If you are actively going out into the community, or if you have an online outreach for volunteers and/or interns (that means people you expect to work for "free"....) keep in mind, NOTHING is free. Here are some tips for working an event or setting the stage to attract volunteers to your organization:
- Your overall Image: From your Website to your business cards, show your potential volunteers that you have an appealing image and that taking a look at your organization will be worth their time. What is it that you do? How do you do it? And how do you need help....specifically ?
- Your presentation - Your initial approach and your methods of recruiting volunteers should be as polished as possible.... even if you are speaking with school aged children; it's really the parents and adults who are taking it all in. Your focus should be all about them and how important they can be in joining your organization....now is not the time to talk about you.
- Your application process - Recruitment and application procedures and processes should be solidly in place before you make one step towards recruiting a volunteer or intern. Those who donate time want to know it is well spent, and their contribution is valued. If you appear to be disorganized or disheveled in your application process, you will not attract or keep the quality volunteers you'll need to get the project done.
- Your Induction - Introducing your new volunteers should be done with some ceremony. Whether they are expected to stay for a short project or a lifetime, they should be made to feel as if their decision to join your organization is being recognized ....from the very onset.
- Your training program - No one can just come on board and start working without some sort of training or preparation unique to your organization. Sure, many of your volunteers or interns will come in with great skill sets, but they should also be given adequate training on the intricacies of the operation of your organization.
- Your overall management - Touching on item 3; volunteers need to feel their time is being used wisely. It won't take them long to figure out if that's not happening in your organization. A well managed organization will show signs of growth and some of that growth can be attributed to the time your volunteers spend working on your behalf.
- Your ethos and culture - It almost seems like a non-topic to bring up the characteristics and spirit of your organization, right? Well actually it's people's beliefs and aspirations that attract the best in human nature and to entice them to take a look at your organization. When your recruiting materials mention your organization's spirit, character, atmosphere, moral code, value system, principles, standards, ethics, etc., a powerful magnet is created within your audience.
- Your support and supervision - Do you have a process in place for your volunteers to quickly acclimate themselves and/or attain information for problem solving and finding solutions? This shows newcomers that they are in the right place! Not only will your organization grow, but your volunteers will gain beneficial knowledge to improve their own circumstances.
- Never expect announcements or posts alone to get volunteers - Many people will never volunteer from looking at an announcement or reading a Webpage. Why? because most people want to be asked. So when attending or hosting events, meetings and posting media to attract potentials, never forget to say the words...never forget to ASK.
- Never Go It Alone - Partnering is the most effective way to recruit volunteers. 'Power in numbers' is more than a phrase — it's a vital part of social change. The sad truth is ..."it's easier to get what you want , if you appear to already have what you want". When you appear to be alone at the recruiting table, it is less powerful than when you have others (even one more) with you.
- Never make it seem like a life-time commitment - Many people are afraid of getting tied into a volunteer job for a lifetime. They get burned out and then quit the organization as a way to quit their volunteer role. Here's why it's wise to recruit for a short period:
a: Volunteers are more willing to say "yes" when there is an end-date in sight.
b: Volunteers quickly catch the vision of the organization thru the eyes of a passionate leader.
c: New leaders are formed more quickly to became mentors for future passion driven teams.
- Never Assume That "No" Means "Never"
Timing is everything. Sometimes the "no" means, "not now." Sometimes it means that the prospect volunteer feels that he/she would rather do something else. When the answer is "no," we recommend asking: "Can we stay" in touch?"...the answer then is typically 100% yes; in which case we use our CRM system to place the "no" candidate into a drip email campaign!
- Never Fall Into the BIC Trap
We often fall into the trap of following the BIC (Butt in the Chair) syndrome. Because we are in desperate need for a volunteer and need them quickly, we plead our case to anyone who "fogs a mirror" (and that means anyone who is breathing). JUST STOP IT! Most times the chair is better empty than filled with the wrong person who does nothing or is high maintenance. If you have the processes in place, that we gave you above in this blog post, then you should have no problem qualifying your prospective volunteer.
- Never Be "People" Driven Rather Than "Position" Driven
Another variation of the "Butt In the Chair" method is just to say, "Please come and be a part of our group. We have a great time and we need your expertise." But we don't tell the prospect what we want them to do. Instead think —"position." ask yourself, "What positions do I need to fill to accomplish our mission?" "What do I want the team members to do?" And then look for people who can fill those positions.
- Never Give the Position the Wrong Job Title
What's in a name? Plenty. Here's an example: We found an environmental group, looking for staff members. Most applicants are PhD biologists, passionate environmental professionals who want to get involved in restoring wetlands. But as volunteers, they will be required to spend most of their time recruiting, motivating and training other volunteers to raise money for wetland restoration. So you see, the job title should have been; "Manager for Environmental Services Volunteers". Graduate schools don't train biologists to be volunteer managers. In essence, your job titles should be reflective of your non-profit organizational needs.
In summary: “Put it in writing and put it into practice”. This will lead to the strong foundation of your organization and a great staff of volunteers.
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