Category: Good ideas

The answer to your question lies in the roles

The answer to your question lies in the roles you want your volunteers to be doing.

Often, when faced with plans or demands for more volunteers, organisation jump straight to the question of recruitment – how can we attract people to come volunteer with us so we can increase the number of volunteers we have. Sometimes this focus is on the message and other times it is on the medium, as you seem to be doing.

This jump straight to recruitment is, in my experience, tempting but flawed. It can lead to recruitment messages that don’t relate to what people will actually do (leading to dissatisfaction and turnover) and embracing new media without a clear idea of why or what result is to be achieved.

Much better is to do some focused work identifying the roles you want volunteers to perform within the organisation and considering who the ideal people would be for those roles. This then helps you to target your recruitment messages much more effectively, often resulting in diversity because of the specific requests made to people to give their time. It also enables you to select the most effective mechanisms for reaching people, be that online, face-to-face, posters etc..

I always remember Fraser Dyer talking about organisations’ who recruit in doctors surgeries and libraries because they are good placed to get volunteers. He wrote that without a clear idea of whether the people you need volunteering with you are likely to be found in such places they are in effect like the hands of a broken clock – they tell the right time twice a day but aren’t the best way to tell the time. In other words they may get you some volunteers but aren’t the most effective approach you could take.

I hope that’s of some help.

Sure you’ll get lots of good ideas from others

but I will add my vote for thinking about those volunteers who can also gain from the experience, have free time and can be extremely valuable, comitted and understanding of clients because they themselves have been previously marginalised – so, for example, asylum seekers, homeless, ex-offenders.

I’ve always found that extremely specifically targetted recruitment works best – so a lot of thinking first about exactly what qualities as well as skills and experience each specific role calls for, then what sort of people have those, then what would attract that specific group.

So, for example, when I worked at Victim Support, we had a real shortage of male volunteers and at the same time male clients who would have liked a man to talk to. They needed to be mobile, available out of office hours, sometimes able go to less salubrious areas so to be aware of safety issues, and good listeners. So we targetted mini cab companies, with surpising success – I guess they’d seldom been approached before!

Thinking about how to divide up the roles to meet the needs of ideal types of volunteers is also vital, and what hours they would find available (but only where that also meets your organisation’s own needs and resources).

Also highlighting bonuses of the role specifically to the target potential workforce. So offering a few hours orientation with staff at the Briish Museum was a big draw for recruiting outer London local museum volunteers, or offering a few hours’ help or even a workshop on updating CV’s to mums returning to the workplace etc.

hope that’s of some use/interest