One of the complaints I hear often from nonprofits is that their volunteers are aging faster than the organization. One gentleman involved in a performing arts group told me that the average age of their audience was “deceased.” A children’s arts group told me that their board all had young children when they joined the board and now those same children are in college and the board no longer relates to today’s children’s trends.
It seems to be an ongoing challenge for nonprofits to keep their supply of volunteers at the ready and to keep a youthful energy in the organization to attract a younger demographic. The problem is that these organizations, and others like them, haven’t recruited volunteers since their organization was founded. They found a committed group then and managed to keep them involved without ever adding new people.
When I worked retail during college, I had a manager who used to say, “We’re always hiring!” She would pass out applications even when we had a full roster of employees. She explained to me that she always wanted the best salespeople on the floor. Even if her employees today were hitting record sales, there might be an even better salesperson out there. And where would her good salespeople be next year? They might move away for college, get full-time jobs someplace else, or even move into management and get transferred to a different store.
That’s the same philosophy that nonprofit organizations have to take with volunteer recruitment. Have a mindset and a plan in place to always hire.
One great way to keep your pool of volunteers steady and vibrant is by creating a young professionals group. Recruit those in their twenties and thirties who are just beginning to embark on their careers. They need information on their résumés, they need varied experience, and most of them have free time to spend on your cause.
Recruit them with an opportunity to meet other people. Keep them engaged by giving them meaningful things to do that use their strengths. Stay connected to them through social media. In other words, invite them to a happy hour and make it fun—food, drinks, door prizes and logo merchandise. Give them choices of things to do for instance, put them in charge of one element of your fundraiser or let them design their own way to raise funds for the cause. Allow them to give their group a name and set-up a fan page on Facebook to attract more of their friends and to spread the mission of your organization.
Eventually, your young professionals will lead committees of their own and turn into board members helping to recruit new members into your thriving young professionals group. Always hire!