One of the top challenges expressed by volunteer engagement professionals is recruitment – whether finding the right volunteers or inspiring and equipping others (volunteers or staff) to recruit new volunteers on behalf of the organization. When volunteer directors and coordinators consider recruitment to be their responsibility alone, then the opportunity to recruit becomes a burden … but it doesn’t have to be that way! The key to shifting recruitment from a burden to a shared opportunity lies in inspiring others to be talent scouts on behalf of your organization. But inspiration alone doesn’t cut it – successfully inspiring others to recruit from their networks also involves training them to effectively (and comfortably) recruit volunteers. This is where we in volunteer engagement can learn a lot from colleagues and best practices in fund development.

VQ Volunteer Strategies President Beth Steinhorn at the Presidents’ Summit

I was poignantly reminded of this just last week while attending the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation Chapter Presidents’ Summit. The Presidents’ Summit is a powerful convening of more than 100 people, designed for executive directors and chapter board presidents from across the country. The Summit offers two days of networking, training, learning, and celebrating the work of the Foundation.

While I was there to co-present with the Senior Director of Volunteer Engagement on volunteer engagement strategy, recruitment, and activation, I was also there to attend sessions and learn – which I most certainly did. I had a particularly powerful moment during a session with Foundation CEO Michael Osso as he was sharing tips and experience to help nurture a “culture of asking” within the Foundation. Listening to Michael, I was once again struck by how much effective fundraising tactics apply to volunteer recruitment.

Among the things Michael shared was this — before going into any discussion with a prospective donor, remember:

  1. You aren’t asking for YOU; you are asking on behalf of our cause.
  2. Think about how good you felt the last time you donated.
  3. The more you customize your ask, the more likely the prospect will respond to you.

When training board members, other volunteers, or fellow staff members to recruit volunteers on behalf of your organization, consider sharing some of Michael’s reminders, as they all apply closely to volunteer recruitment.

You aren’t asking for YOU. You are asking on behalf of our cause. Everyone is busy. We know that. As a result, some volunteers and staff are reluctant to ask others to share their time. It feels burdensome to ask someone to add another thing to their plate and no one wants to be a burden. But Michael reminds us that the ask is not about the asker. It’s about the cause. We need to remind our talent scouts that the ask is about giving people the opportunity to be part of a critical cause and make a difference.

Think about how good you felt the last time you donated. Of course, in our work, the reminder is to prepare for any recruitment meeting by thinking about how good they felt the last time they volunteered. A recruitment conversation is merely a way to offer the prospect a chance to experience that good feeling of making a difference. It’s as simple as that.

The more you customize your ask, the more likely the prospect will respond to you. We talk about recruitment conversations because cultivating new volunteers happens through dialogue – not just one question. Dialogue is the only way to learn what makes the prospect tick and offer volunteer opportunities that tap into that motivation. When prospects feel “known,” they are much more likely to respond – and to respond with a yes.

When it comes to fundraising or volunteer recruitment, it’s all about the personal ask. These tips will help you share the load of recruitment, deputize others to become active talent scouts, and equip them for success.