With thanks to Hireserve for this guest blog on volunteer recruitment.
We all know it’s important for staff recruitment. We’re recruiting in a candidate-driven market, so it’s imperative to drive the right people to our vacancies and ensure we don’t lose those people to other organisations.
But it’s also essential to retain volunteer talent throughout the application process. Volunteers are now seeking roles not only to support a cause close to their hearts, but because they want to enhance their CV, learn a new skill or widen their networks.
These volunteers are more likely to be interested in a role because of the opportunities it offers and the skills they’ll develop, rather than because of a personal connection to an organisation. As such, they’re less likely to endure a time-consuming or complicated application process, and may look for volunteering opportunities elsewhere.
Employee candidates expect a professional and cohesive online application process.
Volunteers are no different. In return for their time, they’re seeking organisations that will demonstrate their commitment to supporting them, and a poor application process will do little to promote this.
Paper-based processes suggest a dated and old-fashioned approach – and if that’s the first impression a volunteer candidate receives, they may lose confidence in your organisation.
So how do you attract, engage and retain volunteers?
A positive recruitment process can be broken down into three stages.
1. Talent attraction
Social media can significantly and cost-effectively increase the visibility and reach of your volunteer opportunities. You’re also connecting with potential volunteers in their native digital homes, and therefore making it easy to find out about your organisation and vacancies.
2. Candidate engagement
If you want to secure volunteer candidates whose skills may be in high demand, ensure that your employer brand is strong. Use your careers site or page to promote why you’re a fantastic organisation with which to volunteer. Share stories of other volunteers and what they’ve got out of their experience with you. Explain your commitment to supporting volunteers and promote any awards such as the ‘Investing in Volunteers’ accreditation.
3. Candidate retention
Volunteers are going to be giving up their time for free, so consider how you can make your application process quick and easy for them. Online application forms can be a quick and professional way of encouraging candidates to apply, and also position you as a progressive and forward-thinking organisation.
Timely and professional communication is the cornerstone of strong recruitment experience, and has been proven to enhance a candidate’s perception of a brand – even if the outcome of their application is negative.
This positive brand association is important if you’re a not-for-profit or charitable organisation, as building a talent pool of past candidates can reduce recruitment costs in the future and lead to word of mouth amongst other potential volunteers and employees that you’re a desirable organisation with which to work.
Providing a consistent recruitment process for volunteers and employees
If you have only invested in the above experience for your employee candidates, volunteer applicants may perceive that they are of less value to you.
Two different recruitment processes can also reflect a disconnected employer brand.
Imagine someone is applying for a job online and they experience one side of your recruitment process – the side with the engaging careers site, the social media integrations and the personalised, branded email communications at each stage. Another person is applying for a volunteering opportunity and receives an application pack through the post, which they then have to return, before waiting four weeks for word of its receipt.
Now imagine that those two people share their experiences. The result is a fractured brand image for your organisation. Your volunteer candidate may feel less valued and your employee candidate may be mistrustful of your brand image.
Valuing staff and volunteer candidates
To secure high calibre volunteer talent, offer a simple and professional application experience, communicate consistently and demonstrate how you will support them throughout their time with you.
Each time a volunteer applies for a role with you, they’re a potential brand advocate. Make sure your volunteer recruitment process doesn’t turn them into a one-star-reviewer.
Established in 1997, Hireserve ATS is trusted by third sector organisations across the world, including the MND Association, RNLI and Marie Stopes International.