Many charities and not-for-profit organisations are finding it increasingly hard to recruit volunteers each year. The latest Community Life Survey showed that 2019 had the lowest recorded percentage of people volunteering since the survey began in 2012.
The current pandemic has shown, however, that there is a huge population of enthusiastic, willing volunteers who are ready to lend their skills and support their communities in difficult times.
Furloughed workers have more time on their hands and a desire to engage and give back, businesses are considering how they are best aligned to provide help, and across the country third-sector organisations have been inundated with offers of support.
Covid-19 has demonstrated that the help is there, people want to support important causes. It is now a case of clearly communicating your need and creating conditions that make it easy for the volunteer to get involved.
How third-sector organisations engage with and respond to this influx of new volunteers will be key for retention rates as the world gradually returns to business-as-usual.
Here are some of our top tips to successfully recruit and retain valuable volunteers.
Consider the role and what you need from it as carefully as you would a paid position. Try using tools such as our skills gap matrix (coming soon) to identify areas where your organisation needs extra support.
Make sure the role has a title. This will give the position more value and authority. Young volunteers are likely looking for something to add to their CVs, working volunteers will appreciate having a clearly defined position, and retirees are sure to want the substantial career experience that they offer to be recognised.
Furthermore, be clear about what it is exactly what you need from your new recruit. Take the time to sit down and work out the ins and outs of the position, the time commitment that is required and the responsibilities of the role.
Do not limit your search to low-skilled positions. In fact, many volunteers have so much to offer in terms of relevant skills and experience and are more likely to opt for a position that will challenge them rather than simply occupy their time. If there is a need for people to complete low-skilled tasks, consider how you can work this in so that it is only one small part of a more wide-ranging role.
Finally, realise that, as much as your volunteers are driven by a desire to do good, they are going to want to get something out of their position. Whether it is an opportunity to gain experience, network with like-minded individuals, or learn a new skill – be clear about what your organisation can do for them.
The internet is a goldmine in terms of its ability to connect people. It is a wonderful resource for reaching a wide audience and your organisation should make sure to utilise every channel of communication to promote your available positions.
Don’t shy away from advertising across social media, as well as on your own website, and consider reaching out to other organisations or social media ‘influencers’ with similar audiences to see if they are happy to point their followers in your direction.
Having said that, do not underestimate the value of advertising within the local community. Think about any local contacts you might have such as schools, colleges, universities, or community groups who are in touch with local, socially minded people who might be interested in a volunteering role.
It is worth taking time to create attention-grabbing posters and flyers and post them in popular cafes, libraries, or galleries. Target places that align with your organisation’s main message, as your audience will likely go to these places too. Obviously, this will not be possible for the foreseeable future but perhaps these places have an email newsletter or an online forum where you can request to publicise your opportunity.
Volunteer recruitment sites such as Social Good Connect are another great way to create opportunities and manage applications.
If your organisation offers opportunities for people to get stuck into volunteering as a team, make sure you shout about this on your website, across social media, and anywhere else you can think of! Opportunities like this are popular with businesses who offer employer supported volunteering, but they can be pretty hard to come by.
Finally, be open to offers! If you are an organisation that is always looking for a little extra support, consider posting on socials that you are open to hearing from anyone who is keen to get involved, regardless of whether there is a specific role available. You never know what talents or suggestions people might have to offer!
Again, treat this role as you would a paid one and ensure the correct systems are in place to support your new recruit before even posting an advert.
Once you have posted an advert and are receiving applications, ensure that you are responding to candidates promptly, even if it is just to acknowledge that their application has been received and more information will follow soon after. In a world of instant communication, no one likes to be kept waiting weeks for a response. In fact, this could give the impression of a lack of organisation and put potential volunteers off the idea of working with your organisation at all.
Once you have successfully recruited a new volunteer, make sure they have the correct training and support as they start their new role.
Introduce them to the team, give them an induction to the company, and generally make sure they feel welcomed into the organisation. Currently, that may look like a welcome video call introducing them to key contacts and ensuring they know who to contact if they need support.
Making sure new volunteers feel included and supported from the start will help you retain staff and make it easier to attract new volunteers by word of mouth recommendations. It pays to have a good reputation.
Also, consider how you are going to deal with practical issues such as volunteer agreements, reimbursing expenses, or helping new volunteers apply for any clearance certificates they might need if they are going to be working with minors or vulnerable people. It is a good idea to appoint a volunteer manager who is trained to manage and lead the volunteers that you recruit.
People like to feel appreciated. Fact. And people don’t like to waste their time. Also, fact.
If customers or beneficiaries leave positive feedback about a volunteer, make sure that this information is relayed to them. Positive reinforcement is such a simple and effective way to maintain high levels of job satisfaction amongst your staff and volunteers.
Monitor the impact your volunteers are having within the organisation and give them feedback on this. People are likely to become disheartened or bored if they feel that the hours they are contributing are not making any difference.
Remember that these people are giving up their free time to help your organisation and never forget to say thank you!
So, there you have it, four top tips to helping you recruit and retain volunteers.
What steps have you taken in your organisation to recruit and retain your volunteers? Has this changed in recent weeks?
Let us know and get in touch if you want to learn more about how Social Good Connect could take the pain out of volunteer recruitment for your organisation.
Written by Betty Henderson