7 Best Practices for Hiring Volunteers During the Holidays

7 Best Practices for Hiring Volunteers During the Holidays

From Valeria Alex

Identify and retain the best talent to round out your team with these seven best practices for hiring volunteers during the holidays.

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Volunteers are the lifeblood of many organizations, including nonprofits and religious groups. These volunteers help make the holidays brighter for people in their communities by donating their time and energy to serve others.

For example, a volunteer might lead a group of children in making ornaments to give to seniors at a retirement home or deliver food to families struggling during the holidays.

The holidays are a busy time of year for nonprofits, with studies showing about 30% of all donations come during December alone.

So finding enough volunteers to fill your organization's needs during this time can be challenging — especially when everyone is busy with their own family obligations and holiday preparations.

In this post, we'll share seven best practices for hiring volunteers during the busy holiday season.

Let's dive in.

1. Understand the roles you are looking to fill 

Hiring volunteers during the holidays is a great way to give back and get help from people looking to donate their time during the season of giving.

But before you start the hiring process, you need to take a step back and map out all the different roles you are looking to fill.

For example, suppose you're hiring volunteers for an event, like a holiday party or fundraiser. In that case, you might need volunteers to serve as greeters and hosts — these people will welcome attendees and ensure they have everything they need.

Or you could also be looking for volunteers to help set up tables or chairs before guests arrive and even serve cocktails and appetizers during the event.

Don't forget about volunteers for back office roles and administrative tasks, such as filing paperwork or making copies.

There are no shortages of volunteer positions to fill when throwing a big fundraiser, even during the holiday. The key to success is to measure twice and cut once by carefully mapping out all the roles that need extra sets of hands.

2. Prepare a description for each volunteer position

Once you have created a list of roles you want to fill this winter, it's time to write a helpful description for each volunteer role.

A well-crafted description will help your volunteers understand what they're signing up for and ensure they're a good fit for the position. Most people are searching for volunteer positions that align with their current skill sets (something they'll feel comfortable doing) or for opportunities to learn new skills.

In fact, offering opportunities for personal and professional development is an excellent way to encourage volunteers to apply to your open positions this holiday season.

In a recent survey, 16% of workers considered further education opportunities to improve their career trajectory. So, allowing volunteers to combine volunteering with upskilling is a recipe for success.

You should also include any requirements for the volunteer's background or experience level necessary for the position. Also, don't forget to mention if you will provide training for the job.

If you are looking for inspiration on what to include in your volunteer listing, follow the lead of the Aloha Task Force. They specify that the volunteer must be 18 years old with a driver's license, but training will be provided.

Let's take a look at another example. Let's say you are looking for someone to help set up a runway for a holiday fundraiser fashion show — the person applying for the volunteer position should be able to help lift heavy objects.

While it might seem like common sense that everyone applying for this volunteer position would feel comfortable with this task, making it explicit saves time on both ends by making sure that only those who meet these requirements are applying, which can help speed up the hiring process.

3. Create a volunteer application form

A volunteer application form is a must-have for any organization looking to bring on new volunteers. It gives candidates an easy way to apply and provides a screening tool for prospective volunteers.

To create an excellent volunteer application form, consider what information you'll need from your applicants. This information may include:

  • Their name and contact details

  • Their skills and qualifications (if relevant)

  • A description of the role they're applying for (e.g., "bus driver," "event host," etc.)

  • An explanation of why they want to volunteer

Here's an example of a volunteer application for Navian Hawaii that's short and to the point.

In addition to these essential pieces of information, ensure that your application process includes an opening paragraph that clearly states the benefits of volunteering with your organization.

For example: "We offer great training programs" or "You will get valuable work experience. And don't forget to include a mission statement for your organization to encourage people to get involved.

Lastly, with more than 50% of internet traffic stemming from mobile devices, make sure your volunteer application is mobile-friendly so people can apply on the go.

The last thing you want is to miss out on capturing half of the candidate pool because your smartphone application doesn't load well.

4. Offer the opportunity to serve at multiple times and dates

The holidays are a busy time of year for everyone.

When you offer volunteer opportunities during the holidays, it's important to provide candidates with multiple times and dates to accommodate everyone interested in serving.

Volunteers might have other commitments on certain days or be unable to work the same shifts as their friends or co-workers.

Offering flexible schedules will encourage more people to apply to your positions, and you can better serve those who want to help.

Also, offering online volunteer work is another excellent way to accommodate people's schedules during a busy time of year.

5. Tap into different volunteer pools

Don't rely on one stream of volunteers to fill your open positions.

There are many ways to find people who can support you in your hiring effort. Here are some places that can help: 

Students make good volunteers during the holidays as they are usually looking to gain some experience and are off from school — especially colleges that run a trimester program like the University of Denver or Union College.

To sweeten the deal, you can also offer to pay them a small stipend into their student bank accounts to cover transportation and other minor costs like meals.

Many businesses look for opportunities to help the communities where they operate.

Start by reaching out to a company's community relations, community affairs, or corporate giving department.

Corporate volunteering is popular because it satisfies the organization's needs while benefiting the community.

For instance, Goldman Sachs has a "Community TeamWorks" program that encourages employees to contribute their time and expertise to make a meaningful difference in their local communities.

Also, employees are more than willing to help out because they typically get a day off work in exchange for their volunteer efforts.

Consider reaching out to various clubs (social or professional), fraternities and sororities, and other community groups.

All of these organizations tend to prioritize volunteering with a significant focus on philanthropy. For instance, the Gamma Phi Beta sorority is focused on building strong girls in society.

This sorority might feed you a robust list of volunteer candidates if you are looking for volunteers to help collect and deliver Christmas gifts to underprivileged girls.

6. Use the power of social media

Show people the benefits of giving back this holiday season by creating brochures or social media posts.

Social media is all about building relationships and engaging customers, two things essential to any nonprofit organization. Through the proper use of social media, you'll be able to create a following around your mission and expand your reach to new audiences.

Start by using eye-catching design templates and personalizing them to create high-quality content to increase engagement with potential volunteers.

Take Hungry Souls, for example. They use a poster design template to capture the attention of people who are looking to volunteer and fill stockings for students.

How can you say no to the cute, cuddly faces of the winter animals tucked into red stockings? And, of course, helping children in need.

Remember to use hashtags on Twitter and Instagram to help people find what they're looking for when searching for volunteer events.

7. Communicate expectations well in advance

Volunteers often seek out your nonprofit based on your mission statement, a passion for your cause, and an interest in your work. They all have different ideas and expectations about volunteer roles.

It's important to communicate early and often about the expectations of your specific roles to help keep your volunteers happy and on track.

Leaders of nonprofits need to make sure volunteers understand their work, how it fits into the organization's mission, and what they need to do to succeed.

During onboarding, balance volunteers' expectations with your organization's goals and program expectations.

If everything is balanced, it sets the tone for a positive experience. Your volunteers should feel like their questions are answered, and their needs are met, increasing the chances that they'll continue working for your nonprofit — even after the holidays end.

Wrapping up

Hiring volunteers takes time, effort, and patience.

But now that you know how to find exemplary volunteers for your nonprofit with these seven simple tips, you have a clearer idea of making this critical aspect of your organization's life easier.

If you have a good way to recruit, screen, and train volunteers, you'll find great people who can help out during the holidays and stick around for years to come.

About The Author

Sarang is a passionate Content marketer and Account Manager at uSERP. He loves creating content and runs a blog on filmmaking and advertising.

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