Most small charities couldn’t operate without their loyal volunteers—kind souls who give up their time and who share their expertise for the benefit of the good cause.
Whilst it’s lovely to imagine a team of volunteers that is a vibrant mix of ages, genders, experience, skills and knowledge, in real life, this may not be the case. From a practical point of view, those with spare time to donate don’t tend to be working full-time; this section of society doesn’t get that much spare time as it is, and they will most likely be raising a family, entertaining a hobby or building a career in their downtime.
Of course, I’m generalising here; in your charity, you may indeed have plenty of people under the age of 50, all ready and willing to donate their time to the charity. In my experience, though, most volunteers are retirees or stay-at-home parents keen to give something back with any time they have on their hands. And there’s nothing wrong with this…the more life experience a charity can capitalise on, use and apply, the better, for its short-term goals and long-term gains.
Research has shown that it’s much harder to attract volunteers today than it was a decade ago. The study also shows that many volunteering opportunities are out of reach of the poorest sections of society.
Despite even more methods to reach potential volunteers than in the past, perhaps this is the issue…there are probably too many avenues in which to reach people and it’s hard to determine which ones are more appropriate than others. With that in mind, here are my thoughts on how to attract volunteers to your charity in 2022…
Not everyone is online
It may seem crazy to you, this statement, but I know lots of people for whom a mobile phone is exactly that…a mobile phone. These people (and it does tend to be older individuals) rarely use the internet and they certainly wouldn’t use it to search for volunteering opportunities or for local events.
Traditional methods will still reach them, e.g. a card on the church noticeboard/in the local newsagent’s window; word of mouth; via other local groups that may attract retirees (over 50s lunch club, knitting groups, senior choirs, etc.); leafleting, and so on.
Think of the skills you need
If you’re looking for the help of someone with specific skills (e.g. a treasurer, first-aider, driver, etc.), think about where they could be found. Ask your accountant to recommend someone in their network who may be willing to give some of their time; make it clear via the method you choose to recruit your volunteer that you’d like them to have first-aid skills (or visit a first aid class and ask for help); actively advertise for a volunteer driver to help out at events…and so on.
You may think it’s being a little rude to be so clear on what your volunteers must be able to offer/do when they’re thin on the ground to start with, but there’s no point wasting everyone’s time if the skills your charity is lacking is holding the organisation back. The saying ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’ is very true.
Think about virtual volunteering opportunities
You may think this is not viable for your cause, but there could be many ways volunteers can help you in a virtual or digital sense. Not only would this be good for younger people looking for volunteering experience to enrich their CVs, it would also build the skills of people whose mobility is limited, e.g. disabled volunteers, and also people on low incomes, who may not have the funds to travel to the charity’s base very often.
Volunteers could help promote your cause across social media, they could find more beneficiaries, form relationships with local stakeholders, deliver virtual presentations…the list goes on. Virtual volunteering is cost-effective, it’s easy to slot in your volunteers’ schedules, and it allows your supporters to gather skills that are sought after in this day and age.
Don’t ask them to give a kidney
Not literally, of course…what I mean by this is to understand that any support or help a volunteer can give you is of value. Even if they can only spare an hour a week, work with them to ensure this can have maximum impact whilst respecting they don’t have the scope to give more than this. We all lead such busy lives nowadays and it’s wonderful for anyone to want to donate their time; even if you need the equivalent of four full-timers.
If you have a strong volunteer proposition and you have ideas on how best to recruit them, you will get closer to your goal. If you make any volunteer feel like they’re not pulling their weight in comparison to others, don’t be surprised if they don’t come back.
People of all ages juggle a lot of different responsibilities and an hour here or there may be all they can offer. Micro-volunteering is the trendy term for this.
Volunteers will only continue to donate their time and efforts if it remains fun and rewarding for them to do so, if there are no barriers to getting involved, and if what’s expected of them is communicated.