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Visit this page for ideas, suggestions and hints to build volunteer recruitment capacity.

~ November 2005 ~ Topics

Cure Bad Speaking Habits

Three speaking habits can scuttle the best of intentions if you are trying to recruit volunteers. If you use them it as if you are telling the listener that what you have to say is not worth hearing and do not expect much.

  1. Never confess
    • Never say you are nervous-even if you are shaking
    • Avoid telling people it is your first time speaking to this large a crowd.
  2. Drop the excuses
    • Do not share that you only had ten minutes to prepare.
    • Never say, "I wish I had more time."
  3. Do not apologize
    • Do not say, "I am so sorry I didn't bring enough flyers."
    • Never say, "I would have had samples, but there was such short notice for this."

Public speaking requires preparation. Have an outline. Practice it several times. Use outline notes, never read a speech. Create a public speaking box and have it supplied with anything you might need when doing presentations. (A good job for a volunteer is to keep this box fully supplied. Make a checklist for them to use.) Use nervous energy to make you more animated during the speech. Remember people do not know you are nervous unless you tell them.

Interested in more information? Check out our online bookstore for: Volunteer Recruiting & Retention: A Marketing Approach, by Nancy Macduff and To Lead is to Serve, by Shar McBee.

Details for Volunteer Recruiting & Retention Book Details for To Lead Book

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Should We Involve Volunteers?

If you are reading this it is likely you are in an organization that involves volunteers in various aspects of tasks and services to achieve the mission of the organization. There is an assumption in such organizations that it is always appropriate to involve volunteers. This could be an incorrect assumption.

Effective volunteer programs begin with the question, "Do we want to involve volunteers in this aspect of our organization?" "And what are the benefits and potential problems if we involve them." These are, also, good questions if you are contemplating an extension of volunteer service in some area of the organization.

Start with the program design for new or renewed services. How will the service or program be delivered? Once you have an idea of what you will be doing the questions seem obvious.

  • Is it cost/time effective for paid staff to do this?
  • What would be the benefits of involving volunteers?
  • How will involving volunteers impact our clients, patrons, or members?
  • What will be the community’s perception if volunteers are involved?
  • Can we get enough volunteers to do this?
  • What time and resources are needed to recruit and manage these volunteers?
  • Are there enough qualified volunteers available?
  • Who will supervise the volunteers?
  • How does the staff feel about involving volunteers in this?

The effort to make a conscious decision to include volunteers, one made with involvement of paid staff, can lead to greater support for the work of the volunteers. Staff committed to volunteer involvement is more likely to take seriously their supervision role, too.

Never just assume that volunteers are a "must" in every aspect of the organization. Plan, ask questions, make a conscious decision that this is a good place for volunteers and the organization has the resources—financial and human—to manage their work.

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The Recruiting Appeal—Canada and the US

Recruitment activities include "appeals" to those things that motivate people to volunteer. Speeches, flyers, brochures, TV ads, radio Public Service Announcements, the jobs offered are designed to draw people in with an appeal to a motivator. So what is it that motivates Canadians and US citizens to volunteer? A recent study compared citizens from the two countries on the primary motivators to connect with a volunteer program or organization, using standardized altruism instruments. Here are the results.

American and Canadian Scores on the 14 Individual Reasons for Volunteering on the Altruism Scale

1. Compassion for the needy 1 1 1
2. To repay, give something back 2 2 2
3. Contribute to local community 3 4 3
4. Sense of duty, moral obligation 4 3 4
5. To give hope, dignity to disadvantaged 5 5 5
6. Identify with those who are suffering 6 7 6
7. Religious beliefs 7 6 10
8. Solidarity with the poor, disadvantaged 8 8 8
9. To gain skills, experience 9 11 7
10. Purely for personal satisfaction 10 10 9
11. To bring social, political change 11 9 11
12. Time on my hands 12 12 12
13. Social reasons, to meet people 13 13 13
14. Did not want to, couldn’t refuse 14 14 14

The results would seem to be quite similar between the two countries, except in the area of religious beliefs as a motivation to volunteer. A deeper analysis of the data brought this conclusion from the authors of the study, "...Americans place more emphasis than Canadians on six of nine altruistic motivations for volunteering, with higher average scores on compassion for the needy, giving back to others, a sense of moral obligation, a desire to help the disadvantaged, to bring social or political change, and especially religious beliefs." The differences are not large, say the authors, but are statistically significant. They also tested the results for such things as race, gender distribution, education and the like and discovered it had no impact on the final results. This suggests that nationality is the defining factor in these motivators.

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The Points of Light Foundation has forms available to nominate volunteers and volunteer organizations for the Daily Points of Light Award. It is designed recognize individuals and groups that demonstrate unique and innovative approaches to community volunteering and citizen action, with a strong emphasis on service focused on the goals for children and young people set by the Presidents Summit for American's Future. The award is given five days a week, excluding holidays. If you would like nomination forms, call 202-729-8000.


By calling 1-800-VOLUNTEER in the U.S., individuals can be connected to their local volunteer center. This is a national interactive call routing system designed to get volunteers connected to people who can help them volunteer.

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