The process of targeted volunteer recruitment

Tips to find and recruit the right volunteers.

Volunteer coordinators are often told to develop an elevator speech to use in their efforts to recruit volunteers. An elevator speech is a brief description of the program you can share in the time it takes you to go up a few floors on as elevator. While these speeches have their place, they are rarely useful in recruiting a new volunteer. Why not? Every person has different interests and motivations, and when we use the same approach with every person, we are not likely to share the right information to recruit the potential volunteer.

Targeted volunteer recruitment is a process of:

  1. Selecting an audience who is likely to succeed in the volunteer role.
  2. Tailoring a message to this audience.
  3. Asking them to volunteer.

The first step involves making a list of your ideal volunteer qualities, skills and characteristics. Who do you need to do this job? Perhaps you are looking for someone with good communication skills, reliability and the ability to volunteer during the traditional workday.

The next step is to think of places where people who meet this description may congregate. Retirees, college students with a major related to your organization, and stay-at-home parents of school-aged children are a few groups that might work in this example. At this point, a volunteer coordinator would contact retiree groups, college professors or advisors and parent networks to inquire about opportunities to speak to the target audience.

Once a presentation is scheduled, it is important to learn about the group you will visit. Look at web pages and social media to learn who they are and what they care about. Ask your contact to tell you about the group and their interests. When all this information has been gathered, it is time to design your presentation. Your presentation should consider the unique audience.

Michigan State University Extension suggests using these questions as a guide in planning:

  • Why this audience? What makes them uniquely qualified for the volunteer position?
  • What are the benefits this audience will likely care about?
  • Why is this volunteer work important and worth their time?

Your job is to provide enough information to pique the interest of the potential volunteers. The presentation does not need to describe the application process in detail—the focus should be on connecting the perspective volunteer’s skills and interests to your program.

End the presentation with an ask. Too frequently, we discuss a program without asking. Here are some examples. “I am hoping that at least two of you will meet me for coffee in the next few weeks to learn more. Is anyone interested?” or “As retired teachers, you are exactly who we need to teach young people life skills. Please consider joining us as a volunteer.”

When it comes to recruiting volunteers, remember it’s a process. The process may vary depending on the target audience you have in mind or the target audience you’re recruiting. Create opportunities to recruit volunteers and be patient with the process.

See MSU Extension’s tip sheet for additional targeted volunteer recruitment ideas, “Targeted Volunteer Recruitment: Planning Your Presentation.”

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