Tag Archives: Edmonton nonprofit

The Recruitment Grind: Recapping Our Latest Think Tank Conversation

by Sharon Mvundura

Think Tank Conversations are a bi-monthly meetup of those who manage, coordinate and engage volunteers in Edmonton. The space we have created is one of discussion, networking and working through the trends, challenges and success volunteer coordinators face in their roles. We kicked off 2018 with a January discussion on Volunteer Recruitment and, as always, Think Tankers had a lot to say about this topic.

Here’s what we heard:

Edmonton organizations face a variety of challenges that affect their ability to successfully recruit volunteers. One organization found it difficult to recruit volunteers for the needed time slots  in their program. Others find it difficult to recruit during the “off season,” during the holidays there’s an excess amount of volunteer inquiries but the well dries up once January hits. For others, they are just simply finding it hard to recruit volunteers that will stay. In our fast paced society it seems the revolving door has arrived to volunteerism. So what can organizations do when faced with all those barriers?

While the morning was filled with sharing what isn’t working, there were some valuable learnings that led us to realize that maybesome solutions aren’t so out of reach.

One volunteer manager shared how, after facing challenges with scheduling or turnover, they decided to “rejig” some of their opportunities. They made some roles more flexible, shortened the commitment time, and worked with the feedback they were getting from prospective volunteers to adapt. This brings us to the first big unsurprising revelation:

CHANGE IS HARD.

Volunteer managers have little time between the daily grind of the volunteer cycle (recruit, train, orient, retain, recognize) to even think about changing up process. But what if it happened? What if looking at small or large tweaks to your program could fix some of the barriers of recruitment and retention you’re facing? It just might make the daily grind a little less… grindy.

Think Tankers shared a few other ways they achieved their recruitment goals. Don’t have recruitment goals? Then you should definitely start there. Figure out what outcome you want from recruitment. Do you want volunteers of a particular age group, or with particular skills? Decide, then figure out where those volunteers are and how to reach them.

One volunteer coordinator found success at some university career fairs; a great way to connect with young motivated volunteers.  Another one decided to let volunteers and clients recruit volunteers. They created videos and messaging with volunteers and clients to speaking about the impact of the program. Their campaign was a success and also used other tactics like local media.

We also spent a great deal of time talking about A/B testing. I first read about using this method for volunteer recruitment from an article by Erin R. Spink in the e-volunteerism Journal, which is unfortunately only available to subscribers. Basically, the method calls for taking aspects  of your recruitment ad such as a headline, colours, image or messaging and testing two different versions to see which one gets the most engagement. Here’s an example:

Which one are you more likely to click on?

These are two ads with the same image and a call to action, but using different messaging. This fake organization might use both these ads on their social media and track the number of clicks and engagements each of them get.  Social platforms like Twitter and Facebook have built in tools for you to track the engagement on your posts. You can also do this with physical advertising if you keep track of where you put certain ads and ask those who contact you how they heard about the opportunity. This means that you’ll be able to identify what’s working and what isn’t. Many organizations use the same ads, messaging and avenues for recruiting volunteers without ever analyzing whether it’s working. Using a simple A/B test might help refine your recruitment.

As our time came to end, Think Tankers mused on different questions for all of us to consider. How do we work collectively to educate the public on the various volunteer requirements? How can we be adaptive to meet the changing needs of volunteers? Questions that couldn’t be tackled then but… maybe at a future Think Tank!

To read past Think Tank recaps and catch up with what Edmonton volunteer managers are thinking, click here.

Want to join fellow volunteer managers at our next Think Tank on March 16th? RSVP Here!

Resources & Quick Tips:

  • If you’re getting a lot of volunteers that don’t quite fit your agency, why not recommend them to other local organizations?
  • Make it easier for people to find you and apply:
    • Develop an online application
    • Unique advertising: printing coasters and partnering with local eateries
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Membership Button for ECVO Members.

Are you an ECVO Member? We have created an ECVO membership button for you to display on your website! ECVO members are a collective voice working together to empower, strengthen and sustain the regions nonprofit sector. By placing this button on your website, you’re proudly showcasing your membership to the largest nonprofit network in Edmonton.

If you’re not a member yet, sign up now! Not only will you be a part of this nonprofit collective, there are a number of perks and discounts that come with joining, too.

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What you need to know about working in the nonprofit sector

In some ways, working in the nonprofit is similar to working for a typical business: they maintain similar departments like administration, human resources and management and employees are expected to have the same skill sets as they would working for-profit. The major difference of course, is the bottom line. A nonprofit’s goal is to further their mission while a typical business aims to make a profit.

If you’re thinking about dipping your toes in the nonprofit sector, here are a few things you should know before you apply.

  1. Increased job satisfaction: Those who choose to work in the nonprofit sector are typically passionate about helping others and bettering their community. If you’re hired at an organization that’s mission you are genuinely interested in, you’ll experience immense job satisfaction when you see your hard work come to fruition. For instance, if you’ve had a hand in creating an initiative to decrease homelessness in your city, you’ll be gratified to see those numbers reduce.
  2. Your skills are transferable: Before you dismiss a nonprofit position because you don’t have experience in the sector, understand that past work or university experience is valuable to the sector. While it is useful to be knowledgeable of the sector and acquire special skills such as fundraising, capacity-building and grant-writing, nonprofit organizations operate similar to businesses and therefore, need individuals with similar skills. Do you have experience in a management or leadership role? Apply to be a volunteer manager. Are you an English or Communication major interested in working for a nonprofit? Organizations need people like you to further their message and reach their target audience.
  3. Relationships are vital: This is standard in any organization, but in the nonprofit sector, relationships are crucial to move your organization’s mission forward. Nonprofits cannot operate sufficiently if they are sequestered into their own bubble. Prepare to become familiar with those working towards similar goals, meet workers in your field you can bounce ideas off of and maintain relationships through networking events. It makes all the difference when you need help spreading your message!
  4. Be wary of burnout: Because nonprofit employees are so passionate about the cause they are working for, they often don’t know when to slow down. Employees can only work at full capacity if they’re well rested and anxiety-free. Take your vacation days, don’t come in when you’re unwell and ensure you can manage your workload.
  5. You won’t get rich: Unfortunately, this is the bad news. Nonprofits work with minimal budgets and you won’t be striking gold when working for an organization where profit isn’t the end-all-be-all. And, many nonprofits are funded by external sources (different levels of government, larger organizations, etc.) and this funding can fluctuate. Nonprofits are not averse to job and financial insecurity
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Why nonprofit workers are susceptible to burnout

For those who attended our Annual General Meeting on May 10, you will recall the lessons Beth Kanter taught us on how to remain calm and collected while working at a nonprofit organization. The nonprofit expert and co-author of The Healthy Happy Nonprofit, discussed how to prevent burnout and maintain optimal job performance.

So, why are those working in the nonprofit industry susceptible to burnout? Kanter says “sacrificing one’s health in service of a cause is a common narrative in the nonprofit sector.” People who work in the nonprofit sector are (most likely) not in it for the money. They are passion-fueled individuals who believe in the cause they are working for. Kanter says this can be a double-edged sword as nonprofit workers can be “so driven, they don’t stop to refuel or smell the proverbial roses or even notice they are experiencing symptoms of burnout.” Those working in the nonprofit sector view self-care as an indulgence when really, it is a necessity.

If you’re a nonprofit worker who hasn’t given self-care a second thought, it’s time you start. When is the last time you took a vacation or a personal day? If you can’t remember, you should assess yourself for common symptoms of burnout:

In the Healthy Happy Nonprofit Kanter outlines common symptoms of burnout in nonprofit workers:

  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Forgetfulness
  • Increased illness
  • Loss of enjoyment
  • Isolation
  • Pessimism
  • Feelings of apathy/hopelessness
  • Irritability
  • Lack of productivity or poor performance

If this sounds like you, don’t panic. It happens more often than we think. A number of factors cause burnout; some can be personal while others are directly related to working in the nonprofit industry. For instance, the “Nonprofit Starvation Cycle” which Kanter explains is a consequence of inadequate infrastructure that leave nonprofits barely functioning as organizations. “The vicious cycle begins with funders’ unrealistic expectations about how much money running a nonprofit takes and results in nonprofits misrepresenting their costs while skimping on vital systems.” And for many nonprofits, that puts personal health and wellness low on the priority list. Then, there is “Funder-Driven Stress” which is a lack of foundation funding for nonprofit talent infrastructure. If a nonprofit’s foundation is weak, it makes it difficult to provide support and meet the needs of the communities that organization serves.  Other causes of burnout in the nonprofit sector include: lack of leadership development, overwork, overuse of technology and information overload.

Understanding that nonprofit workers are susceptible to burnout and stress is important when evaluating your own personal wellness. If you, or your organization as a whole, operates as a never-ending machine, it’s time to take a moment and reflect on your health, because in reality, if you are healthier as an organization and an individual you will be happier and more productive in the workplace.

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