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Working in the voluntary sector
Working in the voluntary sector

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2.1 Methods of recruiting volunteers

There are many ways to recruit volunteers, and the use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter has become important. However, many groups realise that not all potential volunteers use social media or have access to computers, therefore, adverts are still important. Box 1 lists some typical methods of recruitment.

Box 1 How to recruit volunteers

  • Word of mouth – current volunteers and staff ask their friends, family or acquaintances to volunteer. This often works particularly well, as they can enthusiastically and realistically explain what it is like to volunteer.
  • Organisations’ own websites usually include a section on volunteering, with specific roles or general appeals for help advertised.
  • Umbrella organisations advertise vacancies for their members.
  • National websites, such as [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] , advertise roles for large and small organisations.
  • Adverts in local magazines or newspapers, organisations’ membership magazines and newsletters. Features on a particular organisation in the press or on television often bring in volunteers, as they draw attention to a cause or an issue.
  • Adverts placed in libraries, doctors’ surgeries, hospitals and community meeting places, as well as around the organisation itself (offices and other venues).
  • Social media such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and so on.
  • Recruitment open days at the organisation itself or where different organisations group together to hold a big volunteering recruitment event or charity fair.

Recruitment is a type of marketing, and you will find out more about advertising and communicating messages next week.

Activity 2 Looking at examples of recruitment

Timing: Allow approximately 5 minutes

If you are currently volunteering, or have volunteered in the past, which of the methods in Box 1 were used to recruit you?

Did you respond to an advert or a feature?

If you actively sought a role, how did you approach doing so?

If you are not volunteering, which of the recruitment methods do you think would most appeal to you and why?

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It is difficult to generalise about which methods appeal to people. Here is an example from Julie Charlesworth’s experience:

I decided I wanted to volunteer in gardening, so I used the do-it website to search for opportunities within 20 miles of my house. I found a specific advert with the National Trust. The advert appealed to me because the head gardener was looking to develop a new team.

For my second volunteering role, I responded to a feature in a membership magazine where they asked for a volunteer gardener. I was not actually looking for another volunteer role, but the opportunity sounded so interesting I applied.

Most organisations use a mix of methods to recruit volunteers, depending on the role and the budget available for advertising. In the past, many organisations’ adverts have been quite general, perhaps saying something like ‘we need volunteers’ and listing some activities or roles.

However, many organisations have changed their approach in order to appeal to more people, particularly where they have found it difficult to recruit or want to recruit different types of people. In these cases, they often focus on the reasons why people volunteer: for example, learning new skills, getting work experience, meeting new people, making a difference, getting out in the fresh air, health benefits, and so on.

Activity 3 Advert for a volunteer

Timing: Allow approximately 10 minutes

Choose an organisation or a group you are interested in and find an advert, social media message or website feature that it has used for recruitment purposes. Note whether the organisation uses the reasons why people volunteer as part of its advert. If it does, how does it do so? If it does not, can you think of how to improve the advert or do it differently?

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It is hard to generalise as all organisations are different. However, making adverts more specific seems to be a trend. Adverts that focus on what the organisation is looking for, as well as what the person will get from volunteering, are more commonplace today. These methods also give people a better idea of what they are applying for, and what their expectations of the role might then be.