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Find Your Ideal Volunteer

The more life experience, the better the fit

How do you find an excellent volunteer—someone who’s experienced, eager to spend time and passionate about your cause?

Try these expert strategies gleaned from leaders in the volunteer field: Map out your needs and goals, budget time and resources to find volunteers, and target your search and promotions to those over 50.

The upfront effort may sound like a tall order, but a small investment now can bring big returns later, in terms of time saved. What’s more, when you focus your search on those with more life experience, you’ll be rewarded with a volunteer force full of dedication, skill and care.

Determine your ideal candidate

Volunteer leaders often try to change the volunteer role to fit the person who shows up for it. But advance planning and targeting gives the control back to your group or organization. First, determine the key requirements and expectations of the position—just as you would for a paying job. Ask questions such as:

  • What is the purpose of this position?
  • What level of time commitment do you seek?
  • What are the role’s specific duties and responsibilities?
  • Which skills and experiences are “must haves” in a volunteer?
  • How long are looking to fill this role for?
  • How will you evaluate who fits best?

Determining these answers now will help provide the basics for discussion with your candidates later—and will result in the volunteer best-suited for the role.

The 50+ advantage: Volunteers at this stage know their own minds, strengths and capacities. And because they’ve experienced more, they may be more game to try something new and different.

Bring something to the table

A good volunteer match is sure to benefit you and your cause—but it should also benefit the volunteer. Some people are looking for a feeling of belonging, of being part of a team. Others seek esteem—to feel good about themselves and have others feel good about them too. Most want to feel like they're contributing to the greater good. (And some just want the t-shirt!)

It’s important to recognize what your volunteering position can offer, and how it will do so. Consider this, and then make sure the motivation is clear when you spread the news about your volunteer opening.

The 50+ advantage: By this age, people tend to be more self-motivated rather than in search of rewards and perks. In fact, a good perk for them can mean the chance to mentor and motivate younger and less-experienced people.

Promote the role accurately—and attractively

You aren’t just throwing out a call for volunteers; you’re issuing a recruitment message, a big “help wanted” ad. You need to sell the position.

Paint a clear, concise and positive picture for your ideal volunteer of what’s in it for them. Will it help them connect and build relationships with others? Will it give them the opportunity to achieve results or a personal best? Or will they gain influence and shape opinion?

Try these additional tips as you write your message:

  • Give specific examples or explain a few representative tasks that will be involved.
  • Try starting with a punchy phrase, bold statement or question to get your readers wanting to hear more.
  • Avoid abbreviations readers might not recognize.
  • Be clear about time commitments, distance or driving requirements, and physical abilities if needed.

The 50+ advantage: If you present a clear picture, then these potential candidates have the self-knowledge to know right away whether they’re interested—and you’ll get contacted only by those who are truly motivated.

Consider your markets

Circulate your message or advertisement in a place where your perfect candidate will see it. Consider diverse sources that reflect every neighborhood, income level, community center and ethnic group in your community. Try varied mediums such as posters, brochures, news releases, mailings, exhibits and, most effective, personal contact.

The 50+ advantage: Use online and social media to get the word out—according to Pew research, the number of older adults using social media leaps each year, going up by almost 10 percentage points from 2012 to 2013 alone for those ages 50-64.

Use our resources!

These strategies don’t have to drain your organization’s resources. Find volunteers for your next project by posting your event or opening on Create the Good. It’s free and easy to use, and you can post opportunities big or small.

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The recruiting role is critical

As someone in charge of finding volunteers for your cause, your organization’s success depends on you. Whether you’re recruiting hands for an event or a long-term position, the outcome relies on your ability to attract talented, qualified volunteers who will bring diverse experiences to the table.