The first volunteer recruitment campaign I ever coordinated was a disaster.
It wasn’t because it was an overly complicated plan, rather my plan consisted of two steps: 1) put advertisements in the local papers and 2) put all the new great people to work. Really that was it. What would I do with potential volunteers when they came in the door? I didn’t know the answer to that, but I was overly confident that I would figure something out when the time came.
- Unfortunately, or fortunately, the time never came. Predictably the flood gates of great volunteers did not open up and fill my program with talented people to serve at my every beck and call. The few that did call, not a match, or if they were, they were quickly scared off by my lack of knowing what I wanted them to do.
Lesson learned- before you can actively recruit volunteers, you have to know what you want! Is there a segment of the population you have never reached but would like too? A project offering you have not been able to offer previously? Just want someone to take livestock show questions off your hands because you feel underqualified? Taking time to actively map out your program’s volunteer needs is critically important for recruitment.
Not all volunteers are created equally. Neither are all volunteer positions. Things to consider:
• Long-term volunteers: Club leaders, advisory committee members, livestock showman advisor, school 4-H club parent advisor, new club leader training coordinator.
• Short-term/episodic volunteers: county events/fair judges, day camp coordinator, judging team coach, 4-H demonstration coach, public relations coordinator, school relations coordinator, X Festival Booth coordinator, Chief of the Fair Concession Stand, county awards banquet coordinator, 4-H county fundraising coordinator, county 4-H officer training coordinator, club quality control committee (assigning volunteers to visit each other’s clubs and give recommendations for improvement).
• Internships: These need not be paid! More than once I’ve involved college-aged students in helping with day camps and similar programs just to build their resumes.
• Virtual volunteers: You know those social media platforms you struggle to keep up with? Or remember your outdated website? There are real life people who can and will help you virtually.
• Pro-Bono volunteers: Whether it’s a nurse that volunteers to attend 4-H camp, or a newspaper reporter who volunteers to write press release templates, there are people that love to give their skills to help worthy causes free of charge.
• Micro-volunteers: A micro-volunteer can be described as someone who completes a quick task for an organization, usually in under an hour. What sorts of things can be completed that quickly? Proofreading, sharing social media posts, designing a flyer, writing a blog post, coming up with a t-shirt design, etc. Check out: skillsforchange.org for more ideas.
- Teen and Young Alumni Volunteers: Don’t forget these valuable parties, who already care a great deal about your mission and want to be involved at a deeper level or stay involved.
No two 4-H programs will have the same volunteer needs. I encourage you to use the next week to think critically about your particular needs. I recommend you map out all your current volunteer needs as well as your wish list items. Using a template such as this can help you think through the process.
And remember, don’t give away the jobs you love! Your job as a volunteer manager is to find people who bring things to your 4-H clientele that you don’t or can’t! Volunteers expand your efforts, they do not replace you.