Volunteers are an essential asset for many nonprofit events as they offer unique skills and fill vital roles. However, there are plenty of challenges involved in recruiting volunteers that you may be looking to overcome. For instance, you might not have an established volunteer pool yet or know how to use digital communication channels effectively to engage prospective volunteers.
Approaching volunteer recruitment efforts strategically can leave you with a team of passionate volunteers who are the perfect fit for your organization, leading to greater success for your events.
Proper volunteer recruitment is as important as ever, even amid the ongoing pandemic. Your nonprofit may need assistance for its virtual, hybrid, or modified in-person events.
In this crash course, we’ll review the most effective volunteer recruitment best practices. When recruiting volunteers for events, your nonprofit should:
- Target prospective volunteers strategically.
- Offer incentives.
- Create a well-written role description and outreach materials.
- Leverage multiple communication channels.
- Use volunteer management tools to stay organized.
Recruiting the right volunteers and engaging with them throughout your event and beyond can help build your organization’s support base, leading to ongoing support for years to come. Continue reading to learn more!
Target prospective volunteers strategically.
A successful event requires a lot of planning, and with the help of your passionate volunteers, your event can offer a memorable experience for all attendees. You must reach out to prospective volunteers who will be as excited as you are about your event! So, how can you go about connecting with the right volunteers strategically?
Reach out to audience members who are the most receptive to your message and who have expressed volunteer interest in the past. InitLive’s volunteer recruitment guide recommends targeting these individuals with your outreach efforts:
- Former volunteers – Who knows more about your organization’s events than your former volunteers? You can reach out to them by letting them know how much of a positive impact they brought to your event last time they volunteered and that you’re looking forward to them being a part of your team again for your next event.
- Long-time donors – Your donors give to your organization because they believe in your cause and have seen how successful your programs and events have been. Therefore, they may also be interested in supporting your cause in a hands-on role. Appeal to their interests by showcasing your nonprofit’s progress so far and what’s expected to come. Let them know that their contributions make a difference and that you would like them to be a part of your upcoming event.
- High school or college students – These individuals might be looking for volunteer hours to fulfill certain school, club, or program requirements, and your event can be a great place to offer the experience they’re looking for. This is a great opportunity for them to connect and network with others in the event as well.
Once you’ve identified your target audience members, you can promote your event volunteer opportunity in ways that resonate with them. You’ll be able to see a much higher return on investment when you focus your marketing outreach on those who are most likely to engage with you.
You may be able to encourage a prospective volunteer to sign up to work at your event by offering incentives. Incentives move individuals through the decision-making process to take action and increase participation. They also increase morale and can go a long way in making potential volunteers feel encouraged to be a part of your event.
There are a variety of incentive options you may consider, including free merchandise. Offer participants a t-shirt, tote bag, hat, or mug. Feel free to customize your merchandise with anything related to your organization, such as pictures or your logo. This will make your nonprofit stand out and also strike interest in your potential volunteers.
You can also consider giving free entry to your event. This is especially enticing if you’re hosting a fun ticketed event like a music festival. Offering free access will motivate prospective volunteers to join and make them feel special since they benefit by being a part of the event.
Other prizes like gift cards or the chance to win a cash prize in a volunteer lottery are also great incentives as they offer volunteers the chance to win a major prize, increasing excitement. Incentives can be a great way to show appreciation to your volunteers for taking the time to help with your event.
Create a well-written role description and outreach materials.
Before supporters sign up to volunteer at your event, they’ll want to know what the volunteer opportunity entails. Since you want suitable volunteers for each role at your event, it’s essential to communicate a detailed role description along with the required skills. This will make it easy for your volunteers to know exactly what role to sign up for based on their interests, skills, and preferences.
As you plan your event, think of how volunteers will fit into the experience and the type of work they’ll be doing. For instance, if you’re hosting a hybrid event, you may have some volunteers manning the in-person check-in booth while others monitor the livestream to ensure it’s running smoothly. Ensure you are offering all necessary information to avoid any confusion. Explain the following:
- What time should volunteers arrive? Expect that volunteers will be late, so make sure to ask them to arrive a little earlier than needed.
- Where is their shift? Is it at the front gate or refreshment stand? The more specific the better.
- What skills will volunteers need to complete the role? Make sure to clearly define the skills to help ensure that each volunteer is qualified for each role
- Will the role be physically demanding? Make sure to clearly communicate the physical requirement of the tasks to ensure volunteers arrive prepared for their role. For example, if it requires a lot of walking, they will need the right shoes.
Once you’ve created your description, don’t forget to craft well-designed promotional materials such as digital graphics, emails, or promo videos. Remember to have a good balance of promoting your event and also keeping it conversational! You can tell your nonprofit’s story and mission and provide useful content that will make potential volunteers want to be a part of your cause.
Leverage multiple communication channels.
Similar to how you promote your fundraising opportunities, you should use multiple communication channels to advertise your event volunteer opportunities. First, determine who you are looking to recruit. From there, create a target persona for your prospective volunteers and get to know what social media channels they use the most. This will help you effectively look for the right people in the right place.
For instance, if you are looking to recruit young volunteers, consider sharing your event on Instagram. As of July 2021, approximately 30% of Instagram users belonged to the age group of 18-24! Or perhaps you’re looking to recruit working professionals — if so, then LinkedIn would be a suitable platform. Depending on the demographics of your target audience, you can strategically choose to leverage the right communication channels to easily find your potential volunteers.
Also, consider sharing your role description and promotional materials in email newsletters to former volunteers since you already have their email information. You can personalize your messages and mention how some of their strengths will be a great fit for your new roles. If you have a log of former volunteers’ phone numbers, you can even text them about your upcoming opportunity.
Use volunteer management tools to stay organized.
Volunteer management is crucial for many nonprofit organizations because it allows you to actively build stronger relationships with supporters. It helps you to manage your volunteers in an organized manner, keeping them engaged. Your volunteer management system will be your greatest tool in organizing your recruitment process and keeping volunteers in the loop ahead of your event.
These platforms offer features such as:
- A volunteer database – A comprehensive volunteer database helps you keep track of and stay in touch with former volunteers for any upcoming opportunities. You can also track volunteer hours, history, contact information, interests, and skills to match your volunteers with roles that suit their preferences.
- Recruitment features – Your volunteers can view all of your opportunities listed on your website, or you can create branded sign-up pages. Volunteer management software offers an online application process that makes it easier for you to collect all the necessary information for volunteer screening and placement.
- Screening tools – Volunteer software tools also offer the ability to screen volunteer applications in a centralized system, making it easier to assess your applicants. All your roles are clearly defined, along with all the required qualifications.
- Communication tools – Keep volunteers updated with different communication methods such as SMS, alert notifications, and emails ahead of your event. There are also self-check-in and attendance tracking tools for volunteers, along with personal schedules and access to documents such as training materials.
Offering your volunteers all the right tools from when they sign up to when they check out ensures an excellent experience! Having all of your volunteer management tools in one system makes it easier to stay organized and recruit those who have the required skill set for each opportunity.
Now that you’ve learned several recruitment strategies, you can use them to help you to streamline your volunteer recruitment ahead of your next event.
Start by knowing what kind of volunteers you are looking to recruit, where you will look for them, and how you will approach them. Then, use your creativity to promote your event and strike interest in your prospective volunteers. From there, it’s all about offering the most memorable volunteer experience during your event. Remember to thank your volunteers for their hard work and dedication!