How To: Find & Recruit Volunteers
How to recruit and make the most of the volunteers you have whilst still looking after them….
1. First off, foster a community that people want to be a part of. Make it fun, supportive, and purposeful, and then inspire people to join it by sharing your vision with them. E.g. let’s see local young people meeting with Jesus, thriving and reaching their full potential! (if your vision is a barrier to success, change it).
2. If you’re having trouble finding a pool of people to choose from, start with the church. Share vision by having a ‘Volunteers Sunday’, where you talk with slides or a video - something ENGAGING, and ask for help in a few specific areas. Give the option of supporting through prayer for those that can’t help practically. Think about the language you use too - you might want to use ‘team member’ or ‘partner’ to be inclusive. Make sure potential volunteers know how to get in touch with you if they’re interested in hearing more… a ‘register your interest’ postcard or a note in the newsletter might help.
3. After this, if you have the capacity, you could hold a ‘Volunteers Open Evening’ too. It’s a good way of meeting people ahead of them calling you, and if you have a few stands where they can talk to existing members of the team and learn more about what to expect, you can inspire and engage them further. Give people hot drinks/chocolate/cake and be extremely nice! These people might just change your life and the lives of your young people.
4. Those that respond after this point will be people who feel a calling to the work, or like they have something to offer. You may also have interest from a few people who need support themselves (not necessarily a problem depending on what’s going on), so it’s worth filtering applicants carefully. Building community means it’s going to be a bit messy - we’re humans, not saints, but make sure that young people are going to be safe and well cared for, even if your potential volunteer might also use the role as a space to grow themselves.
5. Once someone’s interested in hearing more, lay out the options really clearly for them. Perhaps in a pamphlet with the process and roles outlined. Then, if you’re happy, give that person an application form. If not, let them down gently but be honest. Make sure the questions you ask in the application form are going to lead to the end point you want (a committed, excellent volunteer!). E.g. ask about their faith, their previous experience, why they want to volunteer, and ask for references. Also check their availability.
6. At this point you’ll have a good idea on whether you want to hold an interview. If you do, invite the potential volunteer in and keep it formal, with a series of set interview questions. Ask them what they’re most passionate about (always interesting), and whether there’s anything you should know about them if they were to join your organisation (again, generally reveals a lot). Ask them what they’d like to gain from volunteering too and whether they know how to look after themselves when they get tired.
7. You’ll usually know by the end of an interview whether you want to take that person on as a volunteer, but hold fire on offering them a definite position until you have their references in and DBS check completed. Complete the checks and join up the administration behind the scenes - sort your new volunteer out with an in house supervisor (this might be you) and arrange any training that needs to happen. Again, if they aren’t appropriate to join your team, let them down gently but be honest.
8. Then send them home with some paperwork… a ‘Volunteers Handbook’ with expectations, contact numbers and basic information. A Safeguarding Policy and a Behaviour Policy/Code of Conduct, or whatever else they’ll need in the position they’ve applied for. Ask for a signature on a returned form to acknowledge they have read and agreed to everything.
9. Get your new volunteer/partner/team member fully involved in the community. Support and encourage them, and give them the supervision and training they need, particularly in their first few weeks. Volunteers/partners are fundamental to your team and they won’t stay unless they like it and are treated well. Check in to see whether they’re enjoying it. If they’re not, ask why and do something about it as much as you’re able to. Make sure you have enough team members to do the work and scale it back if you don’t in order to make sure your culture remains safe/fun/not overwhelming. Also give your volunteers opportunities to develop themselves or change roles every now and again.
10. Finally, provide your volunteers with bi-annual ‘appreciation events’. This might be a Christmas party and a summer BBQ. Here, a goody bag might help (if you can afford it), otherwise a card or some kind of award. Let your team know that you couldn’t do it without them, and tell stories about the work they’ve helped to achieve that year, with statistics where possible. Volunteers are an essential part of your organisation! Hopefully by now you’ll have managed to create a fun, supportive and purposeful culture which even more potential volunteers want to be a part of…
Lucy Greenland is the Assistant Director for Youthscape Luton.