Dave Thomas, Volunteering Development Officer at NCVS, writes...
A very wise Leader of Volunteers once told me that it’s hard enough to get a volunteer to turn up once, but it’s far harder to get them to turn up for a second or third time.
As Leaders of Volunteers, you put a lot of energy into attracting volunteers by creating great volunteer role profiles, superb social media posts and polished website opportunities. You try to make it as easy as possible for volunteers to make that first contact. Every time a volunteer responds to your publicity, you have succeeded but that is only a small success at the first potential stumbling point.
What you do next will make all the difference as to whether your organisation gets to harness the volunteer’s enthusiasm, skills, interests, and passion that your recruitment publicity has successfully generated. Some questions to consider include:
- Did you put a phone number or email address in your advert?
- Who within your organisation will answer that call or email?
- Are they briefed and expecting contact from potential volunteers?
- How much information have you given that person to pass onto the volunteer at the very first point of contact?
Plan how you approach your initial contact with a volunteer
While many of us are still working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we may have an advantage in that people are currently calling our own mobile or a re-directed number. But even for us as Leaders of Volunteers, a call from a potential volunteer while we have our mind elsewhere could leave us scrambling to find information.
In many organisations, it is very unlikely that the person answering the initial phone call will be the Leader of Volunteers. So, you must make sure that your colleagues know and understand what you want them to say and do. If you don’t provide that support, how can you expect your colleague to respond to that volunteer in the way that you want them to?
Each of us needs to work out just what initial information we need to give and collect for our own opportunities. Just remember that a potential volunteer wants to do something now. I despair when I hear that volunteers are told that they have been put on a waiting list for some training in three months and that they’ll hear more nearer that time. In three months' time, there’s every chance that the volunteer has found a more welcoming opportunity and has forgotten all about you.
Start a positive volunteer relationship early on
We must establish the relationship between our organisation and the potential volunteer right from the start. At the moment, that could be a Zoom or Skype call with you for an informal chat (or a volunteer interview). Maybe you are even in a position to invite the potential volunteer to come in for a socially-distanced visit. Please don’t just send information and an application form by email.
Of course, you need to do the paperwork at some point in the process, but put yourself in the volunteer’s place. They approached you because they want to make a difference, not to get tangled up in bureaucracy.
Get them on board first. Establish the relationship and harness their enthusiasm at the start. Our forms, DBS checks, training and so on become minor things that support their journey into proper involvement. Even a three month wait for a volunteer training course can be tolerable if you put in the effort to maintain that relationship from the beginning.
Make the first impression a good one and you massively increase your chances of a new volunteer turning up for a second time.
NCVS can help
If you would like to receive support for any stage of your volunteers’ journey, or about any aspect of leading, supporting and managing volunteers, contact the team at Nottingham’s only accredited Volunteer Centre at NCVS. I would also welcome any comments about this blog, email firstname.lastname@example.org