Volunteer recruitment troubleshooter
If you’re not getting enough volunteers, here’s some possible causes and solutions
Your charity isn’t well known to the general public?
If you are a little known charity - say one focusing on a rare butterfly species and you want to recruit a Treasurer - you might be famous in the butterfly world but very few potential volunteers are going to think to Google you. Instead, use a service like Volunteering Gloucestershire who will put your role under Environment & Conservation and Accounting & Finance.
If your charity is well known (EG: RSPCA, Oxfam) you may get enough people looking for your charity to fill your volunteer roles. However, less obvious jobs may not fare so well, EG: We’ve helped Westonbirt Arboretum recruit volunteers to work with people - not trees
Your website isn’t doing well enough?
It’s unlikely you need help from “Search Engine Optimization” services who promise to get you #1 position on Google. If your professional web designer has done a reasonable job and you gave them lots of good information to put on the site, you’ve probably got plenty of visitors - ask to see the statistics.
Check that visitors to your site can easily find information about volunteering. A link on the homepage “Volunteer” is good or maybe “Get involved” leading to “Volunteer” should work. Also make sure you are advertising your roles. A Job Description full of responsibilities and policies is not an advert. At Volunteering Gloucestershire we make fun, heartwarming, exciting adverts.
You are not using Social Media effectively?
This could be true. If you don’t have many Twitter “followers” and few people “like” your Facebook page then you won’t get great results. However, you should be wary of offers to “buy” followers - can a third party with little knowledge of your world get you relevant attention?
Volunteering Gloucestershire puts all new roles on Twitter so they are potentially seen by our nearly 2500 followers with some interest in volunteering. Because we track things, we know that it’s helped place about 12 volunteers a year which is useful rather than fantastic.
On the other hand, if the Social Media presence of your charity is already really good, promoting volunteering through it may be very effective.
You have an innovative, unusual or “unexpected” role?
Lots or charities are introducing new services but until your innovation is well known, very few people are going to approach you directly looking to volunteer.
EG: Guide Dogs for the Blind don’t advertise dog-related roles through us but their new “My Guide” service (Guide people for the Blind) worked really well when we put alongside our other “disability” roles.
So, even if you are a well-known brand, roles that people wouldn’t expect you to offer may be appropriate for Volunteering Gloucestershire to promote.
You are not describing volunteer roles precisely enough?
At Volunteering Gloucestershire, we pay close attention to what’s working and what doesn’t. We’ve noticed that roles that don’t really say what volunteers will be doing don’t “sell” well. Instead of talking about “helping out” or “supporting”, talk about “playing with children”, “mowing lawns”, “mending computers”, “advising on energy saving” or whatever you need people to do.
We admire recruiters who are really flexible about volunteer roles - treat every volunteer as an individual - and who tailor roles to their talents, desires and goals, but it rarely works well in an advert. Save the flexibility for later.
You get volunteers but they don’t stay?
This could be “natural” if, for example, a lot of your recruits are “mobile” such as students, unemployed getting into jobs, etc. However, you should consider if the “volunteer experience” is all it could be. Quite a common problem is that charities don’t keep volunteers adequately busy. This is a huge subject that Volunteering Gloucestershire can help with
You are in a rural area?
Obviously, the population available to you will be lower but this may not be the reason you are struggling. The rate of volunteering in the countryside is quite high and you have less "competition". Do consider the other sections in this guide - the answer may be there.
Your volunteer role isn't very attractive?
Some "classic" volunteer roles are actually not that popular. Retail roles and fundraising don't attract many people - nor do cleaning and driving. Many "people-facing" roles are popular.
If you have a mixture of paid and volunteer staff, it could be worth a strategic review of how you get things done. You might decide to pay for a cleaner while giving a volunteer your receptionist role.
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