Identify Your Target Audience
Tap Into Networks
Volunteer Opportunity Websites
Develop Your Online Presence
Organizations Looking to Work With Congregations
Volunteer Job Description
Why Do People Volunteer?
Why Don’t People Volunteer?
Recruitment Strategy: Questions to Consider
Immigration Detention Visitation Resources
LIRS Sample Network Materials
Why is Recruitment Important?
With limited time and resources, developing a recruitment strategy often falls low on the list of priorities. Targeted recruitment, however, will lead to much more successful engagement and mission-driven work. Collaborate with other program leaders to brainstorm the qualities you are looking for in volunteers and how you can effectively engage them.
The first step in the volunteer recruitment process is outreach, which involves designing a marketing strategy and pursuing potential volunteers.
Ideas for places to recruit volunteers:
- High schools and universities
- International student groups (if you are looking for certain language abilities)
- Civic groups like Lions Club or Rotary Club
- Social groups on MeetUp.com
- The staff at local nonprofits that share your mission
- Churches and other faith communities
- Current or former clients from your organization
IDENTIFY YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE
Identify target populations whose interests, affiliations, and skills align with your organization. These target populations can be different segments of your current volunteer base or new groups you want to engage. Consider what demographics might be drawn to your program—for example, retirees, church members, stay-at-home mothers or fathers, returning Peace Corps volunteers, former clients, professionals, or teenagers.
TAP INTO NETWORKS
Asking current volunteers and employees to advertise your organization in their own social and professional networks is an effective method of reaching new volunteers. Relatives, former clients, friends, partner organizations, and people in the neighborhood are excellent resources. Help staff and volunteers organize speaking opportunities at other organizations, churches, and professional associations. Capitalize on events such as the National Day of Service and investigate city and state online databases that match volunteers and organizations.
VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITY WEBSITES
There are a number of volunteer opportunity websites that will help match your organization with individuals looking to volunteer. You can post open volunteer positions on the website, and potential volunteers that are interested can contact you to apply. Examples of national websites include All for Good, Idealist and Volunteer Match. There are also often local websites that focus on recruitment for your area. A quick Google search of "volunteer in (your location)" will pull up the top websites for your area. You can find a more comprehensive list of national sites here.
“I recommend recruiting online. Idealist.org and VolunteerMatch.org are where we find most of our volunteers.”
DEVELOP YOUR ONLINE PRESENCE
Your organization or congregation’s website should be accessible for people to donate and for volunteers to sign up. Build an online presence that properly represents your organization and the clients you serve. You can also promote social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram. Connect with LIRS via social media to enhance name recognition and to reach potential volunteers who are already interested in immigration issues. A good social media presence is not a constant barrage of advertisements and information. Instead, share relevant stories that help build rapport with supporters, positioning your organization as one of quality, not quantity. Also, photos demonstrating your organization in action can help draw volunteers and quickly share a snapshot of your culture and mission.
Partner Highlight - Online Recruitment: Building an Effective Web Presence
Casa Marianella offers short-term and transitional housing to migrants. From teaching ESL classes to mowing the lawn, volunteers play a critical role in transforming Casa Marianella from a shelter into a home. Interested volunteers can visit Casa Marianella’s website for detailed information on volunteer opportunities. Strengths of their website include:
- A link to “Volunteer Opportunities” is clearly displayed on their website banner and is visible from every individual page.
- A wide range of volunteer opportunities is provided, catering to a variety of skill sets, interests, and commitment levels.
- Detailed position descriptions include a job summary, anticipated schedule, and required qualifications (if applicable).
- They emphasize flexible programming and encourage prospective volunteers to propose new projects they are interested in leading.
Click here to visit Casa Marianella’s website.
ORGANIZATIONS LOOKING TO WORK WITH CONGREGATIONS
For many organizations, congregations and other faith communities are an important source for volunteer capacity. Offer to present an educational workshop for a congregation or speak at an already planned event. Consider bringing a former client who can share his or her migration and integration story. Faith communities want to be involved in serving their neighbors.
Pastors serve as an entry point to the members of their congregations. Whether it is the chair of a social justice committee or community group, a staff member at a larger church in charge of outreach, or a member who is passionate about the issue, there is someone within their congregation who can be a champion for your organization and grow a partnership between your organization and the church.
Relationship is the key. The hope is for migrants and refugees to become part of the community. Let this goal resonate in your relationship with congregations as you grow, learn, and respond together.
Partner Highlight - Church Partnership: Transitional Housing for Refugees
Not all volunteer programs need to be run by staff. Long term volunteers and partnerships with congregations and civic groups can provide volunteer management leadership. Lutheran Services Carolinas uses this type of partnership to provide transitional housing for refugees.
In a former South Carolina parsonage, refugees from different backgrounds and cultures live together to build their first home in the United States. For the past ten years, volunteers from St. Andrews Lutheran church and community civic groups have maintained the house and filled it with amenities and comforts of home.How they do it:
Church owns property and maintains the house
Ecumenical advisory council of community members and congregants meets regularly
Concrete volunteer activities such as yard work and house repair are an entry point for congregants to build relationships with refugeesBring it to your organization:
Look for property owned by faith communities to address short term housing needs for refugees, asylum seekers, detainees released from detention or migrant youth.
Partnerships with faith communities and civic groups can lighten the load of volunteer management when the groups have ownership and leadership over long term workLearn more:
Read more here: Welcome to the Welcome House
Bedrija Jazic, Service Team Leader, Refugee Resettlement Services, Lutheran Services Carolinas
Volunteer Job Description
Just as you write a position description when hiring paid staff, volunteer job descriptions can be helpful in recruiting volunteers, especially when looking for someone with specific qualifications or to fill a certain gap in your organization. The job description can be disseminated via marketing messaging and recruitment or can be kept internal and shared with the volunteer when she or he is selected.Things to consider including in a volunteer position description:xi
- Position title
- Work location
- Purpose of the position
- Qualifications, both required and preferred
- Commitment expected
- Training offered
- Supervisor name and contact
The length and tone of a job description impacts who is interested in volunteering. Highly technical job descriptions may attract pro bono professionals and college students seeking job experience but deter prospective volunteers looking for minimal commitment opportunities. Consider your target demographics and create position descriptions accordingly. Please refer to the LIRS Sample Network Materials on the sidebar for sample job descriptions.
Partner Highlight - Using the Press for Volunteer Recruitment
Lutheran Refugee Services of Lancaster’s Refugee Mentor Program attracted interest in their volunteer mentorship program through a newspaper article published in the local paper.
Click here to read the Lancaster Online article about their mentorship program.
Research shows that it requires five to seven touch points for someone to make the transition from thinking about volunteering to actually engaging. These touch points can be:
- “Liking” a Facebook page
- Seeing an online volunteer job description
- Emailing the organization for information
- Attending an informational meeting
Invite potential volunteers to attend an informational event. This event could be an open house, a lunch, or an orientation/training. Current volunteers or clients are great speakers to educate, engage, and inspire potential volunteers in a meaningful way.
Encourage potential volunteers to join your network or community by subscribing to a newsletter, following your organization on social media, or sharing what they have learned either online or in a presentation. Allow them to participate in the mission without making a binding commitment; this increases the likelihood that they will volunteer later on.
The best way to recruit a volunteer is to ask them in person. Consider the seven steps below to encourage a positive answer from a potential volunteer:
- Be excited! Your welcoming and enthusiastic attitude communicates the importance of the opportunity and the joy that comes from the work.
- Explain why this person matters. Stress the motivations or reasons for serving. Why is it so crucial for the mission of the organization or ministry that this person in particular joins the team?
- Explain what benefits the volunteer will receive. Just as you should include benefits in a position description, this is an important piece when asking someone to volunteer. Read about some of the benefits you might discuss in the section Why Do People Volunteer?
- Describe the organization and mission. It is important to be clear and honest. Explain exactly what the organization is and how the volunteer’s time and talents will further the mission.
- Answer all questions. Be specific about the needs and expectations of the volunteer position.
- Negotiate and provide contact information. Be flexible with their schedules when possible and give them reliable methods of contacting you or someone else in the organization.
- Thank them and ask them to pass on the word. Even if they will not be volunteering with your organization, they can still be advocates for the mission.xii
WHY DO PEOPLE VOLUNTEER?
Ask potential volunteers what they hope to gain from a volunteer experience, and look for ways your organization can satisfy them. Some common reasons people volunteer include:
- Skill set, resume, or professional development
- Personal experience with the mission or with activism in general
- Social reasons, such as making new friends or volunteering with current friends
- Contributing to or connecting with the community
- Sense of duty or desire to make a difference
Asking is an invitation, not a plea. Ensure that messaging and conversations emphasize the opportunity for the volunteer, not only the needs of the organization.
Be flattering and affirming. Explain why their talents or particular skill set is perfect for the job.
Get them while you have them. Ask people for a real commitment before they leave your presence, whether that is at an orientation or after a conversation on the street.
WHY DON'T PEOPLE VOLUNTEER?
Anticipate hesitancies and strategize around them. Some common reasons people don’t want to volunteer include:
- Never been asked
- Burnout experience
- Mismatched skills
- Unclear expectations
- Poor treatment
- Little or no recognition
- Too busy
- Lack of follow up by the agencyxiv
For instance, if someone has experienced burnout, discuss your efforts to organize group reflection and support expectations for volunteers and their clients. If they are busy, emphasize the positions you have available that have flexible hours.IF THEY SAY NO
If they say no, ask if there is another way they would like to be involved. Perhaps they can participate in writing a newsletter, a donation drive, or other fundraising effort. Sometimes a one-time ask for an event can be a good first step in building a new partnership. Ask for their contact information and share your own; even if they decline now, their circumstances may change in the future. Build a contact list of potential volunteers and reach out to them periodically.
People hate saying no, so if it is clear that someone won’t be able to volunteer, this may a good time to suggest a donation instead. He or she may be relieved to have another way to support your mission.
Another recruitment strategy is filling short-term positions. Some people fear being trapped in a long-term commitment. List short-term volunteer positions as options and explain the duration of these projects.xv These short-term volunteers may turn into long-term ones.
You can adjust almost any of these positions to be either more or less of a commitment, depending on the needs of the organization and the interests of the volunteer. For instance, attorney-of-the-day programs would be a short-term position for a pro bono attorney, while accepting an ongoing case would be more long-term. Packaging opportunities to appeal to various levels of commitment is an important skill in a volunteer coordinator.
Recruitment Strategy: Questions to Consider
You can strengthen and assess your recruitment strategy by considering these questions with your staff and volunteers. If staff time allows, you may consider more formal evaluation and research of these areas.
- Environmental scan. What policies, practices or other factors could help or hurt your marketing success? Consider what is happening in the news around immigration, the time of year, and shifts in public support.
- Network analysis. What do other organizations working in this field provide in terms of content, programs, and resources? How successful are these efforts?
- Audience research. What does your target population think about your organization, its work, and the mission? Who is engaged and who do you need to engage differently? What content is most compelling to your prospective volunteer base?
- Marketing audit. How many individuals who express interest or respond to volunteer recruitment efforts ultimately engage with you as volunteers? What do current volunteers say when asked how they learned about the opportunity? How can you do more of that?
- Internal inquiry. What are the perceptions, hopes, ideas, and concerns of staff in regards to the marketing agenda?xvi
- Develop a marketing plan.
- Build your online presence.
- Write volunteer job descriptions (for both short- and long-term opportunities).
- Host informational and promotional events.
- Follow-up with interested people.
- Ask and confirm their involvement as a volunteer.
- Continually reflect on and revise your marketing plan.
Immigration Detention Visitation Resources
LIRS Sample Network Materials
Volunteer Job Descriptions
- Youth Mentor Volunteer Job Description - LCFS
- ESL Teacher Volunteer Job Description – LCFS
- ESL Homework Tutor Volunteer Job Description - LCFS
- ESL Special Events Volunteer Job Description - LCFS
- Office Volunteer Job Description - LFSRM
- Transportation Volunteer Job Description - LFSRM
- Donation Collection Volunteer Job Description - LCFS
- Child Care Volunteer Job Description – LCFS
- Pro Bono Attorney Job Description – PAIR
Additional Volunteer Job Descriptions for working with Refugees
- Cultural Mentor Volunteer Job Description - LCFS
- Refugee Apartment Set Up Volunteer Job Description - LCFS
- Refugee Cultural Orientation Teacher - LCFS