U.S. Department of Agriculture.jpg - These Aren’t Your Dad’s Volunteering Challenges; How Volunteering Has Changed
Image by U.S. Department of Agriculture via Flickr

In the more traditional days of volunteer-reliant organisations, recruiting volunteers meant spending large budgets on marketing and advertising. It was a constant challenge to stay in public view.

Campaigns that had small budgets also had limited reach, and limited reach translated into limited volunteer numbers.

The internet has severely impacted how volunteer heavy organisations are able to recruit for the better (although it’s made things a lot more competitive).

U.S. Army004.jpg - These Aren’t Your Dad’s Volunteering Challenges; How Volunteering Has Changed
Image by U.S. Army via Flickr

So, new generation, new tools, new solutions and new problems?

Sort of. There are innumerable websites online that match volunteers, and you can literally do anything, anywhere. You can volunteer in Vietnam or pursue a professional volunteer opportunity on other volunteer websites – you’re only limited by the scope of your imagination.

Volunteering has become a popular trend among Millennials (not to be confused with dreaded internship abuses) over the last few years as a way to fill a gap year while still having something “constructive” on their resume.

In addition to this, many educational institutions have made volunteering a mandatory requirement for graduation.

So there are a lot of volunteers out there, and a lot of volunteer-based organisations doing all sorts of really interesting life changing stuff.

Such an active yet competitive market has bred a culture of “get the volunteer” focused organisations that offer little in the way of a clear and purposeful process for working with their volunteers.

Reengineering the Process

Attractive volunteering offers online and on paper, but the experience wavers dramatically from one organisation to another.

For many volunteers their work almost feels like an afterthought.

In order to retain volunteers and attract goal-oriented people, there are a few key things that volunteer-reliant organisations need to keep in mind to stay in their prime:

  • Provide an experience that is memorable; helping others should include making it an overall positive experience for everyone involved
  • Provide thoughtful training; new skills are an attractive offering for ideal volunteers who want to do more than take selfies
  • Have tasks clearly documented and provided during training; everyone learns differently and having a repeatable documented process can provide a lot more clarity
  • Have everything set up for their arrival in advance; impeding volunteers right out of the gate with setting up computer logins too late or creating process as you go hurts your integrity as an organisation
  • Be clear about your objectives and focus from the get-go; make sure volunteer job descriptions are clear and accurately describe the opportunity
  • Try to ensure that front-facing organisation staff who work with volunteers are properly trained in terms of HR guidelines and are able to handle a wide range of social situations
  • Help volunteers with obtaining any additional paperwork, visas, passport, etc. which they will require to work with your organisation
  • If your organisation does not fund the travel cost and associated expenses of volunteering, create a vehicle for them to acquire sponsorship; that means proper tax designation and donation forms, etc.

There are so many ways that volunteering organisations can harness the sheer volume of volunteers available and provide meaningful experiences for all involved.

It just takes a little thoughtfulness and a desire to remain competitive in an increasingly competitive market.

Have any suggestions? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!

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