With so many people keen to volunteer their time for free, it can be tempting for nonprofits to take on anyone who shows an interest. However, it makes sound business sense to take as much time and care recruiting volunteers as you would with paid staff.
To recruit a suitable volunteer workforce, clarify your organization’s objectives, decide the tasks necessary to achieve these goals, and the identify the skills and attributes volunteers need to carry out those duties. Volunteer Canada can help your organization develop volunteer recruitment and management strategies, consider associated risks, and support you in dealing with the various legal and ethical issues. Armed with all this support and information, you can then start writing meaningful job descriptions.
A properly designed job description helps you do the following:
- Specify the set of tasks you expect each of your volunteers to undertake.
- Identify the skills, qualifications and experience necessary for the role.
- Make it clear if any role has specific requirements, such as screening for working with young or vulnerable people, but avoid erecting unnecessary barriers, such as educational qualifications or overtaxing time commitments.
- Specify where the volunteer’s work is based and the level of commitment that’s needed.
- Outline training opportunities and orientation expectations.
- List benefits, such as payment of expenses, uniform or clothing allowance, or free or discounted meals.
Make sure you get input from members of your organization who will work with or supervise the volunteers.
If you are an established organization with a strong reputation, word of mouth may already be yielding a steady stream of would-be volunteers. In this case, be sure to have procedures in place to deal with ad hoc enquiries, including office staff prepared to field queries and mail out information, and having application forms available in your reception area and online. If your organization is relatively new, or you want to reach out to a wider pool, the following can raise your profile:
- Register with a group such as Community Volunteer Connections so would-be volunteers can find details about your volunteer program.
- Have a section on your website with examples of the projects volunteers work on and a link to an application form.
- Maintain a regular presence on social media.
- Use LinkedIn to search for professionals who are happy to volunteer their time and to post your own volunteering opportunities.
- Send a press release to local media about your latest achievements and include a line encouraging volunteers to apply.
- Run an open day or coffee morning where the public can learn about your organization and meet local volunteers.
Develop partnerships with universities, colleges, schools, and other organizations to encourage regular volunteering. Volunteer work helps students improve their future employ-ability, and companies are increasingly developing corporate volunteering strategies that encourage employees to take paid time off to volunteer. Your volunteers can become your best ambassadors, talking highly of their experiences and promoting your organization within their local communities. Your nonprofit gains by growing a committed workforce and a tried-and-tested pool from which to employ paid staff who can hit the ground running without the induction period needed for new appointees. Taking time to secure the right people in volunteer roles can help your organization thrive.