Marketing your organization’s volunteer program

This morning I woke up to a very nice email in my inbox from Helene Schmidt. She had read the three-part blog series on non-profit degrees and certifications, liked what she read, asked me to read an article that recent published titled “12 Reasons Community Service Should Be Required in Schools” and share it with the DonorDreams online community.

So, I did read the article and can honestly say it is very good. As you can see, I’ve already shared the link in the first paragraph and you should totally go read it.

I didn’t decided to share this post on “why volunteerism should be required in school” because I agree with the policy position. Honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about it. I’m not for it. I’m not against it. However, I do think that making volunteerism “required” feels antithetical to the entire idea of volunteerism.

The reason I am sharing this article is because after reading it I thought, “Wow! These are all great selling points for any non-profit organization’s volunteer program.”

You might want to incorporate some of the “12 reasons” offered in the  article in your volunteer marketing materials.

Speaking of volunteer program marketing materials . . . you do have marketing materials for your volunteer program, right?

Uh-oh. Well, if you are like many of the organizations with whom I’ve worked, then you have volunteer opportunities and not-so-actively “hope” volunteers walk through your doors. Many of the programs I’ve seen lack structure such as:

  • volunteer coordinator
  • written volunteer plan
  • written volunteer job descriptions
  • orientation and training opportunities
  • evaluation opportunities

I just haven’t seen many agencies actively marketing their volunteer program. Perhaps, your agency is different; however, have you looked closely at who and who you are marketing your volunteer opportunities?

I’ve read a lot recently about how the retiring Baby Boom generation is looking for volunteer opportunities. I’ve also read a lot about how the Millennial generation is really into volunteerism.

It doesn’t take a marketing professional to conclude that what motivates a 20-something-year-old to volunteer is probably very different from what motivates a Baby Boomer. So, targeting your marketing message might increase your effectiveness and bring many more volunteers through your agency’s front doors.

If the recent economy has your non-profit organization turning to volunteers to fill gaps and get things done, then you will need to do more than cross your fingers and hope volunteers find you. You need to invest in a volunteer program.

One such investment will be in how you market your volunteer opportunities. The article that I shared at the beginning of this post provides 12 great selling points that you might want to share with young people. Click here if you want to read more about how to more effectively market your volunteer opportunities to Baby Boomers.

Does your agency have a volunteer program? If so, what investments have you recently made and have they paid off? How do you market these opportunities and recruit volunteer? Please use the comment box to share your experiences. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

About DonorDreams

Erik got his start working in the non-profit field immediately upon graduation with his masters degree in 1994. His non-profit management and fundraising experience numbers nearly 20 years. His teachable point of view around resource development is influenced by the work of Penelope Burk and those professionals subscribing to a "donor centered" paradigm. Donors have dreams and it is our responsibility to be dream-makers because donors are not ATMs.

Posted on June 28, 2012, in nonprofit, resource development, volunteers and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Erik! I’m recruiting volunteers right now! Right now, as I type instead of working! How did you know? You’re such a psychic, I’m so impressed.

    I’m making a whole “proactive” volunteer campaign: calling businesses in the industry our service is in and asking them if they’d like to do a service with us for a day or teach a workshop to our group. I need to incorporate those aspects above, too. Job descriptions, evalutaion… how we are going to say thank you to them.

    My first step was just setting up a particular day (Tuesday or Saturday) that’s always open for inviting new volunteers and talking about always having an interesting project ready for that day.

    MedWish ( has a very well organized website for volunteers to schedule group projects and I look to them as a template. I’m not sure HOW to ask people for products yet, but I’m getting there. 🙂

    • My psychic powers amaze me sometimes, too. Thanks for weighing in and sharing your efforts. I especially appreciate the fact that you shared an interesting online resource. With regards to asking for inkind gifts of product, it really is no different than asking for cash. You will either put together a proposal for a corporation that outlines your needs and the benefits they will receive for the inkind donation or you will solicit them like an individual (e.g. face-to-face with a specific ask in mind). I have faith that you will figure it out. Good luck and thanks for sharing!


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