4 Questions to Ask Before Recruiting Volunteers

You have a new program set up, and you’re ready to start recruiting and scheduling volunteers to help run it. It’s an exciting time, and likely you’re ready to jump in with both feet. However, before reaching out to people to request their time and energy, consider the following four questions to help define your needs and focus your efforts.

1. What training will volunteers need?

If you’re bringing volunteers into a new service or program, determine what formal and informal training will be required. Always err on the side of overestimating the time and costs involved in training activities.

First, learn if there are legal requirements or best practices for training. For example, will volunteers need to be CPR or First Aid certified? If so, connect with a local organization providing the required training to get information regarding dates, cost, and process so you can pass that information along to volunteers. One good resource for common certification might be your local fire department or community center.

Additionally, if in-house training will require a significant amount of staff time, consider training volunteers in cohorts. Ensure training dates are determined and communicated well enough in advance for volunteers and staff to plan accordingly.

If training materials need to be purchased, be sure to coordinate with your finance team. Estimate training material costs in advance so that training expenses can be included in the budget.

2. Will volunteers need to have a special skill or ability?

Think through all aspects of the volunteer role. Consider everything from lifting boxes to language fluency. Identify which skills are must-haves and which are nice-to-haves and use these to help you determine who to recruit and where to look for volunteers.

Make sure you consider if the skills needed are something your organization could teach volunteers. For example, if volunteers performing data entry will need to be familiar with the basics of a spreadsheet, consider offering Google Sheets or Excel training to volunteers, or connect with a local public library to see if they offer free classes for volunteers.

If the work is specialized, connect with professional associations to learn if their members might be willing to offer free assistance. For example, many lawyers donate their services on a pro bono basis. If a required skill set is in great demand, such as software development, it may be challenging to find someone to volunteer their time. However, local universities or online schools may have programs to connect students seeking experience with local organizations looking for help.

3. What time commitment is needed?

Identify dates, deadlines, and lengths of service needed before beginning your recruitment efforts. This includes the total number of project hours and/or the ongoing weekly and monthly commitment you’re seeking.

Once you determine the length of commitment needed, you can more easily identify which demographic to recruit from. For example, if you have a four-week project starting in mid-May, recruiting college students may be a great option. If you need ongoing support during regular business hours, connecting with retirees could be a great place to start. If you need a group for a few hours one day, research if a local company would give their employees a service day or if a local church would be willing to recruit volunteers to help.

Specify the dates, hour commitment, and length of time needed from volunteers when recruiting so that individuals can honestly assess if the role will fit into their schedules.

4. What information will need to be accessible?

Before asking volunteers to contribute to your organization, think through the workflow to determine if they will need to access sensitive information. This will help you filter which tasks would be best done by an employee or a volunteer.

For example, you may need a volunteer to help you run your social media. With such a front-facing role, you may want to do a reference check to be sure the individual is reliable.

Additionally, if a volunteer needs access to team communication tools, consider if there’s any sensitive information that might be shared and if there are workarounds to allow access to some but not all communication.

By considering all touchpoints of the role, you can determine what type of volunteer you need, what the onboarding process will look like, and if certain aspects of the job would be best done or overseen by a paid employee.

Once you’ve thought through all the ins and outs of the roles, you’ll need a way to communicate and schedule volunteers. If you’re looking for a tool, try Volunteer Scheduler Pro free for 15 days and see how it can help you schedule, manage and engage volunteers.

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