Where are the volunteers?

Attracting volunteers is very similar to promoting any product or service. It's about tapping into the kinds of people that you want to attract and selling the benefits of your program that appeal to these people.

If you want to attract university students to your program then there's not much use posting an ad on a Neighbourhood House notice board. And you wouldn't expect to attract retirees to a program that offers lots of work experience and pathways to training and employment.

Who do you want to attract?

Volunteers come in all shapes and sizes. Do you know what kind of people you want to attract into your volunteer programs? Things to think about when you are ready to start recruiting volunteers are:

  • Who do I want to attract?
  • What sort of benefits does my program offer that would be attractive to these kinds of people?
  • Where are some good places to tap into the kinds of volunteers I want to attract?

Knowing your target audience(s) will give more focus to your recruitment activities. Knowing what benefits will attract these people gives you the key information to include in your advertisements and recruitment messages. And knowing the places where your target audience is more likely to see your promotions will give more focus to your advertising campaigns.

The rest of this article discusses different approaches to attract volunteers and advertise opportunities.

Word of mouth

Word of mouth is one of the most effective ways to attract new volunteers. People are much more comfortable trying something new if it is recommended by someone they trust.

Take the time to brief staff, volunteers and supporters about the roles you need to fill and the benefits of getting involved. Ask them if they know of people or groups who might be a potential source of prospective volunteers. Create a list of these sources and include them in your recruitment campaigns.

One of the risks of word of mouth promotion is that you tend to recruit similar kinds of people to those who are already involved with your organisation. This is great if you are building a particular kind of organisational culture but can be limiting if you want to bring some diversity into your volunteer programs.

Information sessions

Information sessions are a great way to introduce new groups of prospective volunteers to your organisation and its programs. People learn much more about your organisation and its work at an information session than they would from just reading an advertisement or browsing your website. Information sessions also give people a chance to get to know each other, talk to current volunteers, ask questions and get a feel for the culture of your organisation.

Consider approaching specific groups that you want to target with an invitation to attend an information session, or ask other community groups if you can present to them.

Events, exhibitions or open days

Instead of an information session, consider inviting prospective volunteers to attend an event or open day at your organisation. This gives them the opportunity to meet people and gain an insight into the programs and work that you offer.

You can also use key organisation milestones – your 50th volunteer, your 1st birthday, launch of a new program – as a backdrop to an event that you host. Another approach can be to tie your event in with National Volunteer Week which is held annually in May or on International Volunteer Day held on 5 December each year.

Volunteer resource centres

There are a number of volunteer resource centres and services around Victoria that can assist you to find and attract volunteers. Volunteer resource centres are usually based around a local council area and act as brokers to put volunteers in touch with community organisations that offer programs that match their skills, interests and needs.

Get in touch with your local volunteer resource centre to discuss ways to locate volunteers. They may also be able to provide advice about attracting, recruiting and working with volunteers.

Volunteer matching services

Online volunteer matching services are a common way for volunteers to find a volunteering opportunity that suits their specific needs and motivations. Many, like the volunteer matching service on this Portal, allow volunteers to search for opportunities that match their interests, skills, audience demographics, location, availability or even the time of day that you want to volunteer.

One of the key successes of any matching service is the richness of the information that you can include in your advertisements. The more information you can provide about your opportunity, the better your chances of matching with like-minded, prospective volunteers.

Other promotion and advertising ideas

Tap into the places that people in your target audience hang out or the publications that they like to read. The more you can do this, the more likely it is that they’ll find out about your organisation. Make sure you take some time to think about your goals, audience and activities before you start randomly promoting your organisation.

Here are some simple ideas:

  • Create a poster, flier or postcard and post it in relevant places like local schools, colleges, universities, libraries, community notice boards, neighbourhood houses, local businesses, sports and leisure centres and local shops or shopping centres
  • Contact your local media (print, radio or TV) with an interesting story idea to promote your organisation
  • Run a small advertisement in a specialist publication that is read by people from your target audience
  • Create a Facebook page that promotes your organisation. Research the Facebook groups that people from your target audience like to join and then invite those groups to join your Facebook page
  • Create a list of organisations, schools, universities or community groups where people from your target audience are likely to be. Approach these places with an offer to run a talk or information session about your organisation
  • Find another volunteer organisation that runs programs that are complementary to your own and discuss the possibility of sharing volunteers or running a joint program
  • Share your stories on the Volunteering Portal! Contact us if you have an experience you would like to share.

Tools and resources