Map your steps - Involving Volunteers
Having a good grasp of your volunteering needs and a clear volunteer role description will form the basis of your recruitment strategy.
Developing role descriptions
It is important to identify your needs and what gap volunteers are addressing. This will help to:
- Develop a detailed and accurate volunteer role description
- Clarify how often and for how long the volunteer is needed
- What kind of training will be required for that role.
When developing a volunteer role description, include the specifics of the role including:
- Key tasks (e.g. help run a social media campaign, or staffing an information stand)
- Frequency (e.g. weekly duties, monthly program support, yearly event)
- Duration (e.g. 2–3 hours)
- Timing (e.g. one Saturday per month)
- Experience preferred, if applicable (e.g. ability to referee a basketball game)
- Training required/provided (e.g. LDAT induction, alcohol and other drugs induction)
- Other role requirements such as acquiring a working with children check or police check.
You may like to view other organisation’s role descriptions on the Volunteering Australia website for inspiration. Search under “Find a volunteer opportunity” to see what roles are being advertised.
Identify your volunteer demographics
Consider the demographics of who might best fill your volunteer role. Do they need to have time during weekday afternoons – is this likely to require a retired person or someone with flexible work hours? Does your LDAT require someone to do graphic design work or help run an online campaign? Are computer skills required? These are just some of the questions your team should be asking itself in advance.
Identifying broadly who you are looking to recruit will help you to decide how to develop your recruitment message and what communication channels will be most successful for reaching that target demographic. Try to identify two or three groups (by age, location, or skill set) to focus on. Also consider the barriers to volunteering for those groups, and if there’s any way to reduce these barriers.
Although there may be some barriers to recruiting high-school-age students, don’t discount young people. Depending on the role they could both share and learn new skills.
If the volunteer role is appropriate for young people, you could consider partnering with a school, university, or a youth-focused organisation.
The messaging in your recruitment strategy needs to sell your volunteering role to potential volunteers, and show why volunteering with your LDAT is going to fulfil both that volunteer’s needs and make a difference to your community.
Develop your recruitment message
Table 2: Tips for developing recruitment messages
|Highlight benefits for the volunteer||Consider the reasons why people volunteer (Table 1) and emphasise these aspects of the role. For example, if a volunteer was required to staff an information booth at a local market once a month you could highlight the opportunities to meet new people, make friends, and socialise with other volunteers and the general public. Your recruitment messaging could also emphasise the friendly, social aspects of chatting with community members and participating in a community event.|
|Highlight benefits for the community||Consider and highlight the community benefits that fall out of the goals of your activity. A common reason people volunteer is to make a difference in their community, and to feel a part of their community. The difference that your LDAT’s work is making will be a key selling point for prospective volunteers, so make sure you communicate the great work that your LDAT is currently doing or planning.|
|Keep it short and punchy||Short and punchy messages will get your point across quickly to your prospective volunteer. You might want to create a couple of different messages to see what works best and most appealing for your different audiences.|
|Use a strengths-based approach||It can be tempting to include statistics around alcohol and other drug-related harms in your community, the levels of alcohol and other drug use or local alcohol and other drug-related problems. However, the Alcohol and Drug Foundation recommends using a strengths-based approach that is positive and engaging. For example, instead of the message “We need your help because alcohol and other drugs are tearing our community apart”. This could be reframed to become: “Your involvement will help build a strong and connected community”. Some people may be more willing to engage in positive ‘community-strengthening’ activities rather than something that is negative or uses scare tactics.|
For inspiration, consider the:
- Red Cross’s volunteering page, which features an excellent recruitment message and description of what the role has to offer to the volunteer.
- Cancer Council’s recruitment video, which has a great call-to-action and explanation of the positive impact volunteering can have for people.
Communicate the volunteering opportunity
Sometimes people just need to be asked – but remember, you’ll need to use the right communication channel to reach your target audience.
There are many different ways to reach out and communicate your volunteering opportunity in the community. These include:
|• ‘postcard-style’ information to mail out or letterbox drop • single or double page flyers to hand out at events • an A4 poster to display in the community • written letters inviting people to become involved • articles in your local newspaper.|
|In person||• distribute through personal and professional networks – word-of-mouth is a powerful way to share information • meet with relevant organisations • present the opportunity to volunteer at local forums and events • arrange a training event to engage with potential volunteers (this could be relevant to the nature of the volunteering role such as mental health first aid.)|
|Digital||• social media posts • email invitations sent to individuals and organisations • advertising online through partner websites and social media pages • online promotion through a third-party service for volunteers, like GoVolunteer (run by Volunteering Australia). |
Screening and selection
It’s important to develop a clear selection process to assess volunteer applicants. The requirements for selection should match the role description you advertise.
Note: you should respond to all applicants, even if they are not appropriate for the role.
Depending on the role, you may or may not wish to conduct a semi-formal interview with the volunteer. For example, if the volunteer role will be interacting with community members as part of the ‘face’ of your LDAT, meeting them in person may be appropriate to ensure they will be a good representative for your organisation. However, if the applicant is assisting with a back-end administrative role for instance, you may be satisfied with a paper application or a chat on the phone on which to base your decision.
Note: if you decide to hold an interview, it should still be informal as potential volunteers are offering to assist you free of charge.
Orientation and training
Comprehensive orientation and training for volunteers is critical. Volunteers require training and resources to enable them to perform their role. Training may cover:
- A definition and understanding of volunteering
- Roles, responsibilities, expectations and boundaries of the role
- An introduction to the alcohol and other drugs space, the LDAT and to the key people involved (certainly the ones they are likely to come into regular contact with)
- The topic of confidentiality, risk management, and other issues.
Your group may provide this training or contract another organisation that has the appropriate skills and knowledge to do this.
- Volunteering Australia is a national non-profit organisation that provides a host of resources. They have in-depth guides on topics ranging from: what volunteering is all about; to screening and recruiting; and a two-part guide for training volunteers.
Volunteering Australia also provide resources specifically for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) community volunteers, including a practical guide and a training manual.
- Guide for training volunteers (part A)
- Volunteering Australia’s Toolkit for training volunteers (part B)
- Practical guide: Involving volunteers from diverse cultural and language backgrounds in your organisation
- Training Manual: Recruiting and supporting volunteers from diverse cultural and language backgrounds
- Toolkit: Do your volunteers need training?
- Guide for training volunteers (part A)
- Know-How Non-Profit is a UK-based organisation that also provides resources. Its materials are less detailed but give a good overview of effective volunteer training, volunteer induction, supervising and supporting volunteers and keeping volunteers. Other resources that could be adapted for use are how to design a training workshop and a how-to volunteer guide.
Recognition is critical for volunteer retention. But be mindful that different people like to be recognised in different ways.
Volunteers come from all walks of life and have a variety of skills and experiences. It is important that volunteers feel valued and recognised for their contributions.
Understanding why people are volunteering will help you to show appreciation in a way that will be meaningful for them. For example, a person who is volunteering primarily to meet new people and make friends might be particularly appreciative of a ‘group thank you’ event such as an afternoon tea that helps to strengthen the bonds that they are forming through the volunteer work. Another person who is motivated by making a difference in their community may appreciate a thank you card with a quote from one of the beneficiaries of your program describing the impact of the program.
Some common ways of recognising volunteer efforts are:
- certificates or awards
- to regularly say thank you
- special occasion events like an afternoon tea, dinner, or BBQ
- acknowledging milestones like anniversaries and birthdays
- celebrating National Volunteer Week and International Volunteer Day.
Monitoring and support
Scheduling a regular check-in with your volunteers is a good way to monitor how they are finding their role and provide them with ongoing support. This helps ensure that they feel appreciated and recognised. It also informs you if the role is appropriately filled by a volunteer and how you can improve your volunteer involvement in the future.
Keeping notes of these meetings can feed into your evaluation of the program, and track how each of your volunteers is finding their experience.
Measuring success and reporting
Measure and report on the success of your involving volunteering activity.
- Collect evaluation measures to success with the community organisations you are engaging with as well as the volunteers you have been working with as part of your involving volunteering activity
- Report on your success, acquit your funds and consider other things you can do to support people in your community