How to Turn Volunteer Opportunities into a Job (For the Employer and Employee)

People are constantly looking for jobs at businesses that best fit them while employers are simultaneously looking for employees that fit their needs. Traditional hiring processes aren’t always the ideal way to complete the process. How much can somebody really learn in a few interviews? It’s time to turn to alternatives whether you’re looking for a job or new employee. Many nonprofit organizations may have a great alternative already built-in that allow you to turn volunteer opportunities into a job. 

Volunteering is a great place to look for both jobs and potential employees. We wrote up some reasons why this might be a viable option for you and a few tips on how to get started.

 

For Volunteers and Job Seekers

Typically, people on the job hunt are looking for something that they are truly passionate about. Through volunteering, you’re able to try out different kinds of work if you are either just entering the workforce or simply looking for a change-of-pace. You can also work at different places and see which is the best for you, see how several organizations and businesses operate, and get an inside look at what it’s like to work somewhere before sending an application in. Even if you never apply, volunteering provides a great, low-risk environment to network and refine real-world skills.

So how do you go from volunteer to employee? For starters, show off traits that any good employee would have; work hard, show initiative and be reliable. Think of your time spent volunteering as a hands-on “interview.” Anything that you think the people making the hiring decisions would appreciate will build your case for landing a full-time gig.

If you stand out when volunteering and let the organization know you’re interested in a paid position, the hope is that they’ll come to you when one opens up, or give an awesome recommendation if you go elsewhere. It doesn’t hurt to be proactive and keep an eye on their job postings. If you see an opening, talk to somebody about it and let them know you’re submitting an application. That’ll put your résumé on the top of the pile. If your experience isn’t quite what you expected, you don’t have to feel obligated to volunteer again and you don’t have to “quit” or go through any exit interviews or fear burning a bridge. Volunteering gives you the perfect platform to gain experience for your résumé, get your foot in the door at a potential new job, and try out new work environments to see what works best for you. 

 

For Organizations and Employers

When you’re in the process of hiring a new employee, there are likely several prereqs you want that person to fulfill. What that list looks like is unique to each organization and position, but there are a few big questions that show up on a majority of employers’ lists. Are they qualified? Are they reliable? Do they care about what they’ll be doing? Plus, if you’re hiring based on a need, you’re asking whether or not you can afford a new employee. 

So while everyone wants to do work they care about, it can be hard to find someone passionate about your cause. If you, like many nonprofits, are lucky enough to have a core group of volunteers, you also have a group of people committed and passionate. You should post opportunities for skills-based volunteers, rather than only posting needs to clean toilets or take out the trash. You can ask for volunteer help on your books, marketing, and even legal and HR services. 

Of course, skills-based volunteers also have to be qualified and trusted to be considered for the position. By turning to volunteers and asking if they’d be interested in an opening, you already have an idea about their work ethic and reliability, which is more than you can say about an outsider that comes into an interview. It’s up to you to find trustworthy volunteers with the right skills. If they prove their worth, you have an awesome candidate to hire. If they don’t perform, you’re not responsible to them outside of being a volunteer. Utilizing a volunteer does still take some managerial work, but often times is a great resource when your schedule just can’t support the boxes on your to-do list that continue to go unchecked. 

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Doing a lot of work for little to no pay is an investment for the volunteer and a luxury that isn’t available to everybody, but the success stories are out there. If it is — or you’re volunteering in a less time-intensive role — it can be a great way to put your skills on display for an organization that you respect and believe in. If you’re in the hiring seat, who better to hire than somebody who has already worked for you?