Before “speed dating” volunteers, nonprofits must plan

Various nonprofit organizations looked to
Date Published
11/27/2013

Volunteerism is a characteristic that many nonprofit organizations foster as a byproduct of their mission. Philanthropic groups thrive on the selflessness of individuals interested in helping others without necessarily receiving financial compensation. This helps nonprofit enterprises reduce expenses associated with staff. However, one question that plagues many organizations is knowing how to recruit volunteers.

Speeding up volunteer recruitment
One trend in this crucial area of nonprofit management is in finding ways to make the process faster. Earlier this year, 14 nonprofit agencies gathered in Grand Rapids, Mich., to talk with recent graduates of the Leadership Grand Rapids program. The only catch is these individuals were able to chat with executives representing the various nonprofit groups for five minutes before a bell rang and they were forced to move on to a different table, MLive reported. Kim McLaughlin, director of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce’s Center for Community Leadership, told the newspaper all of the nonprofit groups were looking for volunteer board members and the graduates were looking for an opportunity to serve a cause that aligned with their passions.

Before the “speed dating”-style introductory sessions with the nonprofit groups, all participants went through an informational seminar to get a better idea of what it means to be a board member, said Matthew Downey of the Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University. More recently, 15 nonprofit groups convened in San Francisco for a similar “speed matching” process for meeting volunteers, the Sacramento Fox News affiliate FOX40 reported. In the rapid meet-and-greet gathering, the 40 participants were given three minutes to get an idea of the volunteer opportunities each nonprofit group offered. 

One prospective volunteer explained to the news outlet the meetings were informative even though the participants didn’t have much time to talk. Instead, the nonprofit groups did the majority of the talking, which gave interested individuals an opportunity to take notes. Others found the rapid-fire sessions to be beneficial because they were able to physically talk to a representative from the nonprofit, instead of depending on a website for finding information. Meghan Kane with the American River Parkway Foundation told FOX40 many of these nonprofit organizations couldn’t operate if they didn’t have volunteers willing to give their time and effort.

Planning is essential
While this style of finding volunteers can be mutually helpful for volunteers and nonprofits, organizations need to have a plan before they consider recruitment. According to Third Sector New England, an enterprise dedicated to providing information and support for nonprofit groups, charitable organizations should first identify why it needs volunteers. If an organization can’t clearly define a role, everyone will likely be wasting their time.

Accordingly, every member involved in the fundraising campaign should have input on what specific goals they have and how volunteers can help them meet them. Otherwise, organizations have options with specific regard to technology. Volunteer management software allows organizations to quickly identify individuals who would be ideal candidates based on preference, availability and volunteer history.

While “speed dating” sessions are a good way for nonprofit groups to reach out to prospective volunteers, there needs to be sufficient planning ahead of time to make sure candidates will be a great fit.

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