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Volunteer Management: People Who Need People

Effective recruitment for volunteer programs

Sooner or later, every volunteer program manager finds herself asking how to find the people she needs to do all the work that needs to be done. And while it’s perfectly appropriate to develop a strategic recruitment plan for volunteers, recruiters need to ensure the program is already running smoothly before they arrive.

The fact is that a well-run program is the best volunteer recruitment tool. Volunteers who enjoy their experience within an organization are sure to speak of it among their acquaintances, helping spread the word throughout the community. A sensibly structured program, along with the opportunity to make a positive impact and to learn additional skills, attracts the types of people who make strong volunteer programs. Chaos, on the other hand, often attracts chaos. Clear expectations and organization attract effective volunteers who want to be strategic about where they can have the most impact.

Digging to find help, organizations often fall back on fool’s gold, simply bringing in more warm bodies. The real gold is harder to find, but worth the effort. By paying more attention to the structure of the existing program rather than simply piling on more people, organizations can avoid the “crisis/chaos spiral,” in which coordinators must continually replace volunteers who are leaving because their time and efforts were not well-spent or well-received. Recruitment of new volunteers should take place only after the foundation of the program is well-developed and can support the increase in numbers.

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