Monday October 20, 2014

How to Find Volunteers

As a nonprofit organization, resources are always a focus. Whether that resource is funding, staff, or expertise, it can be a struggle to find more of it. Thankfully, the internet can assist in the search. Many nonprofits use both their website and social media to increase visiblity. This can be both in the form of fundraising drives or simply publishing news updates and events. In terms of increasing staff and expertise by recruiting volunteers, there are a number of options as well.

To start with, how many people volunteer? The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) most recently reported in 2013 that about 25 percent of the population volunteered at least once during the year. Of course, the specific activities performed while volunteering vary, but are highest in the areas of:

  • 10.9% Collecting, preparing, distributing, or serving food
  • 10% Fundraising or sell items to raise money
  • 9.8% Tutor or teach
  • 8.2% Engange in general labor, supply transportation to people

Another concern to consider when looking for volunteers is many much time commitment to expect. BLS also reports that about 50% of volunteers spend between 1-50 hours per year volunteering, with 50 hours as the overall median. Almost one-third of all volunteers contribute 100+ hours per year. Fairly reasonable numbers overall, when you consider that the average volunteer will contribute about 1 hour per week.

Finding volunteers for your organization should be simple and use limited resources. The internet is a great tool to connect with volunteers, as it has practically no cost and allows you to reach the largest numbers. WebSprout recommends the following websites for finding volunteers.

  • Idealist

    Idealist Logo

    Idealist is one of, if not the most popular network for nonprofit organizations. Currently, Idealist has about 70,000 organizations and 100,000 daily visitors. Many of the individuals visiting this site are skilled and altruistic - it provides one of the best volunteer pools available. Organizations can create a profile, and post jobs, internships, and volunteer opportunities. Additionally, individuals can create a profile about themselves and their volunteer interests. Posting a volunteer position is simple. First, you must create a profile for your organization, and then you can create a volunteer listing.

  • VolunteerMatch

    VolunteerMatch Logo

    VolunteerMatch provides an organized structure for nonprofits to list volunteer opportunities. Organizations and volunteer positions are well-organized by cause, such as children & youth, environment, and homeless & housing. VolunteerMatch's interface is simple and has a well-defined purpose. To post a volunteer position, you must create an account for your organization, and then create the volunteer posting.

  • UN Volunteers

    UN Volunteers Logo

    The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) program is an arm of the UN that promotes volunteerism. As a global organization, it has a world-wide reach, and probably the website on this list that has the most pervasive global spread. Additionally, it has a larger focus on youth and young volunteers. Also, UNV has a clear path to find both in-person and online/virtual volunteers. For your nonprofit to work with UN volunteers, you must apply to become a partner organization. After you have been accepted, your nonprofit can create volunteer listings. The process to become a partner organization may take some time, but volunteers acquired through UNV tend to be searching for more intensive and long-term opportunities.

  • Hands On

    Hands On Network Logo

    Hands On functions as a network or organizations and volunteer opportunities nation-wide. Hands On is a network of action centers across the country. Each action center creates its own volunteer drives and opportunities. Nonprofits can partner with a particular action center. Then, Hands On will work together with the nonprofit to provide volunteers. Since this is a network, each action center may have its own process and rules. In order to find volunteers, you will need to communicate directly with your nearest action center.

  • Craigslist

    Craigslist Logo

    Many of us are familiar with Craigslist, but mostly for purchasing goods and renting apartments. However, Craigslist has a 'Community' section, with a 'Volunteers' sub-category. Individuals looking to volunteer would look at this section, and informally search and repond. Posting a volunteer opportunity on Craigslist has two advantages that the other websites don't offer. First, it allows you to structure your volunteer posting in any manner - its simply text. Secondly, Craigslist is a huge and widely-visited website. Posting any information about your organization will provide visibilty and google-indexed pages that increase SEO for your organization.

  • Your Website

    Prospective and current clients, partners, donors, volunteers visit your site to learn about your organization. Including a Volunteer or Get Involved page on your own website is really just low-hanging fruit. If you're not doing it, you're missing an easy opportunity. Having a webpage that lists current or ongoing opportunities also demonstrates that you maintain your website, and that your organization is active. Ideally, your organization should list specific positions or areas, along with a brief synopsis of the duties and who to contact/what form to fill out to get involved. Don't rely on potential volunteers simply sending blind emails or using a generic contact form. People respond best when they're presented with clear choices.

Seeking volunteers for your organization is a great way to increase resources. Using one or a combination of the websites listed above will help your organization progress. There are many individuals out there that are searching for a way to do something meaningful, while impacting a positive change. Seek to present them with a clear opportunity, with the hope of growing together. If you need help growing your nonprofit online, WebSprout can help. Contact with questions or for more information.