Five ingredients of a great volunteer opportunity posting!

Five ingredients of a great volunteer opportunity posting!

Here at Activate Good we work with some amazing nonprofits, schools, and other partners in our community! Through these partnerships we’ve seen thousands of volunteer opportunities come through our virtual doors. Occasionally, a nonprofit will ask what they can do to make their volunteer opportunity posting more attractive to potential volunteers. In this post, we’ll explore that question and share what we’ve learned!

Ingredients of a great volunteer opportunity posting

Through our work, we’ve noticed some common threads in the volunteer postings that most successfully recruit volunteers and ensure a happy volunteer experience. Here are five things, in particular, that nonprofit and community partners can do to make a volunteer opportunity posting successful:

1. Give it an engaging title

Your volunteer opportunity’s title should be succinct and informative, with an emphasis on informative. Titles are the best way to make a great first impression, and are often the only information about your opportunity that folks will see before they decide whether to click on a link to learn more. Your goal: Get folks to click that link! Opportunity titles like “event volunteers” or “warehouse help” may be short, but don’t clearly allude to what a volunteer can expect when they give their time, which can cause a great volunteer to shy away. Great volunteer opportunity titles include an element of what activity the volunteers will be doing and why. If you can include where or when it will be happening, too, and still keep it relatively short, even better!

Here’s an example:

Package meals to fight hunger this Saturday in Raleigh!

Broken down, we see the different elements of a succinct but informative title strung together:

  • Action (What the volunteer will be doing): Package meals
  • Purpose (What is the cause being served / a hint of what impact will be made?): to fight hunger
  • Some helpful logistics to draw people in: this Saturday in Raleigh!

This sample title is sufficiently descriptive while remaining clear and short. A volunteer in Raleigh with some free time this Saturday will surely be enticed to learn more and sign up!

2. Put the details front and center

Don’t skimp on the logistics details. Volunteers make decisions about what opportunities to sign up for based on a number of factors, but those factors include then when, where, and how. They want to know how far they’ll have to drive to get to you, whether they can bring their children (or will have to make separate arrangements for them), what to wear, whether free and ample parking is available, and more. Few things are more frustrating to a volunteer than trying to navigate a messy or confusing parking situation! While some of these details can (and should) also be included in communications to volunteers after they’ve signed up, including them up front will cut down on confusion, frustration, and questions in between.

3. Don’t bury the requirements or restrictions

Put the volunteer time commitment, required skills, or any foreseen challenges (like a volunteer activity being strenuous) up front and in clear terms. Here’s what we know: Volunteers are more likely to sign up when they know what to expect from a volunteer opportunity. It might seem counter-intuitive or risky to put forth the difficult aspects of a volunteer activity in your volunteer description, but doing so cuts down on frustration on the part of the volunteer, and saves a volunteer manager time. Though some of those requirements or restrictions will cause some folks to opt not to sign up, we’ve observed that it’s better to recruit folks who know what they are getting into than to surprise folks who won’t want to stick around after you explain the task or commitment! Even if a volunteer commitment will be a long one or involve a difficult or strenuous activity, if you’re up front and clear about these details in the beginning, you’ll weed out those volunteers who won’t genuinely be interested because those who do sign up will do so knowing exactly what they’re getting themselves into — which makes for happier volunteer experiences, too!

4. Highlight the impacts

Don’t forget one of the most important parts of an amazing volunteer description – the impacts! Volunteers are seeking out opportunities where they can see, before they even sign up, that they can make the biggest, deepest impact possible in the time they have. What good can an eager volunteer expect to accomplish for your cause throughout their time with you? How does a volunteer’s time translate to tangible, compelling impacts with your organization? Consider these outputs and outcomes, and don’t be shy; share them with the world through your volunteer opportunity postings!

Some of our local nonprofit partners excel at this. Here are just a few inspiring examples:

  • In one hour at the Diaper Bank, a single volunteer can wrap 2,500 diapers for 50 babies in our community who’s families would otherwise not have enough diapers to keep their babies clean, dry, and healthy.
  • In one hour at the Food Bank, a single volunteer can sort or package food to provide 130 meals for folks in our local community. 
  • In just two hours per week over the course of nine months at StepUp Ministry, a volunteer can provide the support needed to ensure a family in need gains the financial literacy and other life skills needed to sustain a future out of poverty.  

We understand that not all volunteer opportunities take place in a few hours or can be measured in such concrete terms. After all, how do you measure making someone feel less alone or track the value of a friendship? That’s okay — share the stories and impacts you can, and the volunteers will follow.

5. Communicate early and often

Once you’ve got an enticing, exciting volunteer opportunity posting up, being seen and loved by the volunteer masses, the best way to ensure volunteers who sign up follow through with the same enthusiasm is by responding promptly to their interest. At Activate Good, we ask nonprofit partners to reply to an interested volunteer within 48 hours of their sign up. If your organization experiences too much volume for a two day turn-around to be realistic, or if your volunteer management team is out of the office, don’t hesitate to share that with volunteers right in the description itself! That way, they’ll better understand your position and why they aren’t getting a quick response.  We’ve also seen how far a follow up email can go! Typically, sending one just about a week before the start of the scheduled volunteer shift can help to make sure that your new volunteer is still ready to work with you. Finally, we recommend one last email 1-2 days before the volunteer shift or event, reiterating all of the nitty gritty details (parking, what to wear, etc.). Volunteers want to connect and hear from the human beings behind the amazing missions they’re passionate about.

Once you’ve recruited a gaggle of enthusiastic do-gooders…

Follow through and say thank you. Execute the volunteer activity as closely to how you described it in the initial volunteer opportunity description as possible. Volunteers understand sometimes things out of your control change, but if an activity is vastly different from what you originally described, disappointment may follow. If you know something big will change before the activity starts, tell your volunteers about it! They’ll admire and respect that you were transparent about the change, and most often, they’ll perform the altered work with equal gusto. Don’t forget one of the most critical components to ensuring your volunteer’s return: Say thank you. A thank you doesn’t have to be elaborate or fancy (though if you have the time and resources, go nuts! Appreciation pays off!); a quick, verbal thanks at the end of an activity can go a long way.