I’ve been thinking about the future of volunteer recruitment recently and as a result, I have been struck by a simple fact.
According to Helping Out – A Survey of Volunteering and Charitable Giving (2007 – by IVR for the Office of the Third Sector) 68% of volunteers were recruited via word of mouth. All other recruitment methods are, statistically, almost irrelevant and yet, with apologies to volunteer managers everywhere, we seem to concentrate our efforts in other areas.
We think about the future as being about technology and worry about whether we need to Tweet our volunteering opportunities, set up a blog or find new ways to advertise via SMS/text. If the feedback from volunteers is to be believed, we need to ask more people to get involved, to take on a role or to help out at an event.
This is the scary part of looking at the information available. My reaction tends to be: “It may work for a community group, or other very small charities, but how do we do this on a larger scale?”
Volunteer managers, and those whose responsibilities include the leadership of volunteering programs, know that their workload will not allow them to spend time asking people, one to one, if they would be willing to volunteer and so we turn to ways of getting our message out to large numbers of people via the media, campaigns, the internet, etc. This is a logical and time efficient way of achieving our recruitment targets and of filling those all important volunteer vacancies, but are we missing the point, failing to see the wood for the trees?
I believe that, as volunteer managers, we have a unique skill set and a range, breadth of abilities that is rare even in the overstretched world of the Third Sector, so the obvious next step, of recruiting a volunteer to concentrate on attracting more people through direct, word of mouth communication, has a drawback.
How are we to spend sufficient time training our new Recruitment Volunteer with all the skills needed to do a significant chunk of the work of a volunteer manager? Can we achieve “full cost recovery” and more than that, can we see a worthwhile return on our investment of time? Well selected and carefully managed volunteers become ambassadors for their charities and causes.
That is something that has to be nurtured and encouraged. Giving people the facts, and the rationale behind them, allows them to promote the organisations they support and take an active part in achieving aims around awareness and developing public support.
The charity I work for recruits volunteers, who we call Ambassadors, specifically to support our aims at a local level, around the UK, but I wonder whether you have already taken the next step beyond “bring a friend” recruitment and equipped specific volunteers to take your needs out into their local communities with a view to attracting new people, with the skills and abilities you need in your volunteering programs.
What do you think is the future of volunteer recruitment? Are we right to pursue technical solutions or is the way forward to be found in identifying ways to approach volunteers in the way that they have been shown to prefer, face to face with a real person?