Jessica Gomez can be found bustling around a prominent Orlando church every Sunday morning as she assists a group of 150 volunteers who work with the children’s ministry. With a group of volunteers so large, a lot of work must take place behind the scenes to organize the volunteers on a weekly basis. As the Children’s Ministry Administrator, recruiting enough volunteers is one of those tasks.
I sat down with Jessica to speak with her about what difficulties she has in the recruiting process and what she has done with her team to overcome them.
Casey: What do your volunteers do?
Jessica: Many of our volunteers work directly with the children in the nursery and in the classrooms. We also have volunteers who do technical support, assist new families, lead worship music, act on stage, and do administrative tasks, such as preparation of materials. Since we want these volunteers to build relationships with the kids and their families, we ask them to volunteer every week throughout the school year.
Casey: Is it difficult to recruit volunteers and why?
Jessica: The difficulty is in making sure the volunteer makes it all the way through the process of applying, observing, getting trained, and getting on a regular schedule. This challenge carries over to when you are caring for and trying to keep volunteers, which I think is much more important than recruiting.
Additionally, people don’t always know what opportunities exist. They may also think they don’t have the particular skill set that is needed, or that they are not able to commit to the responsibility because they are already busy. Another thing is that people are burnt out from volunteering in the past or from life in general.
Casey: What works when recruiting volunteers?
Jessica: Twice a year we have what is known as a “vision cast” where we let people know why they should serve and why a particular role is important. We share stories about things that are working and how lives are being changed because people are volunteering.
In addition to doing our vision cast, we actively use social media, such as an active Facebook page and frequent Twitter updates, regularly update our blog, and recruit via a grassroots method by our current volunteers. Our congregation also has a church-wide event quarterly where people can learn about all of our volunteer opportunities and get plugged in based on their personality types and abilities.
Something else we really value is plugging people in to where they are geared first instead of just putting people in places just because we need someone there. We give people the option of trying things out before they commit to volunteering on a regular basis, and we give them opportunities to try out different places until they find the right fit.
Casey: What does not work when recruiting volunteers?
Jennifer: A big pitfall for recruitment is the follow-up process. It you don’t keep good records or maintain good communication with the potential volunteers to make sure they get plugged in, they fall through the cracks. Most people would take that as a sign that you are no longer interested in them volunteering, and probably would not contact you to make sure they are on track to getting started. This is particularly important to us because we want long-term invested volunteers to be dedicated to the children.
Casey: What have you done to overcome these difficulties?
Jennifer: We are constantly learning from previous mistakes and creating new systems and procedures as needed. We aren’t afraid to try new things, and we try to keep up with what is current in social media and technology so our recruitment efforts are meeting people where they are spending their time.
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.