A guest post by Shreya Tragad, Digital Marketing Specialist at InitLive
As a volunteer coordinator, you work to recruit and engage exceptional volunteers and encourage these individuals to stick with your organization. But are you doing everything you can to engage the widest possible audience?
One way to ensure your volunteer opportunities are truly open and inclusive to all community members is to make them more accessible. In this case, accessibility means your volunteer opportunities are open to everyone, regardless of their age, background, or ability.
Here are three ways to make your upcoming volunteer events more accessible:
- Take an individualized approach to accessibility.
- Diversify your recruitment efforts.
- Make volunteer opportunities more flexible.
1. Take an individualized approach to accessibility.
Accessibility doesn’t mean adopting one-size-fits-all solutions to attempt to make your opportunities inclusive for all. It means getting to know your volunteers on a deeper level to understand their personal barriers to participation and how you can help reduce or eliminate those barriers.
To ensure you don’t leave any volunteers out, send out surveys before your volunteer events or incorporate questions into your registration page that ask volunteers whether they’ll require certain accommodations. This will provide you with the information you need right from the start and also leaves a good first impression, showing your volunteers that you value offering everyone an equal chance to engage.
These are some of the common barriers your volunteers may face:
- Time restrictions: Your volunteers may have full-time jobs or children to take care of. Consider offering evening shifts or a variety of shift options for those who have busy schedules.
- Physical barriers: Certain volunteers may face physical barriers where they cannot stand for long periods of time and may require wheelchairs or other devices to assist with mobility. Consider planning volunteer tasks for them to participate in that don’t require physical work.
- Language barriers: It’s important to remember that not every volunteer will be able to speak fluent English, which can cause some difficulty in participating. Try to incorporate different languages in your program, such as offering multilingual training materials.
- Transportation barriers: Not every volunteer will have access to reliable transportation. Try offering a shuttle service or carpool program to offer everyone a chance to participate.
When your volunteers see that you’ve really thought about what barriers they may face and the right solutions to help them, they’ll feel more invested in your program and will be more inclined to continue engaging with your volunteer opportunities.
2. Diversify your recruitment efforts.
Reach out to new groups or audiences that you might not have connected with in the past. This includes individuals from all backgrounds, abilities, and ages. When you have a team of individuals from different backgrounds, it helps your organization become more creative and innovative. This will also allow new volunteers to feel more comfortable being a part of your organization when they see themselves reflected in your existing volunteer base.
Ensure your recruitment materials are accessible to all and reflect a diverse range of experiences. For example, your online registration page should feature accessibility best practices like using alternative text for images, ensuring sufficient contrast between the foreground and background, and avoiding flashing or strobing elements. Plus, your images should reflect the diversity of your volunteer base so that prospective volunteers can visualize themselves working with your organization.
Remember to craft your volunteer opportunity descriptions in a way that will attract a diverse group of candidates to avoid filtering down your volunteer options. For example, avoid saying “looking for young volunteers,” as it may exclude older, talented volunteers who are just as passionate about your cause. To have a diversified recruitment strategy, it’s important to have an inclusive approach right from the beginning of your volunteer management process.
3. Make volunteer opportunities more flexible.
Ensure your volunteer opportunities are flexible, as finding the free time to volunteer can often be a major barrier for supporters. Your volunteers may have busy schedules, which may prevent them from participating in your volunteer opportunities, even though they have the desire to. A great solution to this is offering flexible volunteer opportunities, including:
- Micro-volunteer opportunities. This helps accommodate volunteers with busy schedules or childcare conflicts. For instance, if you’re planning a major event, consider offering shorter one-hour shifts so that your volunteers only have to take minimal time out of their days to participate.
- Virtual opportunities. These opportunities allow volunteers to support your organization from home. This can open your volunteer opportunities to those with transportation or mobility restrictions. You can even engage your virtual volunteers to help support your digital fundraising campaigns, such as your crowdfunding campaigns.
- A variety of volunteer roles within each shift. For instance, if you’re working on sprucing up your community garden, you might have some volunteers working on planting or weeding. You can have others take on less physical roles, such as logging your plant inventory in your virtual database or creating educational materials for visiting school groups.
The goal is to enhance your volunteer’s experience and allow everyone an equal opportunity to participate. To make your volunteer opportunities more flexible, adopt a well-rounded approach that’s most effective for your supporters.
Now that you’ve learned some of the ways to make your volunteer opportunities more accessible, it’s time to start planning! There’s no reason not to embrace accessibility and work to incorporate more inclusive elements into your volunteer program. Increasing the accessibility of your volunteer opportunities creates a more positive, engaging experience for all volunteers.
It all starts with understanding any restrictions your volunteers face and trying to overcome them by providing multiple solutions. Once you’ve got a handle on that, it’s all about providing ongoing support.
Shreya is a creative content creator focusing on delivering information about the importance of volunteerism for nonprofit organizations. She is passionate about creating engaging content, writing, and graphic design to help viewers easily retain information. You can find her work at www.initlive.com or on Linkedin and Twitter.