With the launch of LinkedIn’s “Volunteer Experience & Causes” section, volunteering became an even more relevant aspect of the professional world. Below, a veteran community organizer shares her experiences and tips for engaging job seekers as volunteers.
Guest post by Nicole Yelich
During my early career as a community organizer, I spent hours upon hours thinking of ways to recruit, train and manage volunteers – and just as many hours trying to keep the best volunteers happy and engaged.
I hosted volunteer drives with tiered prizes for hours worked or dollars raised, raffled off iPods, and ordered dinner from our volunteers’ favorite restaurants. Once I even brought out a Brazilian dance troupe to put on an energetic performance to get everyone’s blood pumping before sending them out to knock on doors!
Inspiring volunteers to join you because they’re committed to your cause is one thing; getting them to come back is another. Volunteers feel great because they are giving back to the community, but pitching volunteer opportunities as resume builders should be a key part of your recruiting strategy.
New graduates and folks who are job searching – or only working part-time – have the most time and energy to dedicate to helping you. And their help is invaluable. Job fairs are a great place to find folks who want to get out and do more. Of course the first priority of the attendees is networking with the recruiters, but my staff and I met and recruited wonderful people who joined our team on a volunteer basis as a result of our outreach efforts at these events.
Job seekers are consumed with the daily tasks of sifting through posts, drafting cover letters and revising resumes. Giving these folks substantive, important work to do is a great way to keep them engaged and feeling positive – it makes them feel like they are truly contributing to your organization’s mission and gives them ownership over the project at hand. You can return the favor by opening doors for them to network with new people and develop new skills that will help them take their career to the next level.
Throughout the years, I had several stand out volunteers ask me for a professional reference after working with me for an extended period of time. Over the course of their time with me, we came up with official titles and a list of the contributions they made to the organization – employers viewed their experience as a valuable addition to their professional development. And I like to think my glowing recommendation helped them land those really great jobs!
Shari led Online Marketing and Communications at VolunteerMatch from 2010-2015. After working with nonprofits for 9 years, she moved over to the corporate sector and is now leading Inbound Marketing for a tech company in San Francisco.