Revised with new information as of November 25, 2011

Using Third Party Web Sites Like VolunteerMatch to Recruit Volunteers

It's a mistake I see again and again: an organization posts one mega or one general announcement for all of its volunteering assignments on VolunteerMatch, Idealist, or any other of the seemingly endless numbers of volunteer recruitment web sites, instead of doing one posting for each volunteering role.

Even worse: state or regional offices often won't allow their affiliate offices to create individual accounts on these web sites so that they can post individual volunteering opportunities; instead, the state or regional office posts one general announcement on the various web sites that list volunteering opportunities and believe this will somehow be understood by different people in different parts of the state -- or the entire country: that there are a variety of unique volunteering roles in each community affiliated with the state or national organization.

Test this for yourself: see how easy it is to use and any third party volunteer-listing site to find individual, specific volunteering opportunities in your city based on specific search data (type of volunteering opportunity, amount of hours available to give in a month, etc.). Can you easily find specific, individual volunteering opportunities at your own organization, or an organization that has both a national office and local affiliates (like Girl Scouts, YMCA, Red Cross, etc.), on the first two pages of returned results? For instance, a separate listing for a web manager, a separate listing for a day camp counselor, a separate listing for a translator, etc.? Or just one big mega listing?

Using a mega/general announcement (a kind of "cattle call") for volunteers on third party web sites (or even your own organization's web site) instead of listing individual volunteering opportunities show a profound misunderstanding of how people want to use the Internet to look for volunteering opportunities, and means potential volunteers cannot find the service opportunities they are looking for. People want to be able search for:

If they search for specific opportunities to fit a specific schedule or interest, but only get a general "We need volunteers of all kinds" listing for your organization, they usually don't even read it -- they move on to the organization that has the specific listing: for the web manager, for the office assistant, for the weekend driver, etc.

Imagine it this way: if you were an organization and looking for different paid staff positions, would you just post one classified ad for all your posts, or would you post individual ads for individual jobs?

And listen up, national and state offices: not allowing individual affiliate offices to post their own volunteering opportunities into third party sites denies them the flexibility and specificity they need to recruit volunteers; the office in Tacoma needs volunteers in different roles than the office in Louisville, and their needs change month-to-month, maybe even week-to-week. A state, regional or national office would never be able to keep up with those individual demands through its general call for volunteers on VolunteerMatch, Idealist, or any other of the seemingly endless numbers of volunteer recruitment sites. It's fine to come up with a standard for all affiliates to use in their volunteer recruitment message, to ensure a certain standard.

You can still have that general message on third party web sites, but encourage each organization or affiliate office to type each individual opportunity into a third-party web site of their choice (they don't have to type each into every volunteer-search platform out there, as there are web site aggregators, such as All for Good, that bring all these web sites together in one listing). As an organization or affiliate office should have a written, detailed description of each volunteer role (and these should already be posted on their own web site), this is largely a matter of cutting and pasting into an online form.

And remember, volunteers can help you with this online task! A volunteer could serve as your online recruitment manager, for instance, responsible for getting new opportunities up quickly and keeping postings up-to-date.

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