Recruiting volunteers is no easy feat. There’s no shortage of interested individuals that care deeply about important causes (in fact, 25% of the American adult population already volunteer), but busy schedules and other obstacles make it difficult for people to say “yes” to a volunteer opportunity.
However, there are several tactics that organizers can leverage to prompt people to volunteer their time and take action. Follow these six tips on how to recruit volunteers successfully:
1. Use Friend-to-Friend Outreach (AKA Relational Organizing)
Wondering how to recruit volunteers in the most natural way possible? Try friend-to-friend outreach, or relational organizing, for successful volunteer recruitment.
Like word-of-mouth recommendations, friend-to-friend outreach is a comfortable way to spread the word about a cause or volunteer opportunity. Friends and family of an existing volunteer may already be familiar with the campaign’s cause, so they’re more likely to warm up to a volunteer activity.
The easiest way to start organizing relationally is to ask volunteers to reach out to three of their friends and family who may already be interested in the cause and encourage them to start volunteering. Then, those friends and family will become volunteers who also encourage other people they know to take action, creating a snowball effect that benefits your organization.
2. Reach Out With a Call and Phone Bank
Having a personal, live conversation with contacts is one of the best ways to recruit volunteers. There are several pros and cons to phone banking, but a huge benefit of phone calls is the ability to hear a human voice. This can help foster a more personal and honest conversation for both parties.
Plus, those that do pick up a phone call may be more likely to engage in the conversation, as they’ve already picked up. In these moments, organizers and existing volunteers should ask the contact to commit to a volunteer opportunity. Sign the individual up for an upcoming volunteer event, or ask for time frames when they’re free to volunteer. Make sure there’s a clear next step!
3. Make Specific Asks
Committing to a volunteer opportunity can be a big leap for a first-time volunteer. It’s best to offer as much communication as possible, especially regarding:
- The amount of time they need to contribute: Is this a daily, weekly, or monthly time commitment?
- What the opportunity calls for: How will the volunteer contribute their time? Will they participate in a text or phone bank, canvassing event, or another volunteer event?
- Why they’re needed to create an impact: Why is it important for volunteers to contribute to this cause? Where will their efforts go?
These details can prepare prospective volunteers as much as possible and allow them to carefully consider how they want to contribute; it’s important to maintain clear expectations from both parties.
4. Offer Reassurance for Reluctant Individuals
There will inevitably be prospective volunteers who are passionate about the cause but reluctant to volunteer. In these situations, those focused on how to recruit volunteers successfully should follow two key steps. First, gently encourage the person to communicate why they’re reluctant to volunteer. Then, isolate the issue and try to offer context, answers, or altered solutions based on the volunteers’ needs.
For example, an interested prospective volunteer may refuse to volunteer when asked to participate in a door-to-door canvassing event. After some conversation, an organizer may find out that the volunteer feels uncomfortable with door-knocking. At this point, the organizer may offer other solutions for volunteering, like joining a two-hour text bank instead.
5. Lower the Barrier to Entry
Some prospective volunteers will need a little more convincing. Organizers can also engage their community by inviting supporters to a social event instead. Events like potlucks and barbeques lessen the pressure for prospective volunteers to get involved.
Additionally, these possible volunteers will be able to get to know the organization better before they commit their time. They’ll also have a chance to talk to meet existing volunteers and ask questions about their own experiences.
Volunteers are one of the most important forces in any campaign or organization, and having a smooth prospect-to-volunteer pipeline will work for the benefit of the organizers and volunteers. Organizers who take the time to strategize how to recruit volunteers successfully will scale their volunteer program in no time.