Welcome to this module Volunteer recruitment for NGOs. Let’s start at the beginning: The Essentials. Volunteerism drives community development around the world, but organisations struggle with recruitment and retention. In this “essentials” module we will examine some of the foundations of recruiting volunteers for organisations and campaigns. When we talk about campaigns in terms of Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs), these are advocacy or issues campaigns, not necessarily political. However, political parties will use many of the same approaches as NGOs in recruiting volunteers. It is important to plan for volunteer recruitment, especially if volunteerism is not part of the established culture. To put together a good recruitment programme, it helps to first understand why people would want to volunteer, so we can appeal to their interests.
So let’s think from the perspective of a potential volunteer. People give their support and their time to campaigns for lots of different reasons: Social reasons — people find satisfaction being around other people. In places where there is little to do in the community, offering volunteerism a social opportunity will attract people. There are Personal reasons people volunteer Our friends and family will often help out just to be with us and supportive of what we do. Friends and family members are important sources of volunteer help. Some volunteer for professional reasons Volunteer experience can add to a person’s professional resume, or CV.
Young people will often see the value in being able to get work experience in the voluntary sector to build their professional credentials. In areas where there is high unemployment, this can also be an incentive to job seekers, making them more attractive to potential employers. Values—some people support organisations, causes and campaigns because they align with their moral or religious values. Change Makers some people are looking to make a difference and believe in the cause or objectives of the organisation Some people are Community Minded they get satisfaction from being connected to, and contributing to the development of their community.
Status being part of an organisation, movement, or community project gives some social status. Some volunteer for causes and organisations that have helped them, their family, or their community. The have been beneficiaries of the organisation’s work. There are a lot of reasons why someone would choose to, and benefit from, volunteering. Can you see any trends in this list? Many volunteers are either PERSONALLY connected to the organisation or cause, even another volunteer. Others are IDEOLOGICALLY aligned with the work through religious or social values. Finally, some want STATUS or PERSONAL ADVANCEMENT. What all of these different reasons have in common is SELF INTEREST. People volunteer because it’s in their interest to do so, and they get something out of it.
So it’s our job, as organisers, to understand WHY they might volunteer, and to make sure that we are meeting their needs. Where will you find potential volunteers? Remember, many of them are people that already have some connection to the organisation, or the cause. Start by using networks your organisation already has. You have access to unlimited number of potential volunteers but need to start with what you already have and work your way through those networks. First, ask family and friends, then colleagues and acquaintances. Then, think about any organisations—social, religious, or professional— that have a connection to the work you do. For example, there may be an environmental studies programme at a local university. You can approach the faculty or student association and ask for support for your environmental actions. Finally, use social media networks to let people know about your activities and describe the volunteer opportunities.
As with any organisational effort, recruiting volunteers needs to be planned. While you might succeed in recruiting some volunteers without a plan, you stand a better change of recruiting what you need, and retaining people for a longer term. Put these tools in place to organise your efforts. It is important to have a focus point as the volunteer recruiter. This can be a single person or a small committee. It’s important that the whole organisation know who, or what group is responsible for recruitment, because you might have people approach the organisation on their own initiative. If they do they should be directed to the appropriate body to find out more about the opportunities available to them. The focal point should develop a recruitment plan that identifies who would volunteer for which campaigns, programmes, or events. And they should plan how those potential volunteers will be contacted. For example, does there need to be a person-to-person contact, on-line announcements, a phone call, or all of these? As a general rule of thumb; if someone volunteers once for an event, campaign, or programme, they are likely to do it again – if they got something out of the first time.
Also, they may only be interested in a narrow set of issues your organisation is focused on, and may not volunteer to help on something else. So it’s important that your organisation have a system to capture volunteer contact information, including what motivates them to volunteer. Lastly you need to develop volunteer recruitment materials, and pitches. These are materials and talking points that allow the recruiting team to engage directly with potential volunteers; speaking to the incentives the might most appeal to them.
Make sure your team has time to practice their pitches and make adjustments to talking points where necessary. Here are the elements of a strong pitch. A good pitch is short —not more than 4-5 sentences—and uses simple language. It lays out the difference you are trying to make (your goal), and how your work will have an impact. In other words, a recruitment pitch is a lot like a campaign’s pitch to community members and target audiences – it just ends in a different call to action. What is your recruitment call to action? What specifically is it that you want the potential volunteer to do? Make it as specific as possible! OK, now you’ve got someone assigned to manage the volunteers. You’ve identified who to ask to volunteer. You have your database set up, and you’ve got your recruitment pitch ready.
NOW – You’re ready to go! The key to growing a strong volunteer base is in making volunteer recruitment something the organisation does every single day. If someone expresses interest in your work, ask them to volunteer. If people like Facebook postings, ask them to volunteer. If the organisation doesn’t have immediate need for volunteers, keep your team engaged by offering internal trainings, or social events, or host a discussion. Ask current volunteers to return and invite their friends and family to come, too. Recruiting volunteers is the first step— keeping your volunteers happy and productive comes next! First, always make volunteers feel welcome in your organisation or at events. Introduce them around and make sure they are comfortable and feel part of the team. Make sure to give volunteers a specific task and show them how to do it.
Check back to make sure it’s going ok for them. Make a point of talking with them regularly while they are working with you, show that you care about what they are doing and that it’s important to the larger effort. Everybody wants to feel appreciated for their work! Make sure to thank volunteers and to recognise their efforts publicly. Always ask volunteers to come back for the next activity. Over time, give great volunteers more responsibility. These are the people who will really help grow your organisation! Make sure they are getting out of the experience what it is they wanted. Remember, some people volunteer for the opportunity to socialise, make sure that they do, while still getting their work done. Volunteers contribute to community developments around the world. Because of volunteerism charitable and community based organisations are able to address important issues affecting millions of lives. Sometimes organisations struggle with recruiting and maintaining volunteer teams because the lose sight of why people volunteer, and how to ensure the experience is rewarding. And let’s be clear, volunteer work is rewarding.
Production team: Preparing material: Francesca Binda, Carlo Binda, Mohammad Khasawneh Translation: Farah Ismail Editing: Halla Hadidi Design and montage: Amjad Hassouneh, Mohammad Khasawneh Arabic voiceover: Afnan Jafari, Sarah Ismail This training material prepared by Binda for International Consulting (BCI) for Institute of War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) within Ante Raeda Project Funded by the British Government .
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