Effective volunteer management can accomplish many things. It provides you with the support you need to drive results and staff events. It creates a more streamlined program that ultimately saves your team’s time. And it improves the volunteer experience so that they’ll be encouraged to stay involved.
Knowing when to recruit volunteers is a crucial part of volunteer management. Ensuring you always have enough volunteers can seem daunting, but we’re here to help! Here are three essential strategies for knowing when to recruit volunteers.
3 Strategies for Volunteer Recruitment
Be organized and plan ahead.
Use a dedicated volunteer management system to track engagement over time. Knowing the number of retained volunteers you can currently count on will help you know how many volunteers you need to recruit.
You can also use this information to look for patterns in the effectiveness of your recruitment strategies. How long do volunteers tend to stay with your organization? Does one recruitment method or source lead to higher volunteer retention?
Before any campaign or event that you’re planning, consider early on whether you’ll need to recruit new volunteers. With knowledge of your current volunteers and their availability, you can decide whether to recruit some fresh faces and how many.
Create a timeline for your recruitment process to make sure everything will be set up well before your upcoming event. Assign a team or individual to handle this process and report progress so that you can stay on top of it.
Before a major fundraising event, you need at least 4-6 weeks to recruit and train new volunteers. However, your timeframe may be different, based on the specifics of the event or campaign, and the size of your organization. A smaller organization that’s recruiting very few volunteers will need less time. A big organization that’s recruiting over a dozen new volunteers will need more time.
For a really big campaign, there may be many responsibilities over the course of the event. You might need rolling waves of retained and new volunteers to handle it all, and will likely require a longer training period. You may have to train your retained volunteers on their new responsibilities as well as your new volunteers to make sure the event runs smoothly. For a simpler event that you’ve hosted before, you will likely need less time.
You know your organization best, so look at what you’ve done before, and what worked best in the past. For any situation, though, we recommend having a plan in place for asking volunteers to confirm their eligibility for dollars for doers programs through their employers.
Understand how the calendar year can affect recruitment.
People’s priorities change day to day and throughout the year. Be aware of how the calendar will affect your recruitment opportunities and time your volunteer recruitment accordingly. This way, you can be sure to have as much interest as possible in your organization when you decide to recruit.
Keep in mind that the best times of year to recruit volunteers will be different based on your organization and who you serve.
Another way you can use the calendar year to your advantage is to push for donations around the end of the year when people have a greater desire to give back. Take a look at some fundraising ideas for inspiration.
Let’s look at a specific example: an elementary school seeking volunteers. They might be looking for parents to help out with a regular event like a pizza day every week. Or they might be looking for volunteers to help with planning and chaperoning an event. This school might want to avoid reaching out for volunteers during the peak of summer vacation. During this time, parents will be harder to reach, won’t be checking school-related bulletins, and aren’t likely thinking much about school. On the other hand, the back-to-school season is a great time for a school to recruit volunteers. As the summer ends, school is front and center in the thoughts of parents and guardians.
Take this scenario as an example and compare it to the needs of your own organization. Who is your audience? When are their busiest times of the year? These are important factors to consider for any organization looking to recruit volunteers.
If you understand when the best recruitment seasons are, you can build out your event and campaign calendar for the year. If you know when people will be most interested in volunteering, and when you’ll need volunteers, you can be prepared ahead of time with teams and strategies already in place.
Build volunteer recruitment into your normal practices.
Use your ongoing volunteer practices to boost recruitment in built-in ways.
One way to do this is to encourage volunteers to refer their friends and family. Newcomers that already have friends or family in your organization will be more likely to be engaged and stick around. The same is true of the volunteers that referred them. Try offering special events and perks to incentivize referrals.
Another way to attract more volunteers through your usual practices is to target the community you’re already serving. Use your high-visibility events, programs, and community service days to show off your volunteer program. When people at your events see the positive impact you’re having for their community, they’ll be more likely to want to help.
Make sure to show how appreciative you are of your volunteers. Shout from the rooftops that your passionate community of volunteers is making a real difference in the community. Let everyone see the impact they’re having. You can do this at your events, in newsletters, on social media, or anywhere else you have a voice. You can use ideas from member spotlights to help highlight your volunteers.
And be sure especially to highlight volunteers who have had less visible impacts. Everyone will see the impact of the person in charge of your big events. Remember that all of your volunteers make an impact, even if they’re not at the forefront of public perception. If a volunteer is great at grant writing and helps you win a grant, shout them out in your announcements and social media posts.
Volunteers are an important part of any organization that has them. Making sure you have the right amount of volunteers at any time and are prepared for any upcoming event is crucial. We’ve presented three strategies in this article to help:
- Be organized and plan ahead. Know what’s coming up for your organization, what will require volunteers, and whether you have enough people now, or whether you will need to recruit more.
- Understand how the calendar affects recruitment. Recruit at the times when there will be the most interest in your organization. Understand your community or audience and what will be on their mind when.
- Build volunteer recruitment into your normal practices. Encourage volunteers to refer others and show appreciation for your current volunteers.
By following these three strategies, you’ll be sure to know when is best to recruit volunteers for your organization, and you’ll have an easy and effective volunteer recruitment process.