Perfecting your volunteer recruitment pitch

Gain more volunteers by making a few easy adjustments to your recruitment presentations.

It is very rare to find a volunteer-driven program that has all the volunteers they need. In the first article of this series, Finding the right volunteers, we looked at the need to target the audience you reach out to when recruiting volunteers. The next step is to target your presentation to the audience you are speaking with.

We often hear about elevator speeches—the idea that we should have a short speech ready to recite if someone asks about our work while on an elevator. There is a place for elevator speeches, but they do not work well when it comes to recruitment. Michigan State University Extension believes targeting your recruitment presentation involves anticipating the audience’s needs, motivations, interests and potential barriers. This means that no two presentations will be the same.

Once you have identified where to find volunteers, you are likely to schedule some presentations. This is where a lot of volunteer managers can go wrong, as they spend a lot of time talking about the process of becoming a volunteer when they should focus on the experience of volunteering. We often tell people how to apply to become a volunteer before we have even gained their interest. The real key to recruitment is speaking to a person’s interests and motivations.

So let’s start at the beginning: why do you need volunteers? Do your volunteers make a difference in the life of a child? Perhaps they help provide nutritious meals to people who are struggling. Do they make the community safer? You likely have many reasons you need volunteers and you should share these reasons with different audiences.

Our next question is what do your volunteers do? It’s important that you describe the position enough for people to get a feel for the work, but not so much that you are putting up barriers. Speaking of barriers - you should address any common barriers in your presentation. For instance, if your position may appear to be time-intensive, you might share that you only need the volunteer to commit to two hours a month and have a very flexible schedule.

Finally, you should also focus on why you choose this group. People respond better when they realize they have unique skills and talents that make them desirable for the position. Here are a few more tips to strengthen your recruitment pitch.

  1. Don’t get caught up in the how—simply invite them to talk to you for more details if they are interested.
  2. Tell a story or show pictures to draw the audience in.
  3. Invite a current volunteer and/or client to assist in recruitment efforts. Their testimonial means a lot.
  4. Don’t go over your allotted time.
  5. Understand your audience enough to know their motivations. College students may be motivated to gain experience and references, whereas retirees are more likely to be motivated to give back.

See MSU Extension's tip sheet for additional targeted volunteer recruitment ideas, “Targeted Volunteer Recruitment: Planning Your Presentation.”

Happy recruiting!

Did you find this article useful?