(I hope your answer regarding why to involve volunteers isn't "Because we have so much work to do and can't pay salaries in order for the work to be done." That would mean you are involving volunteers so you don't have to pay people, and that gets a lot of people's hackles up. For more, see Mission statements for your volunteer engagement)
An organization that has fundamental volunteer management procedures in place, allowing anyone who expresses interest in volunteering, and is qualified (and meets other basic requirements), to be placed quickly into the induction process and to be quickly put into an assignment, usually has no trouble with recruitment and retaining of volunteers. Such an organization may, in fact, have more people wanting to volunteer than they have assignments. But having plenty of volunteers to do all of the work that's been identified for them usually isn't enough to say a volunteering program is successful; another indicator of success is if your volunteers represent a variety of ages, education-levels, economic levels and other demographics, or are an accurate reflection of your local community. Most organizations don't want volunteers to be a homogeneous group; they want to reach a variety of people as volunteers (and donors and other supporters, for that matter).
If you want to reach a diversity of potential donors, volunteers and other supporters, and if you want to target certain demographics not reached by the Internet (and, there are people not reached by the Internet), you must use some traditional tools for outreach, like TV and radio. The good news is that you can use many traditional outreach tools via the Internet: for instance, you can email your announcement or press release to various civic clubs, and they may, in turn, get that message into their printed materials. Or you can email your press release to a local radio program and it will be read over the airwaves. However, sending an email probably won't be enough to reach certain groups; you will have to build trust with some groups, and they will have to hear your message multiple times, not just once. That means face-to-face meetings, onsite presentations, and maybe even display booths at events sponsored by other organizations.
If you want to reach a specific cultural group -- people with a particular heritage -- then you have to know how members of that group get information. What communities of faith -- churches, temples, mosques, etc. -- serve the community you want to reach? Is there a newspaper or radio station (or individual radio program) that caters specifically to that group? Are there annual events hosted by or focused on members of this community? Does this group have its own chamber of commerce, business association, neighborhood association or civic clubs? What about a cultural center focused on people of a particular heritage? Use the Internet to start your search (look up keywords on Google.com, as well as looking at the web sites of your city and your city's chamber of commerce; compiling these resources is also a terrific task for a volunteer).
Are there demographics you want to reach that will be attending a large community event, like the county fair? A car show? A flower show? Organizers of these events may be willing to let you set up a display booth, for free or for a very low charge, to distribute information about your organization with the express purpose of recruiting volunteers (rather than soliciting financial donations, which could be seen by vendors and sponsors as competition for money).
What about trade and professional associations, unions, women's and men's clubs and civic associations? Is the membership of one of these groups made up of demographics that are under-represented among your volunteers? These groups may be happy to have a speaker from your organization make a brief presentation focused primarily on volunteering opportunities with your organization, or an item in their member newsletter.
Is there a historically black college, university or high school nearby? This is a great source for recruitment, not only among students, but also among alumni associations.
Again, just sending an email to these groups -- or becoming their fan on FaceBook or other online networking site and posting to their "wall" -- may not be enough to get volunteers from a group; you will have to build trust with some groups, and they will have to hear your message multiple times, not just once, and that takes face-to-face meetings, onsite presentations, and maybe even display booths at events sponsored by other organizations. Go to THEIR events, send them notes of congratulations when you see once of these organizations getting media attention or an award from the city or some other kind of recognition, meet for lunch - show you have interest in these organizations, not just that you want something from them.
Be up front about why you are contacting a particular group. It's okay, for instance, to say, "We would like to have more Hispanic/Latino volunteers and that's why we are contacting you." Ask for guidance in your outreach efforts. Ask what words and phrases to avoid in your messaging. If someone says you have been offensive in your messaging, get all of the details you can and apologize; if you continually come from a place of honesty, sincerity and transparency, missteps can be forgiven.
Be aware that a demographic group may not be unified; a community may be served by competing newspapers or organizations. There may be competition for leadership among representatives of different factions. Some groups united by heritage are split by religious differences. Do as much research as you can, ask questions, and do your best not to be perceived as favoring one faction over another.
Note that awareness is just part of what needs to be done to reach an audience; accommodation is also necessary. Things that prevent people from volunteering who want to include lack of transportation, lack of parking, lack of childcare and lack of availability during the times you have offered for meetings and service. What can you do regarding accommodations? Do you have information on your web site on how your organization or meeting site is reached by public transport? Do you have a way to organize carpools? Do you have volunteer orientations on different days, at various times? Can you offer parking discounts? Could you provide childcare? Could you provide volunteering activities that could be done as a family?
There can also be misunderstandings about what exactly you are asking for during volunteer recruitment:
Please note that all of the above is based on my experience with a variety of organizations, recruiting not only volunteers but also participants. I didn't use any academic research for the above, but I would love to know about such.
Other resources you might find helpful:
"Recruiting Black and Hispanic volunteers: A qualitative study of organizations' experiences" by Susan Chambre. It's from 1982, and available only from the author or archived versions of the Journal of Volunteering Administration, a defunct publication still carried by some university libraries.
"The Relationship Between Recruiting Source and Employee Success: An Analysis By Race," from Personnel Psychology, Dec 2006.
Texas Court Appointed Special Advocate (Texas CASA) materials to help recruit and maintain a diversity of volunteers. Includes strategies to recruit from specific groups and communities, such as men, religious communities, Hispanics and Latinos, and State Agency Employees, as well as tips for recruiting a diversity of board members. These are Texas-specific, and provide great examples for those looking to develop their own plans.
Recruiting and Retaining a Diverse, Culturally Responsive Guardian ad Litem Volunteer Pool in Durham County, published in April 22, 2011. The Durham County Guardian ad Litem (GAL) Program works to ensure abused and neglected children have advocates in court, and is part of the National Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Association, a large network of local and state agencies and organizations, which has encouraged its members to increase GAL and CASA volunteer diversity. National CASA encourages offices to recruit more volunteers that reflect ―the makeup of the children in the judicial system as well as the local community.
There are even more suggestions about how to use the Internet to recruit for diversity among volunteer ranks in The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook.Return to my volunteer-related resources
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