This may sound a little strange, but in my experience, finding and recruiting the ideal Volunteers for non-profit organisations is a lot like a marketing campaign. It takes a clear strategy, thorough planning and a deep understanding of the people you are trying to reach and recruit.

You may well already have your overall marketing strategy sorted and working well to position your organisation, promote the cause and attract funding.

This however, is about making sure we can attract the very best people to help us achieve our mission and purpose. Just finding people “with a pulse and time on their hands” I have found doesn’t always cut it when we are serious about staying on mission and achieving our purposes.

I believe there are six critically important elements that, done well, will practically guarantee that the Volunteers we choose to engage will be a great fit with our organisations and will work well alongside paid staff too.

1. Who, exactly, are you trying to recruit?
Any successful marketing effort is based on a clear and detailed understanding of the target audience or customer. So, it can really help to create a detailed, specific description of your ideal Volunteer – an avatar. You may genuinely have more than one ideal person in mind but focus is important so keep it to no more than three.

Here are some specifics to include in your avatar:
Give them a name, gender, age, educational background, profession, financial status and location. Think through what skills, hobbies and interests they have that could be of value to your organisation. Those may be different from their work or professional skills.

For example, if your cause is based on planting native trees someone who likes physical outdoor activities could be a good fit even if you need to recruit them in a Volunteer capacity as an accountant or software developer – which they do in their ‘day’ job.

2. Why would they want to Volunteer at all?
There are different drivers that motivate people to Volunteer. Think about what drivers would be relevant in securing commitment from the Volunteers you’re looking for. What makes them feel good about being part of your cause? Please note – no judgement here – just exploring possibilities. Is it guilt that they should be contributing more? Do they feel called to help ‘save the world’? Do they have a personal connection to your cause through their own lived experience? Do they just want to feel important and able to tell their friends? Are they inspired by others who already Volunteer? When you figure this out, you’ll have clues to creating powerful messaging that will attract them.

3. Why would they want to Volunteer with your organisation?
Get clear about what your organisation or program offers that they can’t get from any other organisation that supports the same or a very similar cause. That’s called differentiation. Given your understanding of what may be their main motivational drivers, how does your Volunteering opportunity feed into those motivators and give them the outcome they are looking for? In a nutshell, what’s in it for them?

4. How do they know your program works?
It won’t be enough just to tell them how important the work is or describe how this will satisfy their reasons for wanting to Volunteer. You’re going to have to offer some tangible evidence that what you say is true. Case studies, or testimonials from other Volunteers can make powerful and compelling stories that your prospective recruits can connect with personally and gain confidence that they’re in the right place.

5. Has your messaging leveraged their deeper neurological responses?
When people are contemplating something new, the limbic brain goes into overdrive to protect them from potential harm. Your messaging must recognise and gently put those fears to rest. They need to see how this step will benefit, not harm them or make them feel uncomfortable. Keep things simple. When you make it too complicated people are inclined to back away out of nervousness or suspicion. And over time you need to appeal to all their preferred ways of processing information. Mix it up. Text, images, video and audio

6. How do you know for sure your messaging is effective?
I think this is much too important to leave to chance. You don’t want to launch a recruitment drive, flying blind and hoping you find a few gems. Maybe it’s worth a test run on a small cohort of people who are as close as possible to your avatar. Listen to their feedback and adjust before going live with the full campaign. Do the research to figure out where and how your target audience like to consume information and focus your messaging on
those channels. And finally, set up some metrics and a review process so you can be sure you know what worked best, where the weak points are and give yourself a basis for improving your process before the next campaign.

Here at Volbop we help organisations with every aspect of finding Volunteers who will commit and fit. If you’d like to know more, drop me a note on email, give me a call or reach out to me on LinkedIn to set up an informal chat.