Five Free Recruitment Tactics

recruitment tactics

For years, social media has been one of the go-to volunteer recruitment tactics for organisations. But it’s not as effective as it once was.

On April 21st, I helped host our third annual Kamloops Volunteer Fair. It was a great success, as it has been the previous two years. One participant, though, recommended that we post about the Fair on social media to get even more exposure. Great idea, but with one flaw.

WE DID!! All over social media! Our personal networks, our professional networks, local event boards, Facebook groups; you name it, we posted there. Yet many of our participants, and probably most of the general community, didn’t see many or even any of those posts.

Algorithms got in the way.

That’s happening more and more often. Even a couple of years ago, posting volunteer opportunities on social media was a free and very effective way to recruit. It’s still free. Not quite so effective. As social media feeds only show you posts that are similar to ones that you’ve interacted with in the past, it is now next to impossible to get in front of a new audience that way.

So, what free recruitment tactics still work?

There are few options. Probably none of them are good enough just by themselves, and a few of them take a bit of time and creativity, but all of them can move the needle on your recruitment. Here are five of my favourites, with a couple of pros and cons for each.

1.  Post on bulletin boards.

Sometimes old school works. That’s why so many coffee shops, university buildings, gas stations, malls, golf courses, etc. still have them. Make the poster colourful, and include a QR code that takes them directly to your application form or role description.

The pros: it will be seen by many different types of people, and you can target the places where your ideal volunteer hangs out.

The cons: it’s a hassle to go around to put them up, and your poster will be “competing” with other posters.

2.  Write articles for local papers or magazines.

I’ve seen this done very successfully. Start by getting approval for a monthly article in a local paper or magazine. Tell stories about your organisation, and put a plug at the end for a volunteer opportunity you are trying to fill.

The pros: people feel an emotional connection to people and organisations that they hear about regularly, and when people see the difference you are making they will want to get involved.

The cons: it may be difficult to find a publication that will take a regular article (though not as hard as you might think!), and you have to have someone with reasonably good writing skills.

3.  Approach local businesses regarding their social responsibility initiatives.

Corporate volunteering is a thing. And it’s growing dramatically as companies see the benefits to themselves as well as the community. There are a few different ways that companies support organisations. A few pay their employee for a certain amount of their volunteering time. Some give a matching donation to the organisation for the hours their employees volunteer (sometimes called dollars for doers). They may work with an organisation to bring in a number of employees for a day to do a project.

The pros: if you build a good relationship with them they will keep sending volunteers, and you can often get donations as well as volunteers.

The cons: some companies want you to set up projects especially for them that may not match your mission, and it can be challenging to get police checks done if there are many different corporate volunteers coming in.

4.  Post on online volunteer platforms.

Take advantage of your local volunteer centre or national or international platforms that allow you to post volunteer opportunities. In Canada, the biggest one is Charity Village. Go local if you need in person volunteers; go bigger if the role can be done remotely.

The pros: they have a wide network of people actively looking for volunteer opportunities, and if the role can be done remotely you can access a huge pool of potential volunteers.

The cons: this isn’t useful for raising awareness of your organisation, and you will only be seen by people who already know they want to volunteer – you can’t convert new people into volunteers.

5.  Use the magic of word of mouth.

And it really is magic! Of all possible recruitment tactics, none is better than having your current volunteers out there spreading the word about how much fun they have and what a difference they’re making. They are amazing ambassadors!

The pros: people will be hearing about opportunities from someone who can answer all their questions and who is passionate about what you do, and your current volunteers will be thrilled to do it!

The cons: you have to ask them; they may not think of it themselves. There are no other downsides to this one!

So those are my five favourite free recruitment tactics.

There are others, of course, and there are some that, while not free, may have only a minimal cost. Tables at community events or volunteer fairs, for example. My suggestion is to pick a few different ideas from this list and find out which ones work for you. And don’t completely discount social media; it does still work to some extent. And if you have any favourite recruitment of your own, please share them!


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