Now that volunteer work is no longer reserved for housewives and young retirees, it is more important than ever to devise a plan for recruiting volunteers for non-profit organizations. Especially during a time of economic struggle such as this one, when the luxury of unpaid work may be difficult to maintain, it is imperative for organizations to know exactly how to bring in the necessary labor to keep them afloat. This paper discusses how to appeal to volunteers, and how to promote a workspace that encourages volunteers to remain with the organization. To do this, the organization must provide a workplace that caters directly to its volunteer workers, and that applies the volunteer’s skills effectively within the organization.
Bussel and Forbes tackled the task of trying to identify exactly what drives people to volunteer, and how to use that knowledge to the non-profit’s advantage in their 2002 article. They suggest “that to be regarded as a volunteer one must have some altruistic motive” (Bussel & Forbes, 2002, p. 5). With a volunteer’s altruism in mind, it becomes clear that a non-profit must have the ability to create a position for volunteers to feel as though they are doing more than just labor, but that they are contributing to a greater cause - such as volunteering for hospice organizations. Thus, the organization can capitalize on the idea that volunteers are interested in the possibility of praise, by promising rewards that do just this: mentions in newsletters, verbal accommodations, etc. are ways to create a sense in the volunteers that their efforts are recognized and valued, and thus retain them as workers in the organization.
After recognizing how to appeal to potential volunteers, the organization must begin to reach out to those people. Pope, Isley, and Asamoa-Tutu (2009) studied the efficiency of feedback from volunteers, and said, “although these NPOs were asked the same questions in the first job interview that were on the written survey, the respondents provided more detailed answers and we were able to ask follow‐up questions” (Pope et al., 2009). This suggests that a face-to-face relationship with volunteers while recruiting would yield the highest result and would gain more loyalty for a long-term partnership.
The most critical part of retaining a volunteer lies in keeping his or her role defined within the organization’s structure. Pope et al. discuss the importance of a volunteer’s role: “It is recommended that NPOs carefully examine the particular skills needed by their businesses and target individuals with those skills when recruiting new board members” (2009). The organization must know what its needs are and find qualified volunteers to fulfill those roles; this concept relates back to the motivations of volunteers, as discussed above. If a volunteer has an invaluable role within the organization, he or she will find more satisfaction with his or her work and will build a sense of fulfillment necessary for the success of the volunteer’s continued employment.
Following the above three steps (Discovering the Motivations of Volunteers, Reaching out to Volunteers, and Defining Roles for Volunteers) will lead a non-profit organization to successfully maintaining its essential workforce, even in times of economic struggle that make a volunteer’s time invaluable. The evidence suggests that a non-profit’s ability to most effectively utilize its volunteer force is by addressing its volunteer’s needs, marketing to the appropriate demographic, and assigning the suitably skilled volunteers to the areas which the organization most needs filled.
Bussell, H. and Forbes, D. (2002). Understanding the volunteer market: the what, where, who and why of volunteering. Int. J. Nonprofit Volunt. Sect. Mark., 7, 244–257. doi: 10.1002/nvsm.183
Pope, J. A., Isley, E. S., & Asamoa-Tutu, F. (2009). Developing a marketing strategy for nonprofit organizations: An exploratory study. Journal of Nonprofit & Public Sector Marketing, 21(2). Retrieved October 9, 2013, from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.10
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