How to Encourage All Stakeholders to Fill Volunteer Openings

Have you struggled to fill volunteer roles at your organization? You’re not alone. Recruiting volunteers is no small feat. Finding people who are both aligned with the mission and willing to give of their time, talents, and energy can be an arduous task.

When you have roles to fill, look internally at the organization’s current stakeholders to discover a whole new pool of qualified candidates. Once you understand who your stakeholders are, you can find ways to weave them into everything from one-time volunteer openings to regularly scheduled volunteer opportunities.

Define the needs
Begin by defining the needs of your organization. Do you need hands-on help, like lawn care or secretarial support? Does your organization need more visionary volunteers, like community representatives or fundraisers? Create an inventory of volunteer opportunities so that you can find the best stakeholders to fill those roles.

Identify the stakeholders
Next, identify your organization’s stakeholders. Do you know who they are? Start by making a list of stakeholder categories. Begin with employees and board members and then move on to the volunteers who already work to support your nonprofit. Next, determine who the beneficiaries are, list the organization’s partners, and then identify any individuals who may contribute as spokespersons. Lastly, be sure to include the lifeblood of any nonprofit, the donors.

Depending on the size of your organization, you may want to break some of these categories into subcategories. For example, you could identify the quantity of each type of stakeholder your organization has. Perhaps you can segment your stakeholders according to their length of involvement or giving level. For instance, organize donors into giving level or length of time since their first gift, or separate volunteers into years of service or hours of volunteering per month.

Regardless of how you decide to map out the stakeholders in your organization, be sure you understand the depth and breadth of those involved. Once you know who is already connected, it’ll be easier to identify appropriate opportunities.

Connect the dots
Once you’ve clearly outlined your needs and identified the organization’s stakeholders, the next step is to start identifying possible connections. Ask yourself which stakeholders might be best suited to fill certain roles.

While it’s wise to consider skills and experience, you can also think outside the box to determine if there’s a task or opportunity that a stakeholder may enjoy. Perhaps there’s a new challenge or a chance to engage donors or beneficiaries in a way they haven’t been able to before. For example, instead of asking board members to do more fundraising, perhaps they’d like a chance to help lead a volunteer training event or call donors to say “thank you.”

Make the ask
Now it’s time for the ask! Set up a time to meet with each stakeholder, or make phone calls to let them know how they can volunteer at the organization. Clearly inform them what the opportunity is, what skills are required, what the day and time commitment will be, and how often they’ll be needed.

If you can’t reach some stakeholders in person or on the phone, be sure to send them a personalized message, whether via email, text, or snail mail. In your message, share the same information as you would in person, and be sure to include contact information in case they have questions they need answered.

Be sure to set a calendar reminder to follow up as people often have good intentions to reply but get busy. A gentle, friendly follow-up request a week or two later may be all that’s required to move a stakeholder into either a secondary role as a volunteer or into a new volunteer capacity.

Spread the news
Most importantly, don’t let the efforts of stakeholders go unnoticed. The best way to recruit others is to share the work of those already involved! Whenever you have stakeholders stepping out of their typical roles to lend a helping hand, be sure to highlight their efforts. Keep volunteers engaged by ensuring they never feel unappreciated or undervalued.

How do you encourage stakeholders to get more involved at your organization? What challenges have you faced when trying to fill volunteer openings? Share your experience in the comments below!