How to become a volunteer magnet

Attracting volunteers

The other day, I was asked what’s the best way to attract volunteers.

The short answer? Give them what they want.

Actually, that’s the long answer, too. People volunteer for a number of different reasons—because they want to help a cause, because they want to give back to their community, because they want to be part of a group, because they want to learn new skills, because it improves their resume, etc.

If you want to attract volunteers, you need to know why they want to volunteer. Keep that in mind when you create a posting for a volunteer position. Think about what the position offers the volunteer, not just what it offers you or the organization.

Is it a position where the volunteer can meet a lot of new people? Does it entail learning useful skills? Will the volunteer be making a crucial difference to the mission?

Ensure the post is written in such a way that it’s clear about what the position offers. Will they be working with others? Specifically, how does it help your cause? What hours do you require them to serve? What can the volunteer learn?

Don’t hide any downsides to the position. If you whitewash the position, you may get more people to volunteer initially but they won’t stay and you’ll be seen as untrustworthy. The last thing you want is to have ex-volunteers bad-mouthing your transparency.

If the position requires extensive training, for example, say so. By being honest about it, you may attract fewer volunteers but they’ll be the ones who are willing to do the training. They may even see it as a bonus if they’re after skill-building opportunities. They will be the ones who stick around for the long term.

Find out what they want.

If a person volunteers, ask them right out what they would like to get out of the position. Show them you want them to get as much out of the role as the organization is getting from them. Most people will be happy to tell you if you make it understood that the reason you are asking is so that you can fit them into the best position.

When people understand right from the beginning what the position requires from them, the less likely it is they will become disillusioned and leave. The more they know about what it provides for them, the easier it will be for them to make the decision to volunteer with you.

Let’s face it, they are giving you their most precious and limited resource, their time. Make a point of giving them what they need in return. That’s how you attract volunteers, and keep them.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Karen Knight has provided volunteer recruitment, engagement and training for not-for-profit organizations for more than 25 years.

Her professional life has spanned many industries, working in both the private and public sectors in various leadership positions.

Through her passion for making a difference in the world, she has gained decades of experience in not-for-profits as a leader and a board member.

Karen served in Toastmasters International for more than 25 years, in various roles up to district director, where she was responsible for one of the largest Toastmasters districts in the world.

She oversaw a budget of $250,000 and 300 individual clubs with more than 5,000 members. She had 20 leaders reporting directly to her and another 80 reporting to them—all volunteers.

Karen currently serves as vice-president of the board of directors for the Kamloops Therapeutic Riding Association.

After many years working and volunteering with not-for-profits, she found many leaders in the sector have difficulty with aspects of volunteer programs, whether in recruiting the right people, assigning those people to roles that both support the organization’s mission and in keeping volunteers enthusiastic.

Using hands-on experience, combined with extensive study and research, she helps solve challenges such as volunteer recruitment, engagement and training for not-for-profit organizations.

Karen Knight can be contacted at [email protected], or through her website at https://karenknight.ca/.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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