Secrets of successful volunteer recruitment

In February at SLA’s Leadership Summit I presented a session on getting people to volunteer for roles in the association. I initially focused on the results of a survey  SLA carried out last year which asked seven questions about what motivates people to volunteer; how often they did and didn’t volunteer with SLA; what were the benefits of volunteering and what more SLA could learn. The results make interesting reading and should prove useful for leaders trying to fill roles with volunteers. Key take-aways are:

  • make it easy to volunteer and use the personal touch of individual invitation to have most impact;
  • volunteers want a clear goal, clear directions, clear feedback and support to accomplish what they are working on;
  • break down roles to create opportunities that require short time commitment, you’re more likely to get people to agree to these and to return in the future to help;
  • recognise and thank all of those who have contributed in as many ways as possible.

For the second part of the session  I asked delegates to spend some time discussing how to encourage people to become volunteers and tactics to get people to say ‘yes’ to volunteering opportunities. I’ve summarised the tips and hints, many thanks to those who shared them, as I think they’ll be useful to a wider audience.

624339_hands in supportEncouraging people to volunteer

Communicate options often: set up a volunteer committee; include ‘can we contact you about                 volunteering’ box on all your forms, invites, surveys; advertise vacancies on your website (have a ‘Get Involved’ section), social media and at events (dine-arounds etc); try an annual open invite to members to learn more about opportunities to volunteer; divide up roles into small tasks.

Get to know your members: reach out to all members at events, online and by phone; get to know people so you can personally invite them to contribute; keep a ‘job jar’ in your head and give a job to people who show interest; focus on planting seeds rather than the immediate ROI.

Highlight mentoring benefits: mentor new volunteers into a role; help people train their successors for specific role in the unit; mix ‘old timers’ with new people.

Cultivate students and new professionals: encourage involvement with local schools and student groups bring them into meetings offering mentoring and job hunting courses; offer opportunity to run registration table at events as this is a great way to informally meet lots of people.

Emphasise importance of getting involved in your professional association: as members you can influence the association’s direction, but you need to get involved in it; SLA is a safe place to learn and try things.

Show appreciation, recognition and thanks for service/participation: hand written thank you notes; recognition at volunteer receptions; put up pictures of events on social media to generate interest and recognise members for their contribution.

Tactics and tips

Asking members to volunteer: sell the benefits of involvement as additions to their CVs/resumes; word the request for participation as an engaging question; if you make a phone request follow it up with an email if they need to think it over; adopt a salesman approach ask them what would it take to say ‘yes’; notice things about people and look for promise indicate this in your request: ‘I think you’d be good at this because you’re good at …’.

Admin and planning: keep a record of attendees at events and target regulars to see if they want to be more involved; make sure you respond to those who express an interest; appreciate and keep track of those who say ‘no’ to a request, keep the door open for next time.

If all else fails bribe them with food and drink. It worked for me and it’s amazing what a room full of people will discuss if placated by Cadbury’s chocolate!

Remember it’s part of all leaders jobs to find and nurture the new leaders which allows me to plug the webinar I’m leading on succession planning on 11 July at 2-3pm (EDT).