Between working out all the logistics, sending invitations, and actually hosting your event, there’s a lot that goes into a successful nonprofit event. Recruiting and screening volunteers might seem like just another time-consuming task to add to your already massive to-do list, but our guest blogger Addison Waters of Galaxy Digital outlines four key pointers that will help you find people who are motivated to put in the effort that will ease your overall workload. Through the Galaxy Digital team's work with thousands of organizations across the U.S. and Canada to improve their volunteer programs, Addison shares the best practices from the team's experience.
Four Tips To Recruiting the Right Volunteers For Your Next Major Event
by Addison Waters
Whether you’re hosting your annual 5K, a massive music festival, or a big conference with dozens of vendors, finding plenty of quality volunteers is a vital part of the event planning process.
Think about it: volunteers are the face of your event. They’re your guests’ go-to resource and who they interact with the most from check-in to check-out. Even in the virtual space, your volunteers are running point on various activities, like event promotion or setup. The final product is the direct result of your event planning team and volunteers’ hard work behind the scenes. Recruiting the right people for the job can mean the difference between reaching your fundraising goals and falling short.
If you’re doing everything you can think of but still struggling to staff your events, it’s time to revamp your approach to volunteer management and recruitment. With the right tactics in your back pocket, you can connect with volunteers, show them the value of lending a hand, and create an incredibly memorable experience for attendees. Here are four easy tips your team can implement that will multiply the effectiveness of your recruitment:
- Write a clear job description.
- Share your volunteer opportunities far and wide.
- Reach out to local businesses.
- Provide training resources.
As a volunteer leader, you know what a major undertaking it is to invest in volunteer recruitment. However, as you invest more time into developing your program, you’ll start to see your pool of on-hand volunteers grow as people stay engaged with your vision. Not to mention, your volunteer system will simplify how you stay connected with these individuals between events. Let’s kick things off with our first tip.
1. Write a clear job description.
Creating an effective role description is your first stop on the volunteer recruitment journey. While you might be able to get away with not writing one for simple one-off tasks, multifaceted positions for big events can’t afford to skip this step.
After all, how will people know whether they’re a strong fit for the role if they don’t know what all is expected of them?
Put yourself in your volunteers’ shoes and ask what they’d want to know. A few key elements that you’ll want to include in the description itself are:
- Time and location. Say exactly when and where your event will take place. This gives prospective volunteers an idea of how far they’ll need to travel and whether they’ll be able to attend.
- Tasks. Explain exactly what you need the volunteer to do. Take a 5K for example. Tasks might include checking people in, handing out race numbers, distributing swag bags to participants, or setting up directions along the course.
- Skills. Include both hard skills, like marketing and tech-proficiency, and soft skills, like effective communication and teamwork.
- Qualifications. What experience do they need to successfully carry out their duties? Perhaps they need to be CPR certified or able to lift a certain weight (such as a 30-pound box of t-shirts). Age requirements can also factor into this category.
- Time commitment. Let them know how much time they should plan to spend volunteering. Do you only need them for an hour, or should they expect to be there for a full afternoon? Are there shift time slots they can specifically request?
A few other elements that aren’t quite as necessary that you may want to infuse could be your nonprofit’s mission and the training you’ll provide. This will help you connect with the best candidates for the job. Plus, well-written job descriptions communicate that your event, and therefore your nonprofit, are organized and willing to put in the effort to create a positive experience.
When finalized, feature your job descriptions on your application, and make sure your form inquires about each of the factors you included in the role outline. As applications start to roll in, your team can screen everyone to ensure they’re fully qualified. Then, match them to the best-fitting roles based on skills and availability.
Better yet, your volunteer management software (VMS) may automate the screening, role matching, and scheduling for you. That way, you can focus on sharing the role description and volunteer opportunity, which we’ll explore in the next section.
2. Share your volunteer opportunities far and wide.
After you’ve built effective job descriptions and added them to your application, it’s time to spread the word about the opportunity. The digital world vastly expands your potential volunteer pool, so you’ll want to place a heavy focus on digital marketing in your outreach efforts.
Start by infusing your call to action (CTA) into any event announcements you share, linking directly to your application where prospects can learn more. Push the opportunity across several platforms, including your website and social media.
Morweb’s guide to the best nonprofit websites explains that your site is a supporter’s go-to resource to learn more about your organization and involvement opportunities. It explains that your website is “the hub of all information…where prospects learn about your mission, volunteers sign up for shifts, and donors contribute to your work.”
This makes it the perfect opportunity to promote ongoing volunteer opportunities. You can:
- Create a volunteer page on your website. Be sure to feature it in the navigation menu. Your dedicated page should include information regarding your program, details on how to get involved, and a CTA that links to your VMS with a clear label (like ‘Click here to volunteer for our upcoming silent auction’).
- Feature your event and CTAs to volunteer on your homepage. Your homepage will naturally be the most visited page on your site. Instead of just asking people to register to attend, use this as an opportunity to ask them to volunteer.
- Include a regularly updated calendar page. You can include all upcoming opportunities, whether that’s volunteer days, events, or fundraising campaigns.
However you promote your events and volunteer opportunities, the point is that your website can drastically improve their visibility. Think through where you want to promote these opportunities and infuse them across multiple pages on your site, not just one.
When building out your promotion strategy, don’t neglect social media. Social media’s shareability makes it the ideal place to spread the word about volunteer opportunities. Between Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, you probably have quite a few followers who are willing to help make your next major event possible.
As we mentioned, start posting your volunteer CTAs within your event announcements and provide a link to your volunteer registration page on social media. You’ll likely want to post separately about the opportunity too to ensure it doesn’t get overlooked by people absent-mindedly scrolling through their newsfeeds. Beyond this, you can:
- Ask supporters to join in on the promotion. Whether they simply press share or go out of their way to draft their own posts, your supporters will likely testify on your behalf, multiplying your potential pool of candidates.
- Answer questions in your posts’ comments. The great thing about social media is that it enables two-way communication. Encourage people to leave questions about volunteering for your event in the comments. Then, make sure to follow up with an answer quickly.
By regularly updating your social media and getting followers in on the action, you can get in front of audience members who might not otherwise encounter your cause. In no time, you’ll have a strong list of volunteers for your next event.
3. Reach out to local businesses.
Businesses are quickly becoming aware of the importance of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Proactively supporting charitable causes creates a positive reputation for companies and has proven to positively impact staff satisfaction since employees can make a notable difference in their communities. As part of these CSR initiatives, companies often implement volunteer programs, which represent the perfect recruitment opportunity for motivated volunteers.
There are several ways you can leverage local businesses in your volunteer recruitment efforts, beginning with simply starting the conversation. If you don’t already have existing partners or event sponsors, it’s never too late to start! Write a letter to a handful of local businesses, requesting help. Your letter should:
- Explain that your upcoming event needs volunteers
- Give details regarding how many volunteers you need, the types of skills required, and what the time commitment is
- Communicate the impact on both the event and their company
- Explain any perks they can expect in exchange (such as featuring their logo on marketing materials)
- Lay out necessary next steps to get everyone signed up
- Give your volunteer coordinator’s contact details to answer any questions
A general rule of thumb you’ll want to follow is to seek partnerships with companies that share similar values. This maximizes your chances of the company’s employees actually signing up to help out with your event since they’ll see the value in your cause. They’ll also be more likely to stick around if your cause resonates with their personal values. Who knows? You may even form a long-term partnership with the company as a result, making it much easier to recruit volunteers for future events.
4. Provide training resources.
Especially with COVID-19 still throwing event plans for a loop, it’s crucial that you train your volunteers to be well-versed in proper event management procedures. The last thing you want is for volunteers to show up on event day unprepared, or worse, they don’t show up at all.
Galaxy Digital’s volunteer training guide takes a deep dive into several areas that basic training generally covers, including:
- Background on the cause or community need
- How to effectively communicate the nonprofit’s mission
- Goals for the event and how to evaluate success
- How to perform various volunteer tasks
- Safety measures (including COVID-related measures like wearing gloves and social distancing)
- Rules and expectations for volunteering with your organization
- An overview of equipment and how to use it
- How to log volunteer time
Traditional, face-to-face volunteer training helps volunteers build a sense of community, perfect for event day when they have to communicate and work through any obstacles. However, we’re aware that in-person training sessions might not be feasible with social distancing and ongoing health concerns.
If you’re going virtual with your training, you can replicate this sense of engagement with the right tools in place.
For example, a tactic for in-person training is to teach volunteers how to complete certain tasks (let’s say checking guests into your annual gala). Then, you can test how well they paid attention by having them complete the task, whether they need to scan a QR code or check guests’ names off a list after verifying their identity. Transfer this training to the digital space by having volunteers take an online quiz. Alternatively, use methods like eLearning that feature interactive lessons and pre-recorded or live training videos.
Not only will a successful training experience influence your upcoming event, but it can kickstart the recruitment cycle for your future ones. Plus, they’ll likely share their experience with their friends, opening up the door to a wider pool of potential recruits next time around. Conversely, a poor experience can deter existing volunteers from returning or potential prospects from jumping on board when they hear about how your event was stressful for volunteers.
Volunteers make the vision for your nonprofit’s major events possible. Without them, you’d be severely understaffed and unable to provide guests with a good time. As a volunteer coordinator, it’s up to you to find the right volunteers, create a memorable experience, and communicate everything they need to know to be successful in their roles.
Recruitment is a crucial part of the volunteer management cycle. Investing time, thought, and energy into it will pay off both for your upcoming event and future volunteer opportunities. Good luck and happy recruiting!