Volunteer recruitment can seem overwhelming, but it is a necessary skill to master for anyone that regularly manages volunteers. The beginning of a new program year is the right time to revisit some of the basic volunteer recruitment strategies that have stood the test of time. Below are several “tips” from the experts that may help you in your efforts of mapping out your volunteer staffing plan for summer and fall events.
1) Different volunteers require different recruitment methods
It would be wonderful if we could send out a couple of emails and all our volunteer needs would be covered for the next year. Unfortunately, this is not the case. As you know, we need multiple strategies for targeting volunteers and we often do not always get an answer the first time. In a recent 4-H volunteer recruitment study, 4-H agents provided several ways that they attracted 4-H volunteers, including making direct requests to parents, training existing volunteers for new roles, reaching out to teachers through materials distributed at schools, and including new volunteer role descriptions in newsletters and local media. Start recruiting for your summer events now by creating flyers to post on social media or to hand out at meetings, sending out emails and newsletters, hosting volunteer interest sessions and parent meetings, speaking at community events, and calling and meeting with potential volunteers one-on-one. When you are effectively using multiple recruitment methods, you will notice over time that you will gradually generate the skilled and reliable volunteer numbers you need to make it through the camp season. Additionally, getting an early start in the recruitment process will allow you to be more selective when it comes to who you put into each volunteer role.
2) Clearly explain the duties that the volunteer will perform
A study on targeted volunteer recruitment recognized numerous reasons why 4-H volunteers chose to serve, including working with youth, affiliation with the 4-H program, and the ability to teach and share knowledge. When creating your recruitment materials, sending out recruitment emails, or talking to potential volunteers (parents, community members, retirees, college students), you should include the possible benefits of the role and make sure that the position sounds like something a person would enjoy doing. Be specific about the type of experiences that the volunteer will take part in and what the volunteer is to gain from the experience. If an individual is going to dedicate their free time to the role, they will want a clear picture of what it entails.
3) Provide answers to potential volunteer questions before they are asked
Volunteers often ask the same questions and appreciate being able to get quick responses. Provide answers to the most frequently asked questions about potential volunteer roles in your newsletters, on your website, or anywhere you typically communicate with potential volunteers. It will help reduce the number of phone calls, emails, and text messages asking the same questions, and it will allow them to make a more educated decision on if the volunteer experience is for them.
4) Include up-to-date information on where a volunteer can follow up or find out more
You do not want to leave your volunteers guessing about how they should sign up or register to assist because you may lose them in the process. Give your volunteer clear instructions on how to contact you and when you will be available. Now is an excellent time to check that your voicemail is not full and that your contact information is correctly displayed in your email, on your website, on your social media, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or anywhere a volunteer may look to try and find information about how to reach you.
5) What you call your volunteers matters to them
When reviewing your volunteer role descriptions, be mindful of what you are calling your volunteers. As you know, volunteer work is real work. Volunteers are gaining leadership skills by performing their 4-H responsibilities, and their efforts are vital to the success of Louisiana 4-H programs. If possible, include language in your volunteer position titles and descriptions that can be easily added to the volunteer’s resume. Some volunteers want to know that they are benefiting professionally from their volunteer experience.
6) Ask your volunteers to help you recruit
In a recent Louisiana 4-H volunteer engagement survey, almost 20% of volunteers surveyed stated that they first began serving with 4-H because another volunteer asked them to. We all have those hardworking and motivating volunteers that can effectively explain to others what a 4-H volunteer experience entails. Use them as ambassadors for your program and ask them to help you in the recruitment process. Furthermore, they may be able to provide additional feedback to you about the recruitment and onboarding process.
7) Revisit the process for onboarding and training 4-H volunteers
Put yourself in the shoes of a potential volunteer with your programs. How do they find information? How do they sign-up? What is your onboarding process like? Is your training effective? Is it all easy to navigate? What are the potential barriers? Find out what you could do to eliminate some of the barriers and make it easier for volunteers to get engaged.Learn more about volunteer recruitment by watching the training video or download the presentation on volunteer recruitment. For more information, contact Meggan Franks, Volunteer & Leadership Specialist.