Tackling Volunteer Recruitment: Four Easy Steps to Committee Pipeline Development

02/03/2020 11:05 AM | Kelli Moore (Administrator)


By Amy Schiffman, Principal and Co-Founder, Giving Tree Associates

For nonprofits, the new year tends to bring new resolutions. And I know that, as a former director of development, good committee recruitment and engagement was always one of mine. Easier dreamed than achieved? Maybe. But as we get deeper into the first quarter of the year, now is the time to think about our volunteer committee structures and determine if we have a) the right people; b) enough people; and c) a clear understanding of what it is the committee is tasked with achieving. So, once you have defined your standing board committee structure and determined which committees are appropriate for non-board members, what’s left is a question of recruitment, i.e., “how do I get the right people to serve?”

Let’s identify the four steps that will help you answer that question…

1) Develop the committee role description, also known as a committee charge or charter. The committee charter outlines the committee’s role and briefly reviews the areas under the committee’s domain. For example, a marketing committee charter might include responsibilities such as the development of an annual communications plan, an editorial calendar, campaign messaging and a public relations strategy. Decide in advance what this committee will do. This will make the recruitment of committee members easier because people are a lot more willing to volunteer if they know exactly what’s involved and you’ll have a better sense of your needs.

2) Create an ideal candidate profile. Once you have your charter developed and a strong sense of what you need from your committee, create a document that outlines the skill sets, talents, characteristics and traits of the ideal committee member. Share this profile with current committee members, board members and staff so that they are able to brainstorm with you about possible candidates.

3) Go out and recruit. I’ve worked with nonprofits that post volunteer opportunities on LinkedIn or Facebook (not a bad idea) and then sit back and wait for candidates to come to them. Recruitment does not typically work this way. When I’m seeking new board or committee members, I share the ideal candidate profile with my network. I then ask those I feel are particularly well networked to sit with me for lunch or coffee and brainstorm about candidate possibilities. I create a candidate tracker in Google Docs that I share with fellow committee members and update the team on my progress. Finally, I meet with those who are referred to me and share the committee charter.

4) Ask correctly. I have caught myself physically cringing upon overhearing a conversation during which a volunteer is begged, coerced or misled regarding committee or board membership. The manner in which you ask and the picture you create for your committee candidate is crucial to the process. I like to give a candidate a very concrete understanding of what is involved with the role, present the opportunity as an honor (not a chore) and finally, ask in a way that allows them to understand exactly why I want them.

Please feel free to reach out with questions about committee recruitment at www.givingtreeassociates.com – we are always happy to share resources. I hope these four steps allow you a more productive, positive path toward volunteer recruitment and engagement.


About Amy: With more than 25 years in nonprofit development, Amy partners with organizations to develop effective fundraising campaigns, build strong leadership teams and empower them with tools to visualize and achieve mission impact. Since co-founding Giving Tree Associates in 2008, Amy has helped clients raise tens of millions of dollars through individual major gifts, foundation and corporate funding. Based in Chicago, Amy is a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) and is a frequent presenter at local and national conferences, including gatherings offered by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Forefront, Association of Consultants to Nonprofits, JCC Association of America, and Prizmah’s National Endowment & Legacy Institute. She is an adjunct faculty member at The University of Southern California (USC)/Hebrew Union College’s nonprofit management program and lives in Chicago with her husband and two children.

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