4 Volunteer Recruitment Tips from Camp Experts

19 Oct 2021 By Roger Devine

This is a guest post by Glen Greenstone, of CircuiTree

For many fundraising organizations, youth programs, and nonprofits, volunteers are a critical resource. They promote your organization, streamline event operations, and free up precious time for your staff to focus on other important tasks, all without the expectation of pay.

However, finding and recruiting the right pool of volunteers is a challenge that few organizations have mastered. It’s a tricky process, and hiccups anywhere from the promotion of the position to the interview stage can leave you with a poor group of volunteers, or not enough qualified helpers.

Luckily, we’ve compiled a shortlist of essential tips and tricks from some of the most experienced volunteer recruitment professionals: camp program managers.

After all, camp managers carry out large-scale, multi-day activity and event programming on a regular basis, with staffs that are largely made up of volunteers. Not only that, but they are often responsible for large groups of children, making their recruitment of trustworthy, capable volunteers a paramount concern.

Whether you’re looking for parent volunteers to host your virtual school fundraising or you’re a camp program planner yourself, every volunteer-seeking organization can learn something from these volunteer experts!

Over the course of this short guide, we will walk you through these camp professionals’ step-by-step essentials for a successful volunteer recruitment strategy:

  1. Find your target audience
  2. Refine your outreach strategies
  3. Perform interviews and background checks
  4. Form a community

From online marketing to leveraging your management software, this guide will help to ensure that your events are staffed by the best possible team of volunteers. Ready to revamp your recruitment strategies? Let’s jump in!

1. Find your target audience

While you might feel inclined to try and reach the widest possible audience for your volunteer recruiting, this unfocused approach can lead to a lot of wasted time and resources.

Not every volunteer opportunity is the same, and some audiences will naturally be more attracted to certain positions than others. On top of that, your organization will want to cut down on the challenges of the interview phase by bringing in the most qualified and passionate applicants right at the beginning of the process.

For instance, the best target volunteer audience for a school fundraiser such as a bake sale would likely be local parent volunteers and students. These individuals have the greatest stake in the fundraiser’s success, making them a natural source of support. By focusing outreach efforts on this group, schools can maximize their marketing return on investment and engage an audience that’s already on board with their cause.

To optimize your promotions, conserve your marketing resources, and maximize the quality of your applicant pool, you have to identify the appropriate pool of candidates for your specific event or opportunity.

Here are a few key questions you should consider when narrowing down your target audience:

  • Who will be attending the event and who would they feel most comfortable around?
  • Who is the event serving and what kind of individuals would be most interested in contributing to the cause?
  • What kind of positions need to be filled and what are the physical and emotional demands of that work?
  • What additional interests or skills would be desirable in a potential candidate?

At the end of the day, your volunteer recruitment approach should be focused around finding individuals who are best equipped to succeed in the work that you require from them. These guidelines will help you narrow down your search and more effectively launch your marketing recruitment initiatives.

2. Refine your outreach strategies

Once you’ve identified your target audience, your next objective is to reach them where they live, work, and play. You must find a way to market yourself to them as effectively as possible, using all of the major channels that they actively engage with.

As a general rule, local clubs, schools, ministries, libraries, and volunteer centers are a great place to find individuals in your area who are actively on the lookout for opportunities to engage with their community. According to CircuiTree’s article on camp recruitment and hiring strategies, pulling from your local volunteers is the best way to infuse the unique culture and value of your community into the spirit of your events and activities.

You could visit these organizations in person or contact the program administrators virtually to ask them to disseminate your promotions to their audience members. Your volunteer program may even count as community service credits or a similar reward for the members of these clubs and organizations.

Additionally, your current volunteers are another fantastic resource to get the word out! They are your most valuable ambassadors who can leverage their own personal networks to bring in friends and family to help your event succeed.

However, not every one of your potential volunteers is going to be patiently waiting for you to walk up to them with a flier. There are hundreds of individuals who could be a great fit for your staff who may not be actively on the lookout for volunteer opportunities.

This is where social media becomes an essential part of your marketing strategy. Take advantage of the vast reach of the internet to connect with a wide and diverse pool of potential candidates. Tailor your content to best suit each platform.

For example, if you’re hoping to attract parents and older adults for recruitment, you may use Facebook for your promotions. Post digital flyers aimed at these individuals or post in relevant community groups. To attract a younger volunteer pool, you could make use of Instagram’s hashtag and tagging features to strategically share photos, virtual flyers, and videos to build up a following for your volunteer program.

Whatever social media and online platforms you utilize, make sure to be active and interactive on these accounts. Engage with commenters and connect with your followers to stoke their enthusiasm for your volunteer opportunity and guide them into the application process.

3. Perform interviews and background checks

Picture this: the big day of your event is only a few weeks away. You’ve done all you can to attract a wide pool of applicants who are well suited for the position, and now it’s time for your biggest challenge yet: selecting your team. However, you’re not sure how you’re expected to pare down the applicant pool to determine the right dream team for your event.

This is a process that our camp experts have faced time and again. Your first move should be to set up a preliminary elimination process. Remove applications that seem very clearly unsuited for the role or are incomplete.

After that, you will be left with a selection of serious applicants that will require a greater level of attention and information to be whittled down. To acquire this information, set up a web, phone, or in-person interview process.

Of course, some low-maintenance positions, like student volunteers for a small school fundraiser, may not require too much scrutiny. But in general, it’s good practice to have an interview process for volunteers that might be asked to perform anything more significant than minor manual tasks.

In your interviews, be sure to ask applicants about their interest in the event, how they heard about it, and their past volunteer experience and qualifications for the position. While some of your volunteers can be new or inexperienced, you need to make sure that there are enough seasoned volunteers among them to guide or help each newer staff member through their onboarding into the program.

Background checks and references are another important part of the screening process for higher-level or higher-commitment volunteer positions. This is especially critical if your event involves children, if these volunteers will manage others, or if these volunteers will be given access to financial or organizational data.

Ultimately, all volunteers will be integral to the success of your events. Even so, it will benefit you in the long run to keep a closer eye on individuals who are going to be working in more sensitive areas of your program.

If you’d like to streamline these interview and screening processes, you may consider investing in a volunteer staffing service. Many camps opt for dedicated staffing software, which include interview notes features, integrated online applications, and automated reference emails to make the hiring process as easy as possible.

4. Form a community

Your current focus might be on recruiting volunteers for a single event or opportunity. This can help you access the short-term support you need to pull off your event. However, if you’re looking to grow your volunteer program over the long term, the key to a truly successful recruitment strategy is retaining the volunteers that you’ve already gained.

Your volunteer program shouldn’t be a revolving door of different individuals. Instead, aim to create a tight-knit community within your volunteer program. This will not only increase the value of your program as experienced volunteers build long-lasting relationships with your organization, but it will also become a point of promotion for new recruits.

After all, who wouldn’t want to pitch into a program with a fun, tight-knit community of longtime friends and volunteers?

To facilitate community-building within your volunteer program, create a fun and engaging onboarding experience where seasoned volunteers guide newcomers through the position. Give new volunteers a buddy, mentor, or team to bond with during the training process, and be sure to break up their work with fun group activities such as ice-breaker games.

Many camp program experts also invest in camp management and registration software to take the pressure off of their less experienced staff. This allows them to better enjoy their training and it eases the load for your entire staff as they carry out your event.

Though your own volunteer program may not be for a camp, you may also consider a similar strategy by investing in an event management solution. This allows you to better organize your event processes, ease the stress of your staff, and keep volunteers from wasting time on low-return tasks.

Ultimately, no matter how passionate and qualified your volunteer dream team may be, they aren’t truly a team_until they’ve been given the opportunity to bond and form relationships. Community-building is a critical final component of the volunteer recruitment process that will maximize your event success and pave the way for future recruits.

For information on steps after the recruitment process and how to properly manage your volunteers, check out Double the Donation’s essential guide to volunteer management. This resource dives into some of the essential features of a successful volunteer management service, such as form-builders, check-in capabilities, and automated communications. With these techniques and the recruitment strategies we’ve explored, you can optimize the experience of your entire volunteer program, start to finish.

When it comes to launching a successful volunteer recruitment campaign, our camp management professionals have truly seen it all. Year after year, they’re called upon to select responsible, trustworthy, and dedicated volunteers to join their program and contribute to the success of critical events and programs.

With these insights, we hope that you are able to navigate your own volunteer recruitment operations and leverage them to boost the success of your events, increase fundraising revenue, and form a community within your program.

About the author: Before becoming a camp professional, Glen enjoyed many other pursuits. A native San Diegan, he worked through college as a 9-1-1 dispatcher. He has a passion for literature and the outdoors, and is a veteran of U.S. Coast Guard, so he naturally loves to get out on the water with his wife and two kids whenever possible. He loves hearing camp cheers outside his office window during the summer, while helping camps across the country overcome their unique challenges!