Sweeten the Honeypot, and Other Ways to Attract Happy Nonprofit Volunteers

Let’s say a major fundraising event snuck up on you before you recruited enough volunteers to run it. In a panic you beg friends and neighbors to lend a hand and help out “just this once.” They agree—begrudgingly—but only because they like you. The trouble is, that kind of volunteer is the last thing your nonprofit needs.

Before delving any deeper into recruiting nonprofit volunteers, we ought to make sure one thing’s straight. Unless volunteers are glad to work for your organization, you’re both wasting your time. Disgruntled or disengaged volunteers will suck the life right out of otherwise energetic ones, and they certainly won’t be of service to the people your nonprofit seeks to help.

So nix that problem before it even starts. Read our advice for enlisting happily dedicated nonprofit volunteers, then integrate it in your recruitment strategy.

Sweeten the Honeypot

Not every volunteer motivator is equal; just as not every volunteer is equal. For example, there’s no shame in volunteering for the food, but these volunteers are less likely to stick around when your nonprofit can’t afford to buy them lunch. On the other hand, philanthropists looking to spend their time wisely or connect with others in the community tend to make better connections with beneficiaries.

Make sure your recruitment message speaks to the right motivators so that the people who respond to your calls for help can meet your organization’s needs.

What’s Your Value Proposition?

Speaking of recruitment messaging, consider the value supporters attach to volunteering as well as the motivation behind it. Classic value propositions may belong to the for-profit realm, but your organization can still persuade prospects with a compelling promise. Rewrite your value proposition to forge a connection with volunteer recruits and they may flock to you in droves.

Ties that Bind

Fully engaged nonprofit volunteers will form an emotional bond with your nonprofit. Or at least they will if you give them a chance. Keep in mind that people don’t commit to working for your nonprofit because they’re bored (there’s TV for that). Supporters become volunteers because they believe in your mission so strongly that they’re willing to work for it.

Now consider the projects you’ve asked volunteers to complete. Is there a clear connection between the mission they’ve connected with and the task at hand? Invite volunteers to add to or tweak their responsibilities as they see fit. The key is communicating what your nonprofit needs from volunteers and inviting them to share what they need from you.

How happy are your nonprofit volunteers, and what part of your volunteer recruitment strategy needs revision?


Jill Havlat

June 1, 2012

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