Volunteers are the backbone of not-for-profit organisations, contributing their time, skills, and passion to make a positive impact on society, but sometimes it can feel impossible to recruit dedicated, skilled volunteers - and even harder to keep them.
Press gangs were well known for the physical force they used in recruiting men into the royal navy during the 17th and 18th centuries.
To ensure they had enough volunteers, the British navy used to rely on impressment which used press gang 'recruiting agents' to creep up behind sailors in inns and dark alleys, hit them over the head with marlinspikes, and drag them onboard their ship in irons.
Understandably, Australian not-for-profit groups do not use of this method of recruitment, and in consequence, must find other ways to induce people to join up.
Research from national advocacy group, Volunteering Australia, reveals that more than six million Australians are still volunteering each year but numbers have not yet returned to what they were before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Their data estimates there are nearly two million fewer volunteers compared to pre-COVID.
In addition, an SBS news item in August 2023 reported: "There has been a significant decline in volunteering in Australia, particularly when it comes to young people".
Volunteering rates in rural Australia, however, remain higher than in metropolitan areas.
Research shows this is likely driven by need.
Rural areas often have no alternative to the services that volunteers provide.
Work and family commitments are the most common reasons for not volunteering. Also, there is apprehension about undertaking a long-term commitment in a world of ever-expanding competing interests.
Volunteers have diverse skills, interests, and time commitments. To attract a broad range of individuals, volunteering needs to be flexible and offer varied volunteer opportunities. Whether it's a one-time event, a short-term project, or a long-term commitment, providing options allow volunteers to choose activities that align with their availability and interests. Flexibility is key to accommodating the diverse lifestyles of potential volunteers.
One other key factor that attract volunteers is a clear understanding of the organisation's goals and the impact their efforts will have.
Organisations need to provide clear communication of the mission, vision, and objectives to potential volunteers, highlighting the positive change to which they can contribute.
People are more likely to volunteer when they see a direct link between their efforts and the overall impact on the community.
The use of storytelling to convey the impact of volunteer work, create an emotional connection that resonates with an audience.
A well-crafted message can inspire individuals to take the first step toward volunteering.
Although an approach through personal invitation is still applicable, in the digital age, online platforms and social media play a significant role in volunteer recruitment.
Utilising platforms such as SEEK Volunteer, and social media channels promote an organisation's volunteer opportunities.
Establishing partnerships with local businesses, schools, and other organisations can significantly enhance volunteer recruitment efforts.
Collaborating with community leaders and influencers will promote awareness.
Joint ventures with other non-profits or businesses can create a network of support and expand contact with potential volunteers who may not have otherwise discovered a role to be played in an organisation.
Volunteers are more likely to stay engaged and committed when they feel adequately trained and supported.
Offering comprehensive training programs equip volunteers with the necessary skills and knowledge.
Establishing clear communication channels and providing ongoing support will address questions or concerns. Recognition and appreciation of the efforts of volunteers create a positive and inclusive environment.
Creating a sense of community among volunteers can be achieved through regular meetings, events, or social gatherings.
Implementing mentorship programs or buddy systems help newcomers integrate seamlessly into the volunteer community.
Attracting volunteers requires a strategic and multi-faceted approach that encompasses clear communication, online presence, community partnerships, and a supportive environment.
Through these strategies, organisations can not only attract volunteers but also build a thriving and committed community dedicated to making a positive impact.