How can I recruit volunteers more effectively?

Volunteer recruitment is essential for any organisation, but finding the right people can be challenging. This guide offers insights and strategies to navigate this process effectively.

Table of Contents

Mastering volunteer recruitment is key to successful volunteer management. Finding the right volunteers can be a challenge, but this guide is here to simplify the process for you. Volunteer recruitment is crucial for all - businesses, nonprofits, individuals, and social movements alike.

This article will break down volunteer recruitment: its definition, its importance, and strategies for success. We'll also look into volunteer motivations, helping you attract the right fit for your needs.

Whether you're starting or refining your strategy, this guide aims to elevate your recruitment efforts. Let's begin!

What Is Volunteer Recruitment?

Volunteer recruitment involves finding, attracting, and choosing people ready to donate their time and talents to a cause. It's a vital strategy for any volunteer program, ensuring you have the support for tasks big and small.

The recruitment process involves three main parties:

  • Potential volunteers
  • Organisations or individuals seeking help
  • Volunteer brokerage services, such as volunteer centres or councils

This article will focus on how volunteer centres or councils (CVSs) play a pivotal role in volunteer recruitment.

Why Is Volunteer Recruitment Important?

For volunteer centers, recruitment is essential. It helps you guarantee a constant flow of volunteers that are eager to support your missions. Success depends on creating a welcoming, diverse, and accessible environment that meets volunteers' needs and preferences.

By crafting the right setting, you can connect volunteers with suitable opportunities, leading to impactful projects and rewarding experiences for everyone involved.

Moreover, a strong recruitment strategy strengthens the diversity and inclusivity of talent in the volunteer community. It also prepares you to mobilise a positive force quickly, for example, during crisis situations.

Spark Somerset's Crisis Hub

The County of Somerset is the maiden county in the United Kingdom to use a Deedmob platform. After finding over 1500 volunteers during the Covid-19 crisis, and running a successful vaccination campaign via the platform, Spark Somerset pioneered the crisis pool to cater to the crisis volunteers. In this case study , you can learn all about their efforts. 

Moreover, it enables volunteer centres to meet the ever-growing demand for support from voluntary organisations and community initiatives. This opens up the doors for voluntary organisations to get access to untapped knowledge and capacity, which ultimately leads to a stronger and more resilient Third Sector. 

To underline the importance of volunteers for society, we could look at the value of the volunteering sector. It is estimated that in the UK, the value of volunteering is a staggering 324 billion, which is approximately 14.5% of the countries’ GDP. This means that the voluntary sector is one of the biggest drivers of the economy and society!

What Organisations Are Looking For Volunteers?

As a voluntary organisation, you play a crucial role in bridging the gap between individuals who want to offer their time and organisations in need of volunteer support. The spectrum of organisations seeking volunteers spans various sectors, each with unique missions and activities. These organisations include, but are definitely not limited to:

  • Charities and Non-Profit Organisations: These organisations operate in fields like healthcare, education, poverty reduction, environmentalism, and social services. Volunteers are the backbone of these organisations, enabling them to efficiently deliver their programmes and services.
  • Community Organisations: Local community centres, neighbourhood groups, youth clubs, and grassroots movements often seek volunteers for organising events, leading community projects, assisting vulnerable groups, and fostering social unity within neighbourhoods.
  • Sports Clubs and Recreational Facilities: From amateur sports clubs to recreational parks, and youth sports initiatives, volunteers play a pivotal role. They help by coaching, event organisation, facility upkeep, and advocating for active, healthy lifestyles within the community.
  • Environmental and Conservation Groups: Volunteers are crucial for environmental charities, wildlife sanctuaries, conservation efforts, and sustainability campaigns. They contribute through habitat restoration, wildlife monitoring, environmental education, and advocacy to safeguard our natural resources and biodiversity.
  • Faith-Based Organisations: Various religious groups and charities offer numerous opportunities to participate. These include community outreach, caring for the elderly, humanitarian efforts, and social justice, reflecting their dedication to community service.
  • Educational Institutions: Schools and universities not only seek but also generate a significant number of volunteers. Whether it's aiding in the library, supervising playtimes, or providing extracurricular support, educational bodies constantly welcome volunteers to foster the next generation.

In essence, any organisation looking to enhance its events, projects, or day-to-day operations benefits immensely from volunteer support. By connecting these organisations with potential volunteers, you contribute significantly towards achieving their goals, making a tangible difference as a volunteer liaison.

What Motivates People To Volunteer?

Why do people volunteer? The reasons are as varied as the volunteers themselves, but there are some overarching similarities. Research highlights a range of motivations including altruism, the wish to contribute to the community, personal satisfaction, acquiring new skills, building social networks, and finding a sense of purpose (Bang & Ross, 2009; Shy, 2010). Some are driven by passions or personal growth and exploration. Recognising and catering to these diverse motivations is essential for effective volunteer recruitment and engagement.

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO)'s "Time Well Spent 2023 report" sheds light on these motivations. It reveals that the predominant reason people volunteer is the desire to make a real difference. This has remained stable from 2019 to 2023, with 40% of participants indicating a drive to improve things or help others as their main motivation. The connection and significance of the cause and availability of spare time also play crucial roles in encouraging people to volunteer. This emphasises a combination of personal fulfilment and practical contribution as fundamental motivators.

Additionally, the report explains that motivations across different demographics vary. Younger volunteers (aged 18 to 24) often seek opportunities for career progression or gaining employability skills, whereas older volunteers (55+) are more motivated by community needs or personal requests for help. Social background also influences volunteering patterns, with more affluent individuals volunteering more frequently. Gender differences are apparent too, with women placing higher importance on the cause compared to men. These insights once again emphasise the need for personalised recruitment and retention strategies.

The Benefits Of Volunteering

Volunteering is associated with benefits at all levels: for the individual volunteers, the organisations they assist, and society at large. Let’s break down these advantages:

For Volunteers:

  • Personal Growth: Volunteers acquire invaluable experience and learn new skills, setting the stage for both personal and professional development.
  • Networking: It opens doors to new social networks, enriching volunteers' lives and potentially leading to new career opportunities.
  • Well-being: Engaging in volunteer work boosts mental and physical health, increases life satisfaction, and can significantly reduce feelings of depression (Yeung, Zhang & Kim, 2018).
  • Impact: Volunteers have the unique chance to contribute meaningfully to causes close to their hearts, making a tangible difference in the world.

For Organisations:

  • Expanded Capabilities: A diverse volunteer workforce enhances an organisation's ability to deliver services, broadening its impact.
  • Community Engagement: Volunteer involvement strengthens community ties and promotes social inclusion, paving the way for personal and community development.
  • Fresh Perspectives: Volunteers often bring innovative ideas that can refine and energise an organisation’s efforts, leading to more effective and efficient operations.
  • Tailored Support: For organisations to harness these benefits fully, it's crucial to customise recruitment and support strategies to meet the diverse needs and motivations of volunteers.

For Society:

  • Collective Growth: A vibrant volunteer sector contributes to the development of both individuals and groups, fostering a sense of unity and shared purpose.
  • Resilience: The COVID-19 pandemic saw a rise in volunteering, reflecting its role in adapting to and thriving amidst societal shifts and challenges (European Economic & Social Committee).
  • Social Cohesion: Volunteering underpins inclusivity, solidarity, and active participation in community life, echoing deeply held societal values.

In essence, volunteering acts as a means to do good. It enriches lives and communities and presents a win-win-win scenario where individuals, organisations, and society flourish together.

Different Types Of Volunteers

The volunteering workforce consists of many different individuals, each bringing their own set of preferences and motivations. Understanding these differences is key to effectively recruiting and engaging volunteers. 

While volunteers can often fit into multiple categories, identifying their primary traits helps tailor your recruitment strategy effectively. For instance, a corporate volunteer (linked to employment) seeking opportunities (search intent) for short-term involvement (commitment level) with a focus on skill development (skill level), within the working age demographic (age group), and motivated by practical outcomes (values), requires a specific approach.

Commitment: Flexibility vs. Long-Term Engagement

  • Flex Volunteers: These individuals prefer short-term, low-commitment activities, such as micro-volunteering tasks. They value flexibility and may participate on an ad-hoc basis.
  • Organisation Role Volunteers: In contrast, these volunteers are prepared for a longer-term commitment, dedicating their time and efforts to further the goals and mission of an organisation. They often take on significant roles and responsibilities.

Role Availability: Active vs. Passive vs. Crisis Volunteers

  • Active Volunteers: These are the go-getters, actively seeking out opportunities that match their skills and interests through various platforms and events.
  • Passive Volunteers: These individuals prefer to be approached with opportunities, often unsure of where to start or lacking the time to actively search.
  • Crisis Volunteers: Distinctly, crisis volunteers are those who may not seek regular volunteering opportunities but are ready to step in during times of crisis.

GoVolHerts' Vacancy Bank

Your digital platform is likely the first place volunteers will look for opportunities. For the active volunteers, you should offer a vacancy bank, in which organisations can post and manage their opportunities, and volunteers can directly apply to these opportunities. Offering a good, user-friendly vacancy bank can help tremendously in catering to the active volunteers. This can truly make a difference! For example GoVolHerts reported that volunteering participation in Hertfordshire increased by 576% since its launch!

PEP's Volunteer Pool

Alternatively, the right digital platform also offers a volunteer pool to cater to the passive volunteer. PEP The Hague uses the volunteer pool to allow volunteers who cannot directly find the opportunities they like to be contacted by organisations. They add their location, a short bio, contact preferences, causes and activities they care about, and when an opportunity meets these criteria, an advanced matching system allows organisers to contact the volunteers. This way, they make volunteering accessible throughout the entire city, for every type of volunteer.

Employment: Corporate vs. Non-Corporate Volunteers

  • Corporate Volunteers are individuals who participate in volunteering through their employer's corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. They typically take part in group events or apply their professional skills to benefit various causes, facilitated by their respective companies.
  • Non-Corporate Volunteers (Regular Volunteers) volunteer on a personal basis, independent of their employment. They might connect with organisations through community groups, religious institutions, or directly, using online platforms or personal networks.

If you want to know more about the differences between regular and corporate volunteers, make sure to read this article. If you want to know all the ins and outs of recruiting and engaging with them, you should find everything you need in this article.

Corporate Volunteering With Business Involved

Business Involved is a successful collaboration between the City of Amsterdam, the Volunteering Centre Amsterdam, and Deedmob. The platform is used to match employees of multinational companies situated in Amsterdam to local organisations. In the online marketplace, companies can offer voluntary help or goods, and social organisations can post specific help requests. The platform also offers multinational companies the opportunity to track their SDG contributions, making the platform unique in its kind. In their partner story, you’ll find how they effectively organise corporate volunteering in Amsterdam.

Skill Level: Skills-Based vs. Supportive Volunteers

  • Skills-Based Volunteers offer their professional expertise and qualifications to support specific projects or initiatives requiring their skill set, such as legal, graphic design, or IT support.
  • Supportive Volunteers may not have, or want to use their specialised skills but are essential for their time, energy, and willingness to assist in various roles, contributing significantly to the success of events and projects.

Age Group: Young, Working, and Retired Volunteers

  • Young Volunteers often engage in volunteering to gain experience, enhance their CVs, and make a positive impact. They might also participate in youth programmes like the Duke of Edinburgh Award.
  • Working Volunteers balance their volunteering with employment, integrating their desire to contribute with their professional and personal commitments.
  • Retired Volunteers bring a wealth of experience and skills, dedicating their newfound time to giving back to the community, often driving forward meaningful initiatives.

Values: Understanding Volunteer Motivations

Motivaction (2023) identifies four distinct value-driven volunteer types:

  • Duty-Bound Volunteers are characterised by a strong sense of loyalty and tradition, valuing security, and solidarity, often found among older demographics.
  • Structure Seekers focus on their personal and family lives, desiring recognition and a government that provides clear boundaries.
  • Pragmatists view the world as a realm of opportunities, focusing on personal experiences and achievements.
  • Responsible Citizens are self-reliant, socially engaged, and see politics as a means to contribute to the common good and realise personal ideals.

By recognising these diverse motivations and backgrounds, organisations can create more effective and fulfilling volunteer opportunities, aligning with individual preferences and contributing to a more engaged, motivated volunteer workforce.

Navigating Shifts in Volunteer Motivation

Motivaction’s report reveals an intriguing trend: individuals identified as responsible citizens, pragmatists, and particularly younger demographics show a greater inclination towards volunteering compared to those with duty-bound or structure-seeking values. This observation presents a significant challenge for the volunteer sector, traditionally aligned with the values of duty-bound individuals and responsible citizens. These groups, predominantly older in age, are gradually declining due to demographic shifts, leading to a decrease in a key volunteer demographic that embodies the sector's core values.

To adapt and thrive, voluntary organisations must pivot towards embracing values of individualism. The evolving motivations of volunteers are increasingly centred around the desire for autonomy, self-improvement, and personal fulfilment, moving away from a focus on collective solidarity. Recognising and integrating these shifts into volunteer recruitment and retention strategies are crucial for the sector's sustainability and growth.

If this topic interests you, we encourage you to read our full interpretation of the report, including strategies to recruit and retain volunteers in this new reality.

Developing An Effective Volunteer Strategy

By now, you understand the volunteer recruitment landscape. It’s time to delve into crafting an effective strategy to actually recruit your volunteers. 

The key to successful volunteer recruitment lies in understanding your organisation’s needs, clearly articulating its mission, and detailing the roles available to volunteers. This involves reaching out through diverse channels such as online platforms, community gatherings, or through the power of word-of-mouth, to connect with potential volunteers whose interests and capabilities align with your needs. A proactive approach to communication and support throughout the recruitment process is essential for fostering a dedicated volunteer community.

Taking the First Steps: Taking Stock

The journey to attracting new volunteers begins with a thorough assessment of your organisation's needs. This entails evaluating the tasks, projects, and events requiring support and identifying the skills and expertise necessary for each role. Engage with staff and stakeholders to uncover areas where volunteers could significantly boost your capacity and impact.

Setting clear, SMART goals—for example, recruiting 8 volunteers within 2 months for an appreciation event—will provide direction and facilitate efficient resource allocation. 

These questions might help you establish the needs of your organisation to shape your strategy:

  • How many volunteers are currently helping your organisation? 
  • How many hours do they put in? 
  • What are the jobs they are working on? 
  • Are any volunteers performing specialised tasks? 
  • What are the long-term ambitions of your regular volunteers? 
  • Are there any new opportunities? 
  • Will any positions open up in the foreseeable future? 

Defining Volunteer Roles Clearly

Develop detailed descriptions for each volunteer position, specifying responsibilities, objectives, and the impact of these roles. Include necessary skills, qualifications, and the benefits of volunteering with your organisation, using language that resonates with your target volunteers.

For instance, to attract student volunteers, highlight the role's contribution to skill development and employability. Similarly, when seeking flex volunteers, clarify the commitment required and the tasks involved. Tailoring your messaging to different volunteer types is crucial for effective engagement.

Spreading the Word: Promoting Volunteer Opportunities

Adopt a dynamic, multi-channel approach to promote your volunteer opportunities, targeting a broad audience. This includes leveraging your organisation's digital presence, engaging on social media, distributing newsletters, and tapping into local community networks. Creating compelling content that underscores the meaningful impact and benefits of volunteering is key to drawing potential volunteers.

A deep dive into the different communication channels:

  • Organisation’s Platform: Feature volunteer opportunities prominently on your website, providing detailed role descriptions and how to get involved. For tips on crafting appealing volunteer pages, consider these insights from our Customer Success Manager, Lioba.
  • Social Media: Use platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and TikTok to share stories, testimonials, and news about volunteering opportunities. Explore effective social media strategies to boost engagement with potential volunteers.
  • Newsletters: Keep your subscribers informed with regular updates on volunteering opportunities, success stories, and events, personalising content to match their interests.
  • Local Community Networks: Collaborate with schools, businesses, and community organisations to reach a wider audience.
  • Printed Materials: Utilise flyers, posters, and other printed materials in community hotspots to raise awareness.
  • Word of Mouth: Encourage your network to share information about volunteering opportunities, leveraging personal connections and community involvement.
  • Community Events: Participate in or host events to directly engage with potential volunteers, providing immediate opportunities to sign up.

Remember, the effectiveness of each channel varies with your target audience. For instance, younger volunteers may prefer TikTok or WhatsApp, while corporate volunteers and pragmatists might be more effectively reached through community networks and events. Experiment and evaluate which channels yield the best results for connecting with your desired volunteer demographic.

Engage Prospective Volunteers

Creating a welcoming and inclusive environment is crucial for engaging prospective volunteers. It’s important to respond quickly to enquiries and application, providing clear information about volunteer roles and expectations. Hosting informational sessions, open houses, or virtual meetings can introduce potential volunteers to your organisation's mission, values, and culture effectively.

Tailoring your approach to the types of volunteers you aim to attract is key. For those interested in long-term organisational roles, conducting interviews or assessments can help identify the best fit based on their skills and interests. Meanwhile, for flex volunteers seeking minimal commitment, streamline the process with an easy application, minimal requirements, and flexible participation options.

Facilitating Volunteer Training and Onboarding

A structured training and onboarding process is essential to equip volunteers with the necessary knowledge and skills for their roles. Orientation sessions should cover organisational policies, procedures, and role-specific training. Providing ongoing support and opportunities for feedback and skill development is crucial for volunteers to feel valued and integrated. Peer learning and collaboration also play a significant role in building a supportive volunteer community.

Recognising and Retaining Volunteers

A thoughtful volunteer recognition and retention strategy is vital for appreciating volunteers' contributions. From personalised thank-you notes to recognition events, there are numerous ways to show gratitude. Creating opportunities for social interaction and professional networking can also strengthen the volunteer community. Seeking regular feedback from volunteers helps identify improvement areas, underscoring your commitment to their satisfaction and growth.

For creative ideas on recognising volunteers, this article might inspire and guide your efforts in showing appreciation effectively.

To conclude, volunteer recruitment is fundamental to successful volunteer management, underpinning the strength and diversity of volunteer communities. By employing targeted communication and engagement strategies, organisations can attract, engage, and retain volunteers, maximising their impact. This holistic approach to volunteer recruitment and management fosters a culture of service and collaboration, contributing significantly to the vitality of the Third Sector.

About Deedmob

Deedmob is dedicated to empowering communities through volunteering, aiming to mobilise one billion people towards social action. Our belief in the power of volunteering to strengthen community resilience is backed by a robust digital infrastructure and a wealth of expertise. Discover how Deedmob’s innovative platform and tools can revolutionise your volunteer recruitment and engagement efforts, creating a movement for positive change.

Ready to elevate your volunteer recruitment strategy? Our experts are here to guide you. Request a demo today to learn how you can efficiently find, match, recruit, retain, and inspire volunteers, leveraging an all-in-one platform tailored to your needs.

Gerbrand Holland

Gerbrand Holland

Growth Manager

With a diverse background encompassing Political Science, Medicine, and Business Administration, Gerbrand offers a unique blend of perspectives that empowers our partners to reach their social impact goals - whether they are local governments, large corporations, or social organisations. As part of his role at Deedmob, he focuses on expanding the impact ecosystem through extensive research on volunteering. Beyond his job commitments, Gerbrand is deeply passionate about sustainability, evident through his Youth Ambassadorship for the UN SDGs. In his free time, he loves playing chess, running and cycling, and dreams of finishing the Marmotte.

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