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Adjectives That Turn Off Prospective Volunteers

Everywhere you see Volunteer Recruitment Ads that begin with “Energetic Volunteer Wanted.” Or “Caring volunteer.” Or even “Friendly volunteer.” Maybe “Enthusiastic,” “Flexible,” or “Compassionate” appears. But does “Detail Oriented” float your boat? Does “Organized volunteer” send you running in to help sort an organization out of their accounting mess?

The point is, how can a volunteer be enthusiastic about a role they have not yet undertaken? And what does flexible indicate? That a volunteer will be called at 3 am? Or that they have to drive 50 miles just to participate?

What about caring? How much can a volunteer already care about people they have not met?

What does energetic mean anyway? That a volunteer will have to run back and forth at an event, carrying 30 pound boxes of give-aways?

The World War II generation responded to these adjectives. They were after all, people who believed in humble service and assumed that they had to fit in with an organization, not vice versa. Today’s volunteers view things differently and our recruitment ads need to reflect a more updated approach.

In place of asking for vague qualifications, our volunteer recruitment ads need to spell out who we are and what the volunteer will gain by giving us their precious time. What impact will their donated time have on the mission? What personal benefit will they gain by joining the cause? Why should they bother with us at all?

Our volunteer ads are potentially our most potent recruitment tool. They are passive recruitment which means they are working when we are out talking to potential volunteer groups, while we are training new volunteers and even while we are sleeping. Recruitment ads are a way to encapsulate all the positive aspects of volunteering for our organizations and they have only a moment to speak to volunteers who are scrolling for something that sparks their interest.

Try to look at it from the prospective volunteer’s point of view. Imagine this volunteer late at night, looking at volunteer ads, wondering what they can do to make a difference. They know nothing about your organization. If you had 10 seconds, what would you tell them to make them respond?

Recruitment ads are elevator pitches and most of us write them aimed at what kind of volunteer we are looking for instead of aiming at what the volunteer is looking for from us. I know because I didn’t give ads much thought at the beginning either. Then I started to ask prospective volunteers how they heard about the organization and what made them take that first step. I found that recruitment ads needed to go way beyond a description of the job. They needed to have appeal.

By flipping our ads to reflect what we offer, we will entice volunteers to contact us. Positives to include in ads:

  • Quotes from actual volunteers: Example: “I am made to feel that my contributions are important.”
  • Flexibility of assignments: Ex: Volunteer when your schedule allows.
  • Any trial periods or the message that you don’t judge people who don’t find a suitable fit: Ex: “Give us a try to see if we’re worthy.
  • Statistical impact: Ex: Our volunteers helped 750 people find housing last year.
  • Quotes from clients: Ex: “My volunteer helped me to…”
  • Humor or lighthearted messages or it’s not all doom and gloom: Ex: Do you get all giddy over other people’s junk?
  • Humanizing messages or we’re also new to this and we welcome you: Ex: We would love your help in creating new programs to…
  • Craft a tagline: (I love taglines…just saying) Ex: Where passion meets purpose.
come in we re awesome sign

Photo by Artem Bali on Pexels.com

Volunteer recruitment ads are like having a personal robot assistant helping you. It never sleeps. It never stops. Program it wisely and it will work tirelessly. But a robot needs a tune-up once in a while just as our recruitment ads need updating so check yours to see if they sound fresh.

For more really great tips on volunteer recruitment, see this post by Eileen at Volunteering Counts: A Volunteer’s eye view of recruitment.

Today’s volunteers respond to modern recruitment ads. They need to be shown the reasons why they want to volunteer. So, if your volunteer wanted ad says, “Flexible, energetic and obedient volunteers needed to support our work. One year commitment required or you need not apply. Background check a must! Copy this number to your flip phone and download our application to your floppy disc,”……..

…you might want to rewrite that one.