3 Steps to Getting Great Volunteers

This post is more than 18 months old. Since technology changes to rapidly, this content may be out of date (but that's not always the case). Please remember to verify any technical or programming information with the current release.

If you run a volunteer organization, you might be turning away valuable volunteers! Let me give you 3 useful ways to lock in these volunteers - now!

First of all, a little background. I just called a volunteer organization and offered to work with the team. The person who answered the phone was very confused, very gruff, and in the end, told me to email someone before hurrying off the phone. Needless to say, if that’s the caliber of person that runs the organization, I don’t want to participate!

So, let’s get into the tips - to make sure you never have to worry about getting volunteers again.

Secret Shopper Program

The first steps to solving a problem is identifying it. Sometimes, when you’re so close to a specific task or process, it’s hard to identify the weaknesses. If you find yourself confused about why your on-boarding, marketing or attraction system is not working, it might be time to do a secret shopper program. Find a trusted colleague or a friend of a friend who can play the part: give them the standard material, and see what happens.

In the end, you may even actually get a new volunteer! - But even if you don’t, you’ll get valuable advice from their brand new experience. They might tell you that your handout material or call to action on your website didn’t connect with them. Perhaps they’re even confused on what they would be doing if they chose to volunteer. They might even be scared thinking they don’t have the right skills to be successful. Grab all this information - and make small, incremental changes to your program!

Be a Spy / Ask for Help

We all know there are precedents for thriving, successful volunteer organizations. Sometimes it’s just as simple as asking a similar organization what really helps them entice new volunteers. Most non-profit organizations are willing to share this information for each other - after all, we’re all trying to make a better world.

If you can’t seem to get that information directly, it’s ok to be a spy. Jump on their website, give them a call, and TAKE NOTES. Figure out what they’re doing right - compare your organization to theirs. Sometimes the differences require a large investment - I understand that. But most are just process, communication and idea changes - and those can be cheap or even free!

Communicate the Value and Requirements, Kindly

The genesis of this article came from that phone call I mentioned above. I really felt rubbed the wrong way, but I’m persistent. I’m going to call at a different time, email, and continue my volunteering streak. But, not everyone is like me. You don’t want to lose any volunteers, not even 1!

So, what concerns do volunteers have when they call? Let’s figure it out:

What volunteering options are available? Don’t assume the volunteer is familiar with the organization. You may ask “Do you have a specific opportunity in mind, or would you like to learn more about all the options?”

Assure the volunteer that they are qualified. A lot of volunteers, especially first time ones, may not think they can do what you’re asking. Obviously, there are some options that do require advanced skills, but for the most part, non-profits just need qualified volunteers that have a little time available. Ask about the volunteer’s background - and then give them assurance that they would be a great fit - even if they don’t ask about it.

Speak clearly, treat volunteers with respect. Remember, this is a cross between an interview and a sales opportunity. And, for the most part, the power is with the potential volunteer. Treat them with respect, go above and beyond, and communicate clearly and accurately. Remember, you need to get these volunteers in the door - because as we all know, there are high turnovers in great volunteers - because they’re desperately wanted elsewhere too!

Final Thoughts

Volunteer organizations are HARD to run. Trust me, I’ve started one - nothing was harder than getting people to help you with the work. So, make sure you’re following these three simple steps and you should see your stats jump up!

Have questions about your volunteer organization? Need help figuring out what you’re doing wrong OR RIGHT? Let me know - I’d love to share stories with you and provide you some fresh eyes and feedback.

Return to All Posts