We decided to share our thoughts on top tips for volunteer recruitment in a new area, as we use our traditional methods of recruitment and test new ones through our work with partnership programme, Get Out Get Active.
We are delighted to be part of this programme – looking to get some of the UK’s least active people moving more through fun and inclusive activities. As part of this we have been going in to some new areas (for us) to interest people in volunteering opportunities that will improve their lives, and the communities around them. It’s been great to test our thinking on how to spread the word about a volunteering opportunity – sometimes from a relatively standing start. As we were listing the steps to go through for ourselves, we thought it might be useful to share them more widely. We pride ourselves on leading volunteering in policy and practice, and we hope this is a helpful and practical list of things to consider if you’re starting to look for volunteers …
What’s your ask?
Before you do anything, agree what and who you’re looking for. Create engaging content to simply explain what the role is, why it’s important, when and where it takes place and what someone could get out of it. Anticipate potential anxieties by explaining if travel expenses are covered, if training is provided and what commitment is required. Make sure to use accessible language and avoid jargon.
Map the area
This might be stating the obvious, and even if you’ve lived somewhere your whole life, it’s worth sitting down (maybe with a few other people to bounce ideas off) and thinking of all the potential locations, organisations and people you could contact. Start a spreadsheet of contact details (postal and online) for local schools, colleges, universities, local community groups and other potential referring organisations.
Who do you already know?
Have a think about any local contacts you already have, and how they might be able to help you spread the word. In our case, as a national charity, we had colleagues working on other projects and programmes nearby – we made sure to connect with them and make the most of existing networks. Maybe even ask them to help you put posters up!
Talking of colleagues …
Make sure you’ve used all your organisation’s communications capacity. Is there a website you can put information on? Are there social media accounts you can get the word out through? Arm your colleagues with great information about the opportunity and they can be ambassadors for you.
There are many free websites that can be effective to promote local volunteering opportunities though: Do-it.org, Gumtree, Charity jobs, Vinspired, Indeed.co.uk, Freeads.co.uk, Jobsite.co.uk – try them and test out what works best in your area.
Libraries, community centres, cafes, volunteer centres are all places you should call (and/or visit) to ask if they could help you by displaying flyers or posters. Tap in to their knowledge and ask them if there’s any local newsletters and mailings lists you should get information to. More stating of the obvious, but if you’re calling somewhere, take the name of the person you’ve spoken to and be sure to send the information for their attention so they know to expect it and what to do with it!
Go back to school!
Have you any local universities, colleges or schools with 6th forms? This is a bit more specific, but consider if there might be students studying relevant subject areas to your volunteering opportunity. If so – contact departments and course tutors to promote your opportunity. For instance for GOGA in Bradford we knew that we needed volunteers to help manage and promote events – so we contacted marketing courses and sold it to lecturers as an opportunity for students to gain real life practical experience. Also think about other relevant groups such as careers teams, student volunteering groups and student union societies – they should all be full to the brim with engaged people looking to gain extra experience!
Job Centres and careers advisors
For some of our GOGA opportunities we contacted local jobcentres and asked for our information to be added to their ‘District Provision Tool’ – their database of local opportunities for unemployed people looking to get into employment or training. We also contacted other organisations like Connexions and other advice centres for young people that help them get into work or provide advice and guidance. We explained how volunteering could help improve their CV and career prospects.
Don’t be scared of local press and media!
Contact them to let them know about the opportunity – and have a think if there’s a hook that might make it interesting. Might there be photo opportunities? Don’t be shy, but also don’t take up their time, keep it short and sweet and they can let you know if it’s something they can help cover.