How to Recruit Nonprofit Volunteers

Most nonprofit organizations are always on the lookout for volunteers. After all, volunteers move away, get tired, lose interest, or take new jobs with new hours. If your organization depends on volunteers, you probably need to maintain an ongoing recruitment process.

To cast a wide net, you want to use more than one method to find volunteers, and you don’t want to spend much money on those methods. After all, you’re looking for free help. Persistence matters: Good volunteer recruitment is like a healthy habit that you want to repeat. Here are a few of the most common and most successful methods for recruiting volunteers:

  • Placing announcements in the media: Newspapers and radio and television stations sometimes publish or air short public service announcements for nonprofit organizations.

  • Posting fliers: Grocery stores, churches, coffee shops, college campuses, laundromats, schools, and civic buildings often have bulletin boards where you can post announcements. For best results, place them thoughtfully. For instance, put your call for foster homes for kittens at the pet food store and your community garden poster at the plant nursery.

  • Taking advantage of word of mouth: Encourage your current volunteers to recruit others. Have a “bring a friend” day with time for socializing. Ask your volunteers to post your posters in their places of business, and don’t forget to invite your own friends and associates.

  • Contacting schools and churches: Both of these institutions look for ways for students and members to get involved in community service. Service learning — through which students learn about a topic by volunteering in their communities — is a growing practice. In fact, many high schools and colleges maintain centers for community relations and student volunteering.

    Don’t forget to reach out to the young people in your area. By doing so, you benefit from their skills and ideas, and you also contribute to training the next generation of volunteers!

  • Relying on clubs and fraternal groups: Many professional and social clubs include serving the community in their missions. From Kiwanis International and local Elks lodges to the Junior League, chamber of commerce, and campus-based sororities and fraternities, clubs and membership groups can be excellent volunteer resources.

  • Approaching corporations and businesses: In some communities, businesses look for community involvement opportunities for their employees. If a company has a community relations, community affairs, or corporate giving department, it’s likely to be a good place to begin asking about employee volunteers.

Also, some organizations do exist to provide volunteer help. Many communities have volunteer centers that participate in a national network of organizations that recruit and place volunteers in nonprofits.

Similarly, the Corporation for National and Community Service was established by Congress in 1993 to operate AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, the Social Innovation Fund, and the Volunteer Generation Fund. This agency is charged with encouraging national service through volunteering and helping nonprofits and public agencies make the best use of this resource. The corporation awards grants that help organizations strengthen their community through the use of volunteers.

If your organization wants to take advantage of a program offered by the Corporation for National and Community Service, you may need to apply for a federal or state grant, which usually requires sound accounting procedures and extensive reporting of program activities.

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