How to recruit volunteers: When begging doesn’t work

How to recruit volunteers: When begging doesn’t work
How to recruit volunteers: When begging doesn’t work

The minority of the people do the majority of the work. Unfortunately, that is a statement of fact for many churches, and one that can lead to discontent among members. Churches need volunteers, and lots of them. But how can you convince someone to sacrifice time, energy and sometimes even their own money, to do something for free? How can you attract volunteers?

By using some innovative and creative means of promoting the need for volunteers, you can let people know about service opportunities without turning them off.

Start with Scripture

The greatest way church leaders can gain volunteers is to teach and dialogue about the importance of loving through action. For United Methodists, participating in hands-on in ministry and mission is a way of living our membership vows to support the church with our “prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness.”

Encourage public participation

In the article, Questioning charity: Redefining the role of the church, the author suggests that small churches stop creating costly volunteer programs and start connecting with existing programs. Why reinvent the wheel when current community projects desperately need helping hands? All the church needs to do is jump in and start making relationships.

Consider joining a volunteer matching service that uses an individual's specific interests, passions or skills to recommend local or global volunteer projects they can get involved in. Check out the following organizations:

Churches with more resources might consider creating a volunteer-matching service. Just subscribe to a volunteer-management service such as Hands On Connect or Network for Good and build your own online portal. These services will help you manage projects easily and recruit volunteers.

Create an online form

Add signup forms to your church website where interested church members can indicate interest in serving. You could even include a “talent” form where interested applicants can apply to be a part of your church volunteer database which matches skills with existing community needs.

Plan a party

Pick a theme, bake a cake, make some punch and issue an open invitation. Create an attractive display where party-goers can check out opportunities to serve, peruse curriculum or supplies and sign up for responsibilities. Encourage church leaders to mingle, answering questions and discussing opportunities, responsibilities, support for volunteers and so forth.

Send an e-vite

Recruiting volunteers is often best done one-on-one. If you think someone would make a good fit for a particular position, consider a telephone call or a personal invitation. Use snail mail or email or try your hand at sending an online invitation using sites such as smileboxpaperlesspost or evite. These online “greeting card” sites offer a variety of entertaining options, some of which are free. The process is simple:

  1. Choose “invitation” for your type of card.
  2. Choose a design of your choice.
  3. Customize the design as the site allows, changing background colors, fonts and so forth.
  4. Add your text. Be sure to include your contact information.
  5. Include a volunteer form link.
  6. Proof your card.
  7. Email it to the recipient.

Don’t pressure the individual, but do ask him or her to pray about the opportunity.

Make a meme

Memes are the frequently comical, sometimes thought-provoking, statements that are included with an often-recognizable picture. They are circulated widely on the Internet, especially on social media. Take advantage of the fad and create a few of your own to advertise opportunities to serve. Apps such as Make a Meme and Meme Factory (Free, iOS)  walk you through a step-by-step process:

  • Use your own photo or choose from a gallery.
  • Add your text.
  • Edit with the provided tools.
  • Share it on social media or your church website or by texting it to a friend.

Caution, some of these generators include auto-populated user-created examples that may be PG-13. We don’t endorse their content, only the tool.

Memes can encourage people to think about available opportunities. But, they work best when they are memorable. Do a little research to figure out what will be the most effective. Check out this guide on creating memes for more great information.

Create a commercial

Use programs such as iMovieMicrosoft Photos or an online tool like Movie Maker OnlineAdobe SparkRenderforest or to create recruitment commercials to display on your church website, hallway monitors or screens in the worship center. Create and produce a variety of skits that highlight the need for volunteers in comical and memorable ways. If you use a smartphone to shoot the video, check out these tips for how to record a video on your smartphone.

In addition, think about ways to retain your volunteers once they have signed on for the tasks. Educate your congregation about the needs and encourage enthusiasm about participating. Support volunteers in every way you can and say “thank you” as often as possible. Recruiting may not be easy, but it can be fun.

Tricia Brown has been a freelance writer and editor for more than twenty years, ghost-writing and editing for individuals as well as for health, education, and religious organizations. She enjoys reading, writing, and public speaking commitments in which she teaches and encourages other women.