Volunteers are the backbone of your animal welfare nonprofit. With their help, you have the capacity to take on more projects and make a greater impact on the animals you serve. However, finding and retaining volunteers can be a challenge, especially in a competitive nonprofit landscape.
This guide will serve as a roadmap for recruiting volunteers, building a committed team, and ultimately furthering your mission to promote animal welfare. Whether you're an animal shelter, a wildlife conservation organization, or an advocacy group, the following five tips will help you attract individuals who are eager to contribute their time and skills to your cause.
1. Clearly Define Volunteer Roles and Expectations
Well-defined volunteer job descriptions make the recruitment and onboarding process more efficient. When potential volunteers understand what is expected of them from the start, they are more likely to apply to positions that they are qualified for and passionate about.
For each open position, whether it’s for an animal caregiver, event organizer, fundraiser, or educator, specify the following elements:
- Roles and responsibilities. Outline the specific tasks and responsibilities the volunteer will be expected to perform. Be as detailed as possible to provide a clear picture of what the role entails. For example, rather than using a vague description like, "Assist with keeping the animal shelter clean," you might say, "Wash and disinfect food and water dishes, toys, and bedding."
- Required training. Be transparent about any prerequisites, such as a background check, vaccinations, or specific animal-handling training, to ensure the safety of both volunteers and animals.
- Time commitment. Define the time commitment expected from volunteers, including the number of hours per week or month and the duration of the commitment (ongoing or seasonal). Provide flexible options if applicable, such as opportunities for remote volunteering, evening shifts, or weekend events, to accommodate a diverse pool of potential volunteers.
Ensure that your role descriptions are welcoming to volunteers from diverse backgrounds and abilities. This not only helps attract a diverse pool of volunteers but also fosters a sense of belonging and representation within your organization.
2. Use Volunteer Recruitment Websites
In addition to advertising volunteer opportunities on your nonprofit’s own website, post your job descriptions to websites and platforms dedicated to volunteer recruitment. These platforms attract individuals actively seeking volunteer opportunities, increasing your chances of finding committed supporters.
To make the most of volunteer recruitment websites, you should:
- Create a compelling and detailed profile. Create a profile with information about your organization's mission, the specific volunteer roles available, and the impact volunteers can make. Highlight the benefits of volunteering with your organization, such as the opportunity to work with animals and make a difference in their lives.
- Use targeted keywords. As you establish your presence on the website, keep the basics of search engine optimization in mind. Use keywords like "animal welfare” or “volunteer with animals” throughout your profile and volunteer job descriptions to attract volunteers who are specifically interested in animal-related causes and help them find your opportunities more easily.
Prospective volunteers who view your open positions and profile should be able to apply directly through the recruitment site. Keep these applications concise, as shorter forms are more likely to be completed, and ask questions that are relevant to the volunteer roles you offer.
3. Participate in Cross-Sector Partnerships
Many corporations have volunteer programs that encourage employees to lend their support to charitable organizations during work hours. Ask these businesses to promote your volunteer opportunities to their employees and provide resources such as paid volunteer time off or logistical support to facilitate volunteer engagement.
To secure a successful partnership, keep these tips in mind:
- Identify complementary organizations. Look for partners in sectors that align with your mission and goals. For example, you might collaborate with a local dog boarding business, veterinary clinic, or educational institution specializing in animal science, as these organizations share your same purpose of caring and providing for animals.
- Craft a mutually beneficial proposal. Conduct thorough research on the business and emphasize how volunteering aligns with their specific corporate social responsibility (CSR) goals or employee engagement initiatives. Then, detail the various ways their employees can get involved. For instance, if you’re partnering with a doggie daycare, you might ask them to help you rescue stray animals off the streets or simply promote your volunteer opportunities to their customers using Gingr's easy-to-use software.
Establish regular check-in meetings with your corporate partner to discuss progress, address challenges, and share updates. When businesses are made to feel like true stakeholders in your organization, they are more willing to deepen their support.
4. Leverage Social Media
Social media is a cost-effective way to expand your reach and connect with a wider audience of potential volunteers. In addition to sharing volunteer information to platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, be sure to:
- Tell compelling stories. Share heartwarming stories about the animals your nonprofit has helped, including their journeys to recovery and their happy endings, to spark an emotional connection with viewers. Use images and videos to bring these stories to life and add information about open volunteer opportunities in your captions.
- Interact with followers. Social media is a two-way communication platform. Respond promptly to comments or messages related to your volunteer program. Doing so will show prospective volunteers that you care about their involvement.
- Use relevant hashtags. Research popular hashtags related to animal welfare and incorporate them into your posts to boost their visibility. Also, consider creating a custom hashtag that includes your nonprofit’s name or tagline.
To further amplify your message, consider reaching out to social media influencers who share your passion for animals and asking them to share your content with their audience. For example, an influential dog groomer might agree to repost your volunteer-related content, stating that any customers who lend their support will receive a discount on their grooming services. In turn, you can tap into their large and engaged audience.
5. Reach out to Existing Supporters
Supporters who are already familiar with your work and have demonstrated a vested interest in your cause are likely to be your biggest advocates throughout the recruitment process. Here are some tips for leveraging your existing network of donors, volunteers, and board members:
- Encourage peer-to-peer advocacy. People are often more receptive to volunteer opportunities when they hear about them from someone they know and trust. Provide your supporters with resources like informational brochures, social media graphics, or referral cards that they can easily share with friends, family, and colleagues.
- Collect feedback about their experiences. Reach out to current volunteers and gather feedback about their experiences with your nonprofit, making it clear that you will use their responses in your recruitment efforts. This firsthand testimony can be a powerful way to attract new volunteers.
- Host volunteer appreciation events. Fundraising Letters recommends organizing volunteer appreciation events and encouraging attendees to bring friends or acquaintances who might also be interested in volunteering. Set up informational booths where prospective volunteers can learn more about your cause and explore upcoming opportunities.
During this stage, you should also ask supporters if they would be interested in deepening their involvement. Even if they aren’t able to recruit another volunteer on your behalf, they might agree to dedicate more time to your nonprofit.
After recruiting volunteers, make their experience with your organization meaningful by providing proper training, sharing the tangible outcomes of their work, and showing appreciation for their contributions. Together, you can create a brighter future for animals and inspire others to join your noble cause.
Hi, I'm Casey! I'm the Sales Manager at Gingr software. Originally from Indianapolis, I now live in Colorado with my wife and dog, Dexter. Our hobbies include hiking, skiing, and visiting local breweries.