Recruiting volunteers: How variety can reap benefits

Question: What do NCVO members Samaritans, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home and Doctors of the World all have in common?

Answer: People are queuing up to volunteer for them.

But they are not the only great volunteer-involving organisations. There are thousands of voluntary organisations, large and small, that are wonderfully innovative in creating volunteering roles that win the hearts of volunteers.

The laws of attraction

What is it about organisations that never fail to attract people to volunteer for them? Is it about coming up with great volunteering roles or is it to do with the reputation of the organisation? Or is it about the people – or animals – the organisation is there to help?

Recruitment methods play an important role in the type of volunteers you attract. Do you tend to rely on the same old recruitment methods and then wonder why you attract the same ‘types’ of volunteers? You may have some fantastically diverse roles to recruit to, but it could be that your methods are actually what need looking at.

You may not struggle to recruit the ‘types’ of volunteers suited to the range of roles you offer – but  recruitment methods should always feature in your thinking and planning when you create a volunteer role.

Variety is the spice of life

The volunteer of today wants choice and is understandably fussy about how they give their time. Competition for people’s time is fierce and it’s the same with volunteering. Thinking about variety across your volunteer offer helps. This means:

  • creating roles that are diverse, eg if you have unexciting roles that simply need to be done on a repeat basis, then liven them up by getting people into teams so your volunteers can meet others they may not normally interact with
  • deploy different recruitment methods that reach out to volunteers you want to attract, eg use social media to recruit young people but be specific about which social media platform you choose
  • when you create your volunteering role, think about how the role is going to achieve results. Will they be instantly visible results or will the contribution be less immediately apparent? Expect your volunteering roles to be a mix of both. They are not all going to be roles that see immediate tangible results. Some will make their contribution over a longer term. Consider micro-volunteering as an option for people who cannot commit on an ongoing basis – Micro-volunteering Day is 15 April each year
  • how is the contribution of your volunteering force going to be attributed? You will need a variety of attribution methods. NCVO can support you with this
  • how will you acknowledge your volunteer’s impact? You can say ‘thanks’ in a myriad of ways that won’t put your modest volunteers on the spot but still make them feel appreciated, as well as singling out the more extrovert ones. With Volunteers’ Week an extra five days longer this year, we’ll provide you with resource packs to really sing your volunteers’ praises.

Good practice in volunteer management

NCVO will shortly be releasing a new Studyzone online video training course on good practice in volunteer management. We’ll show you how to structure your volunteering programme and how to reward and recognise your volunteers.

Studyzone is free for all NCVO members and enables organisations to engage in training on their own terms, at their own pace and without committing time and cost to travel.


New adventures in social action

Find out more about different approaches to social action and volunteering in our Annual Conference workshop where you can also see how to make initiatives work in your organisation.

Find out more about NCVO Annual Conference 2016


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Jarina is our volunteering development consultancy officer. Jarina develops consultancy and training services with the aim of improving volunteering practice across the public, private and voluntary sectors.

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