Five Strategies New Nonprofits Can Use To Recruit Their First Volunteers

Volunteers are imperative at every stage of a nonprofit’s success, but when a nonprofit is just beginning, it may seem daunting to find the help you need when no one knows who you are yet. Though you may not know where to start, there are tactics you can use to help you find the necessary volunteers to help keep (or start) your nonprofit on the right track.

Because there are so many strategies to choose from, and because not all will be as successful or feasible for every organization, we’ve asked five experts from Forbes Nonprofit Council to share their favorite strategies for recruiting volunteers to keep their organizations thriving.

Forbes Nonprofit Council members share the best strategies new nonprofits can use to attract volunteers.

Photos courtesy of the individual members.

1. Provide Tours Behind The Scenes 

We hold behind-the-scenes tours periodically and many of our tour guests will ask how they can help. When they see the work that we’re doing and the lives being impacted, they are often led to take action. Volunteering is a great way to make a difference that they and those we serve benefit from immediately. – Kimberly Lewis, Goodwill Industries of East Texas, Inc.

2. Show That You Offer Agency And Ownership 

It’s critical to give volunteers agency and ownership over systems, processes and programs—things that will impact the future of the organization and that they will feel connected to for a long time. They can be as motivated as founders, but it’s up to the founders to recognize where their energy comes from and the benefit of having their input in shaping the future of the organization. – George Tsiatis, The Resolution Project

3. Start With Family And Friends 

For a startup nonprofit, no one knows your passion for a cause more than family and friends. All philanthropy begins with “an ask,” so here’s your chance. Reach out to family and friends. Ask them to help you with immediate, operational or event tasks that can fuel the attention of a larger audience. Family and friends have networks too—social media can connect passion to a larger space. – Aaron Alejandro, Texas FFA Foundation

4. Reach Out To Nearby Colleges 

College students are often looking for great opportunities to intern, learn about an organization and the type of work nonprofits do and become part of something bigger than themselves. Additionally, many colleges will give students credit toward graduation if they participate in a good internship program. It’s a wonderful opportunity for the organization, the student and the college. – Rachel Zelon, Hunger Relief International

5. Set Up Meet And Greets 

Volunteers, like staff, want to feel needed, appreciated and in the know. While we aren’t a new organization, we at times have to attract new volunteers. We will hold a “meet and greet” with potential volunteers to tell them what positions we need to be filled, why they are important and how they can help. The most important part though is the follow-up. We reach out to all guests after the event. – Tom Van Winkle, Hinsdale Humane Society

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