Learn the best tips and advice on boosting volunteer recruitment. Above: YMCA of Metro Fort Worth celebrates the ribbon cutting of a new branch.
In the never-ending mission of finding volunteers to assist in daily community rec operations, JCC of Staten Island recently found success with a new idea.
David Lutzker, the volunteer coordinator, said since the pandemic, the organization had the opportunity to reevaluate how they bring in volunteers, which then led to the creation of his position.
“In an agency as large as ours is, the volunteer coordinator is able to look at the big picture and see where the needs are for volunteers across the different areas we serve,” said Lutzker. “This has been helpful in creating continuous, meaningful opportunities that keep our volunteers engaged over time.”
Creating new initiatives to improve altruism locally can also be found at the YMCA of Metropolitan Fort Worth. Teri McGuill, the chief philanthropy officer, said they implemented a new strategy in 2022 to source and recruit volunteer leadership roles for their board of directors and community advisory boards.
“Typically, a board development committee or current members reach out to their networks to recruit and sell the volunteer opportunity,” said McGuill. “This year, we turned that process on its head by creating a volunteer interest form for these roles and leveraging social media to push it out to the broader community.”
McGuill said the idea was wildly successful both in the quality of potential volunteers as well as the volume of those interested. She said they recruited more than 50 volunteers, and in a typical year following the traditional process, they only reach half of that number.
“When we broke tradition, it allowed us to reach a larger number of individual people who had a passion for the organization and a personal connection to it,” said McGuill. “It became less about selling the volunteer opportunity and became more about passion for the Y’s purpose. Plus, this provided an opportunity to recruit for multiple volunteer layers at once because if someone wasn’t the right fit for one role, we could offer them another opportunity to grow their experience for future volunteer roles.”
For Lutzker, one point of emphasis is to showcase when the JCC of Staten Island needs volunteers. He said anyone on staff can be a recruiter or marketer to enhance connections in the community.
“A great example of this is our career connections department, which helps Staten Islanders advance their careers,” said Lutzker. “Through this program, we’ve made connections with local businesses who are also looking to do some good in the community. Our career services coordinator has invited them to check out some of our other areas of service, like our food pantry, and they’ve sent us teams of hardworking volunteers who want to give back.”
At the YMCA of Metro Fort Worth, McGuill said in addition to leveraging interest forms on social channels, they also rely on their website and feature videos to showcase the faces that exist behind the volunteer opportunities.
“When someone sees themselves in a volunteer and we are able to expand the perception of what volunteering entails, it allows us to be more effective,” said McGuill. “In addition to using digital applications and interest forms, we also offer volunteer videos to showcase peer involvement.”
To streamline background checks and other trainings, McGuill said they use the software platform VolunteerMatters.
“Our use of VolunteerMatters provides a simplified background check process and a centralized location for volunteers to find and complete targeted trainings for their volunteer role,” said McGuill. “We are enhancing the breadth of our online platform to move beyond onboarding, to implement full project profiles for volunteers to search. As they complete one volunteer role, they can immediately find a new opportunity to get involved.”
Lutzker said the JCC of Staten Island uses a similar platform called VolunteerMatch to connect with people in the community who are looking for service opportunities. Also, the JCC is concentrating on local high schools and colleges to find students interested in volunteering, whether they need community service credits or are looking to gain experience.
But even if these recruiting strategies are successful, both the JCC of Staten Island and the YMCA of Metro Fort Worth must find ways to appreciate volunteers to keep retainment high.
Lutzker said the JCC shows appreciation through initiatives like awarding a “Volunteer of the Month” and having special luncheons recognizing altruism. They welcome feedback from volunteers that helps the JCC improve programs and bring in fresh ideas but also allows them to feel like they have a more active role.
The YMCA of Metro Fort Worth similarly hands out formal recognition awards to volunteers at both a community and association level. “Our role as volunteer-driven organizations is to be cognizant of the time and commitment of volunteers and be present for that time,” said McGuill. “One way to engage them to be successful is setting and reaching goals, even for our long-term volunteers.”
McGuill stressed while most volunteerism isn’t overly difficult, it must be intentional. Boosting volunteer recruitment needs to reflect that purpose.
“If someone has a good or bad experience in one area of volunteerism, this impacts their willingness to continue to volunteer in the community at large,” said McGuill. “This concept is something emphasized in our 2025 vision — to strengthen our community. We know we have a commitment to every volunteer-based organization to create a positive, worthwhile experience to encourage continued volunteerism whether it’s with the Y or somewhere else.”