending an LA’s Promise neighborhood school college and career ready. Through a robust school turnaround model, LA’s Promise partners with a cadre of schools committed to ensuring that students growing up in poverty receive an excellent education.

Something cool thing about LA’s Promise is that we have so many different ways for volunteers to get involved in our work. I believe in the idea that students are more likely to succeed when their schools are community hubs, and in order for that to work, we need to bring in folks from the community who are willing to share their skills, passions and resources with the students who need them. Volunteers can do everything from helping plant trees in our teaching gardens to leading workshops on post-secondary options to connecting students with internship opportunities at their companies. Since we’ve started this Service Enterprise work, we’ve been able to open up new volunteer opportunities as well, such as speaking at our middle school career day and helping secure in-kind donations for all of our school programs. We have also begun working with several university service groups to engage college students in leading activities such as college workshops and college fairs for our middle school students.

LAW:
How has Service Enterprise benefited your org?

LAP:
One big change has been with how we run events, especially those that fall on the weekends. Instead of begging our staff to come out and help, we are able to work with an amazing cohort of volunteers who are excited to participate and be a part of these events! Since weekends are usually better for volunteer availability, this has been a great match.

LAW:
What has been the most rewarding aspect of this certification journey?

LAP:
For me, the most rewarding part of the journey has been the process of self reflection and pushing ourselves to build service enterprise into everything we do. It was really cool to build a volunteer tracking and orientation plan from scratch, and to see those things be realized, especially our first volunteer orientation in February. We went from having a couple of volunteers to an entire database of people that we can call upon to help with projects and events throughout the year.

LAW:
What are some tips/advice you would give other organizations that are thinking about Service Enterprise/are already going through the process?

LAP:
My advice would be to not worry about your volunteer program needing to look a certain way. The self reflection piece is really key, because you’re able to hold onto the core values and vibe of your organization while enhancing it. We are never going to have 200 volunteers donating their time every week at LA’s Promise, and that’s okay! We have been creative about how volunteers can become an intricate part of who we are as an organization.

We are honored to award them with this accomplishment, and we are looking forward to seeing all the amazing work they continue to do with their volunteers!