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ASK CONNIE

VT readers ask questions about volunteer management and administration. Ask Connie, an experienced volunteer manager, consultant and trainer, provides the answers for all to see.
Send questions to AskConnieP@cs.com

~2012 ~

Dear Readers:

Messaging – there are instant messages, text messages, voice messages, email messages, etc., etc.  But none of those are on my mind today.  I’m thinking about the messages – both deliberate and subliminal – that you send to the public about your organization and your volunteer opportunities. 

As some of you know, several months ago I relocated to the middle of the country to take care of my mother.  Since I’m new in town, I’ve been learning all I can about the nonprofit sector here and various volunteer opportunities.  I’m pleased to report that nonprofit organizations here are highly visible and valued by the community, as evidenced by turn out at events, donations of all types, and coverage in the local newspaper.  To my surprise, volunteer program managers are still having difficulty recruiting volunteers.

One thing I notice consistently is that the terminology many use is limiting.  For example, one group talks about activities each “semester,” which says to me they want to recruit only students.  Another group publishes photos of only university student volunteers, which tells me that’s the age range they’re seeking.  Yet another group talks only about how volunteers “help” the population they serve and not about the specific activities volunteers perform.  Very few groups talk about how often you are required/requested to volunteer, let alone if volunteers need to be trained.

pinned up messageSo, my advice today is to check your language and photos.  Are you inclusive or exclusive in how you describe volunteers?  Are you publishing photos of a variety of volunteers – age, gender, culture, etc.?  Are you using language that would limit your access to prospective volunteers if you were really looking for all types of volunteers?  Are you telling prospective volunteers when they can volunteer and whether or not training is required/provided?

Here are a few tips on recruiting using a market-based approach:

starConduct market research to examine existing volunteer resources, to determine if adequate staff support is available to support new activities, to determine what new volunteer resources are needed, to identify attitudes and behavior of potential volunteers, and to develop tools to reach the “target market” of your recruiting effort.

  • Determine the attitudes and behavior of your target market by answering the following questions:
    • How will they feel about the new activities/programs?
    • What attitudes would lead them to volunteer for the new activities/programs?
    • What behavior do they exhibit that would be helpful to know in order to recruit them?
    • What is the most effective way to reach these potential volunteers?

starCreate volunteer position descriptions to use as recruiting tools.  Volunteers today are short on time and long on demands for information.  Research studies tell us that volunteers want to know exactly what is expected of them, how long it will take, how they will be trained, and what qualifications they need to do the job successfully.  If the job is worth recruiting volunteers for, it deserves a position description.

starSelect a volunteer recruiting team to use the marketing plan and lay out a campaign for recruitment.  When seeking recruiters, look for people not in your volunteer program who believe in and support your mission, current volunteers who would like to learn a new skill, and parents or relatives of current volunteers.  Recruiters are selected by the same process as other volunteers – through a position description.


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Do you have a question? Now you too can ask an expert!

Connie Pirtle, of Strategic NonProfit-Resources, has 15 years' experience in working with volunteers. She has consulted and/or trained for such organizations as the Washington National Cathedral, Anchorage Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Music America, and the Association for Volunteer Administration.

Send your questions to Connie at AskConnieP@cs.com.
Connie Pirtle
Strategic Nonprofit Resources
314 E. Marie Dr. * Stillwater, OK 74075 * VOICE: 405.372.8142 or 202-306-1492


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