Recruiting and managing volunteers is both challenging and rewarding

Article published by Midlands Business Journal
Written by David Kubicek

Although nonprofits sometimes struggle to find enough volunteers, the organizations and the volunteers are rewarded when they see the impact their efforts make on the community.

United Way of the Midlands works with its corporate partners to help them better understand the impact of their donations, according to Director of Volunteerism Dani Ohlman.

“We coordinate a number of volunteer events with agencies that receive investments from United Way,” she said. “This way volunteers can learn more about the agencies and our organization.”

United Way has two large community events: Day of Action in June and Day of Caring in September. The organization begins its outreach months in advance of each event through advertising, social media, and its donor engagement team encourages corporate partners get involved.

The organization reaches out to individuals who want to volunteer but are unable to leave their offices by bringing volunteer opportunities to them.

United Way provides a volunteer management portal — Get Connected — that allows individuals to go online and find volunteer needs in the community. They may sign up and prepare for events. The portal tells them the date and location of the event, what they will need, and gives them reminders.

“Once we’ve recruited them we thank them,” Ohlman said. “We thank them a lot. Volunteers are the lifeblood of every nonprofit organization. To retain the volunteers we must gauge their interest — a lot of which is done through our Get Connected system —  and we keep them updated on needs in their interest areas. We make sure to convey the importance of their time and the impact their work is having on the community, and we want them to understand that their time is never wasted no matter what they’re doing. That helps them feel good about volunteering so they want to come back to volunteer more.”

Many firms are asking for volunteer opportunities far in advance so they can fill their volunteer calendars for the year.

“We launch our volunteer opportunities now much earlier than we did in the past so we can get on those corporate calendars,” Ohlman said. “That’s one of the newer efforts we’ve done, and it has lead to 48% increase in the number of volunteers we engage annually.”

Volunteer recruitment is one of the top priorities at Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Midlands, according to President and CEO Nichole Turgeon.

“We recruit our volunteers through word of mouth, participating in community events and with a limited advertising budget,” she said. “We have a small team of staff dedicated to recruiting volunteers to empower the potential of our youth.”

Recruiting enough quality volunteers is always a challenge, but recruiting male volunteers and volunteers of color is especially difficult.

“We currently have more than 130 amazing youth on our waitlist,” Turgeon said. “These youth are ready to be matched with a caring adult volunteer who will spend four hours per month with them doing activities in the community they both enjoy.”

Volunteers complete an orientation, training and screening process so they understand what is expected of them, and are equipped to build a friendship with a youth.

“We get to know the volunteer through an interview process so we can match them with just the right child from our waiting list, which ensures that the relationship is long and strong and everyone’s expectations are being met,” Turgeon said. “After we introduce a volunteer to their Little Brother or Little Sister we support their relationship every step of the way through a dedicated match support specialist and ongoing match activities and trainings to ensure the volunteers have the resources they need to be successful and enjoy their volunteer experience.”