Volunteering is often defined as:

“the act of selflessly giving your life to something you believe in, free of pay. Although volunteers may not earn money, volunteering produces a feeling of self-worth that can bring respect and favours instead of money.”

So, is it really a selfless act? If you were to ask people why they volunteer, most would give an answer that uncovers a deeper reason:

1) I hope to make contacts within the non-profit world

2) Volunteering looks great on a resume

3) I just want to get out and interact with adults

Those three are the top reasons many people choose to volunteer other than having been personally touched by a specific cause.

In the spring I gave some of my free time to the Schizophrenia Society of Alberta. I connected with them over Facebook after noticing they needed help promoting their annual fundraiser, and I knew I was capable. I offered to approach local businesses and ask for donations as well as send event information to different news outlets.

Why did I choose to do this when I didn’t have much free time? I felt sympathy towards their cause and I was bored. Plain and simple. Selfish? Not really, but I admit I did have motives.

Focusing on motives like I had is the reality that non-profit organizations need to deal with when recruiting volunteers. When targeting students for example, remind them how great volunteering looks on a college application or resume, or how they can log volunteer hours with the organization for their work experience requirements. There are many different angles you can use.

Look at recruiting volunteers for your next event as you would develop a marketing plan. Put your prospective volunteers into groups: students, stay at home moms, seniors, past volunteers and even donors. Why have donors contributed money and volunteers given time to your cause? Because they have been personally touched by it, so approach them in that manner. Why did someone volunteer at last year’s event? Remind them why.

Recruiting volunteers is not as hard as it looks. You just need to figure out what tugs at a person’s heart or what drives them to want to do good. Though the reality is that many people volunteer to satisfy their own self-interest, people have an innate need to want to do good and so can make a valuable contribution to your cause in any case.

by Leah Ison

image: Keoni Cabral via Compfight cc