Revised with new information July 28,
(or any high-responsibility volunteers
that will work with clients)
Recruitment is a
That's a phrase I heard while preparing for an online presentation for the National
Collaborative Mentoring Webinar Series, coordinated by The
Mentoring Partnership of Southwest Pennsylvania. It was said after we
had talked about the challenges to recruiting mentors for youth, and that so
many people want a mathematical formula for successful recruitment, or a
magic bullet activity that makes recruitment happen - but there isn't one.
We all agreed that successful recruitment
comes from a mentality that permeates the organization, one that
prompts employees and volunteers to always be looking for opportunities for
outreach and partnership, and where all employees and volunteers are
advocates for the program, regardless of the tasks they undertake.
This web page was created using resources compiled for that mentoring
webinar series. It has specific recommendations to recruit mentors for
youth, but these recommendations could be used for most any
high-responsibility, high-commitment volunteer role working with clients,
such as counselors, tutors, firefighters, CASA volunteers, etc.
Screening and a quick response is essential
Imagine that a high-profile PR company creates a wonderful TV advertisement
to recruit mentors for your organization, and all the local TV stations show
the ad a few times every day for many weeks. Sounds great, right? Now
imagine a family watching that ad and one of them saying, "I called that
organization. They never called me back. What a really poorly-run
organization!" And then all of those family members tell their friends, who
tell their family, who share on Facebook and blog about it... and a few
other people have the same experience and tell their friends whenever your
ad comes on TV. Now, instead of your ad generating interest, it's creating a
lot of frustration and stories that don't reflect very well on your program.
In other words, none of these recommendations will help your organization if
you do not have a process in place that quickly
screens in appropriate candidates, quickly screens out inappropriate
candidates, and provides a quick, complete response to people that inquire
about mentoring. Without a great process to quickly
screen in promising candidates and screen out candidates who wouldn’t be
appropriate, you are going to generate bad public relations. People who
don’t get a quick reply to their inquiry, don’t get complete answers to
their questions, don’t understand why their application was rejected, etc.,
will share their bad experiences with their networks - their associates on
Facebook, their family, their co-workers, etc.
Also, notify applicants promptly and respectfully if they do not meet
program requirements to be a mentor. If appropriate, invite them in your
program in another, on-mentoring role (see later in this page), or encourage
them to look at something like VolunteerMatch
for opportunities with other organizations.
You have something people want.
Great candidates for mentoring ARE out there, HUNGRY for these type of deep
experiences. Those managing mentoring programs shouldn’t panic over the talk
that everyone wants micro
volunteering/short-term volunteering, etc. Certainly microvolunteering
is very popular and that is a preference of many, but there are also lots of
people that want a long-term, meaningful commitment out of volunteering.
Look at Quora or YahooAnswers
or other online Q & A and see all the people looking for deep, long-term
volunteering - people really are out there! Just as not everyone wants to
date lots of people - they want to get married and be in a long-term,
committed relationship - a lot of people really would love to be a mentor
for your organization.
Everything you say & do is a
Promotion is about building your organization’s image and inspiring people
to act. Every message your organization sends out is, at least indirectly, a
mentor recruitment message. Every Facebook status update, every tweet, every
newsletter story - it affects how people think about your organization and
about volunteering with you. If most of your letters to supporters and
speeches to civic groups are about how your organization needs money, people
are going to get the impression that your organization needs money much more
than people. If most of your messages are about the difference your
volunteers make in the lives of young people, people are going to feel an
emotional connection to what you do. If you post photos online of people
having fun, of people being happy, etc., you are creating an image of an
organization that would be pleasant to be a part of. If you post messages
that thank your mentors, you are saying to potential candidates, "We value
our mentors!" If you don't answer questions or criticisms posted online
about your organization, that may make someone wonder how responsive you
would be for mentors.
One of my favorite users of Facebook is Peace
Corps, because every message they send out is, at least indirectly, a
recruitment message. For instance, when they ask on a Facebook status
update, "What did you love most about being a Peace Corps volunteer?", and
people respond, the responses from alumni, and even the organization's
response to criticism or questions from non-Peace Corps alumni, become
recruitment messages for new volunteers.
Messages that work - and those that don't
Messages that attract potential mentors:
Messages that do NOT attract mentors:
- testimonials from mentors, young people or others regarding your
- media or other third-party articles about the importance of mentoring
- evaluation of your program showing it’s effective
- photos that show mentoring as fun, important, impactful, etc.
- stressing that mentoring is NOT for everyone (makes it exclusive!)
- “Make a difference”
- “Are you up to the challenge?” (again, a lot of people would be
attracted to the idea that you DON'T take everyone, that if they were
accepted, they would be "special")
That doesn't mean that you shouldn't post about your annual report - you
most certainly should. But remember that all of your outreach, collectively,
is creating an image of your organization. You want that image to be
inspiring, one that draws the right people to support your organization as
- “We need” messages (need rather than opportunity)
- announcements regarding your annual report (zzzz)
- boring photos (people sitting at desks or in a row of chairs,
listening to something)
- “We have lots of work to do”
- “We need volunteers”
Everyone at your organization is a
Everyone at your organization - every volunteer, every employee, every
long-term consultant - should be able to say what your does, just very
basically, that your organization recruits mentors for young people, and
where people can find complete information online about mentoring. The
accountant, the human resources manager, the six-month marketing consultant:
all should be able to say what the organization does, in their own words (no
“canned” speech) and what the web address is. Also, all employees,
consultants and volunteers, regardless of their responsibilities, should be
invited to presentations on success stories - it will inspire them about the
organization they work for AND make them better recruiters with family and
Leverage other organizations and
Build partnerships/relationships with the organizations named below - don’t
just contact them about mentor recruitment. Attend their events, “like”
their Facebook postings (and comment on them!), let your volunteers and
staff know about their events, etc. Invite them to your open houses, let
them know about new videos you have posted on YouTube, etc. Do not make your
very first engagement with any of these organizations a plea for mentors.
Once you have made at least that first connection, ask these organizations
if they would put an item in their newsletter to members or staff about your
mentor recruitment. You can also ask to speak to their membership or staff
about mentoring. Organizations you should contact:
- very large businesses/corporations
- corporate volunteer councils
- very large government offices
- business associations, the chamber of commerce, etc.
- minority professional associations
- civic organizations (Kiwanis, Junior League, Jaycees, Lions, Rotary,
- adults fraternities and sororities
- special-interest groups (Retired Senior Volunteer Program/RSVP,
American Association of Retired Persons/AARP, medieval reenactors,
historical societies, local gaming associations)
- universities, colleges, for-profit technical schools (and graduates of
such technical schools), etc.
- communities of faith, ethical societies/humanist societies,
- nonprofits who may work with people that would make excellent mentors.
For instance, Adelante Mujeres
in Forest Grove, Oregon works with the large Latino population in the
area, helping them to start businesses, explore careers, learn how
support their children in school and college, etc. Many of their clients
would make excellent volunteers for other organizations, because
volunteering would help their clients be more connected to the
community. What nonprofits in your area have clients that might make
great mentors in your program?
Your web site needs to be super-detailed!
Please see this web page, also on my site, Required
Volunteer Information on Your Web Site, for details on what your
organization should have on its web site in order to be able to recruit and
support volunteers. In addition to what I have on that page, your web site
also needs to have this information:
- complete, detailed how to be a mentor
- why to be a mentor (benefits for mentor AND mentee)
- what mentors are doing (literally - what do they do)
- testimonials from mentors and those that have benefited from such
- information on how mentors are screened (be up front about criminal
background checks - and who pays for such)
- information on what makes a great mentor
- information on what would exclude someone from becoming a mentor (be
Use Third-Party web
sites like VolunteerMatch
I already explore this in detail on this page,
so I won't repeat myself here.
You don’t have to adopt a new social media channel until you hear about it
for *at least* three months from several staff, volunteers, etc. Wait for it
to “catch on” before you invest the time.
- Use Facebook: create a Facebook page, post to it regularly, and focus
your posts on success stories, links to media articles on mentoring in
general, etc. - not just pleas for volunteers! See the earlier part of
this page talking about messaging.
- Use Twitter: make sure your profile description has your city and
state, and that your tweets sometimes say the name of your city (and
your state, if there would be confusion by someone seeing your tweet out
of context). Also, look at other organizations using Twitter for tags
you should use on tweets. For instance, if you were in the Portland,
Oregon area, I would say that, whenever you can, tag your tweets with #youth
#pdx and #volunteer.
Other tags that would be appropriate for mentoring: #ifionlyhad24hoursiwould
(a tag that started trending on Twitter when I first drafted this page -
in other words, leverage phrases that are trending, as appropriate),
#helpothers, and tags associated with various days designated for doing
good for youth: #youthskillsday,
Tagging tweets means they can be found by anyone searching for or
following those particular tags.
- Do NOT create a gateway between Facebook and Twitter, where everything
posted to one automatically gets posted to the other. These are
DIFFERENT communications platforms. A long post on Facebook will end up
truncated and nonsensical. It also makes you look lazy.
- Engage on Facebook and Twitter: ask questions, answer questions,
respond to comments, like other organization's status updates and
- Encourage staff to use their own personal Facebook and Twitter
accounts to share messages and "like" messages.
- Far more tips on this page, Daily,
Mandatory, Minimal Tasks for Nonprofits on Facebook & Twitter
(includes how to find tags you should be using
- Use Instagram and/or Flickr to share photos, and have your
organization's web address on every
- Share videos of your program - or any video that illustrates the power
of mentoring. Share these videos on your social media channels, via
email, etc. They can be hosted for free at YouTube or Vimeo.
You DO have to do this! Don't have time? What about involving volunteers to
help with social media activities? There are a lot of people who might not
be able to make the commitment to mentor who would LOVE to help with this
type of work!
Leverage National and International "Days"
There are oh-so-many days in the USA designated to recognize volunteers or
encourage volunteerism. In addition to having an incredible volume of
high-quality books on volunteer engagement, Energize
Inc. offers a comprehensive list of these days and weeks. Use these
days to issue press releases in recognition of the events and your own
mentoring program and results, to launch a new video that illustrates what's
great about your mentoring program, etc. Many of these days come with tags
you can use (like #youthday).
Recruiting Local Volunteers To
Increase Diversity Among the Ranks
Having plenty of volunteers to undertake all the roles at your organization
usually isn't enough to say a volunteering program is successful. Another
indicator of success is if your volunteers represent a variety of ages,
education-levels, economic levels and other demographics, or are a
reflection of your local community. Most organizations don't want volunteers
to be a homogeneous group; they want to reach a variety of people as
volunteers (and donors and other supporters, for that matter). This resource
will help you think about how to recruit for diversity, or to reach a
specific demographic. This link will
take you to detailed information about recruiting to increase diversity
among your volunteers.
Create non-mentoring volunteering
Sometimes, people need a taste of an organization before they are willing to
commit more fully in a role like mentoring. Volunteers can help with social
media, web site management, videos (uploading, editing, tagging, etc.),
photo sites (uploading, editing, tagging, writing descriptions, etc.),
events, etc. You might even want to explore microvolunteering,
assignments for tech volunteers, and creating
one-time, short-term group volunteering activities as taster
activities for potential volunteers. These people may not eventually become
mentors, but if they have a positive experience and feel inspired by your
organization, they will probably refer family, friends and colleagues to
Email is often derided now as an effective way to reach people. But
mentoring expert Lisa
Bottomley pointed out in a conversation for our workshop that a
mentoring organization that she works with had great success with a
one-time, highly-personalized email to sent to some key volunteers, telling
them about a specific mentoring need and asking them to let their networks
know about this particular need. That email worked - but if the organization
tried that every month, it probably wouldn't.
And where did I find most of the ideas listed on this page? Some I have
undertaken myself. Some I see working on the social media and web site
activities of other organizations. I
steal marketing ideas - from nonprofits, from fast food
restaurants, from anywhere and everywhere.
The point: always be thinking about ways to connect and get the word out.
What works now may not in six months. What didn't work six months ago may
work now. Ask all employees and volunteers to be looking for outreach
opportunities and tell them to whom they should make those suggestions - and
credit them when a strategy works!
If you want detailed information on how to work with online volunteers, and
how to fully integrate virtual volunteering in to all of your community
engagement, including how to set up and support an online mentoring program,
Last Virtual Volunteering
for purchase as a paperback & an ebook
Completely revised and updated, & includes lots
more advice about microvolunteering!
Published January 2014.
I’ve learned as a mentor online.
A blog from November 2017 on what I have learned as an online mentor for
a colleague in Afghanistan over the 10 years we've been working
an Online Mentor: A Real Relationship, A Real Commitment (What I've
Learned as an Online Mentor).
A blog from 2008, talking about my experiences as an online mentor in
various programs up to that date.
- Using Video to Support Online
Video is a great way to further support volunteers, and your computer
probably already has all of the tools you need to make a video, or to
engage in a live video conversation with others. Video isn't something
to use only with online volunteers or remote volunteers (those providing
onsite service at a different location than yours). It's also a tool you
can use with new and current volunteers. In addition to an organization
producing videos for volunteers, it can also work the other way around:
volunteers can produce videos for organizations. This resource provides
information on your options, and links to my own short video on the
- Recognizing Online Volunteers &
Using the Internet to Honor ALL Volunteers
Recognition helps volunteers stay committed to your organization, and
gets the attention of potential volunteers -- and donors -- as well.
Organizations need to fully recognize the efforts of remote, online
volunteers, as well as those onsite, and not differentiate the value of
these two forms of service. Organizations should also incorporate use of
the Internet to recognize the efforts of ALL volunteers, both online and
onsite. With cyberspace, it's never been easier to show volunteers --
and the world -- that volunteers are a key part of your organization's
successes. This new resource provides a long list of suggestions for
both honoring online volunteers and using the Internet to recognize ALL
volunteers that contribute to your organization.
consulting services & my
workshops & presentations
credentials & expertise
My book: The
Last Virtual Volunteering
Community Outreach, With & Without Tech
Free Resources: Technology
Tips for Non-Techies
Free Resources: Web
Development, Maintenance, Marketing for non-Web designers
Free Resources: For
people & groups that want to volunteer
or from my web site
Coyote Helps Foundation
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