I received an e-mail from a person who wanted to know if the material I covered in my workshops helped small communities in recruiting volunteers. The composer of the e-mail suggested there is a difference in recruiting volunteers when you live in a city because the population is there to draw on and in a small town or village the numbers are smaller and probably most of the population is already involved. The person gave me the opportunity to examine the matter at hand and hence write this article. Surprisingly there are some differences in the way we recruit volunteers in a larger centre compared to a smaller community.
In cities the volunteer message is likely to be generic; there is a tendency to want to warm everyone’s heart by suggesting there is room in an agency for a lot of different talents and experiences. The media is more apparent such as a radio station(s), daily newspaper(s) and a television station; therefore some channel of communication is there to carry the volunteer recruitment message to a broader spectrum of the community. In larger communities there is a larger venue to accommodate recruitment campaigns notably shopping malls where organizations are able to set up displays to illustrate more clearly how volunteers are able to enhance the services offered. Finally by sheer numbers alone the networking that exist between people is larger, and thus friends recruit friends and like-wise family members put the hook on their love ones.
In smaller communities the way volunteers are recruited is somewhat different. Specific needs are more likely to surface ... it could be a unique community problem for example that needs to be addressed. There is more of a sense of community in smaller centres and the likelihood of people rallying behind a cause that would serve to enhance the quality of life for many individuals is a strong motivation to volunteer. The difference that volunteers make is more evident because their efforts and outcomes are seen and felt by almost everyone in a smaller community serving as an example “that you too can make a difference”.
According to the Knowledge Development Centre (Imagine Canada) report, a volunteer recruitment campaign in a smaller community is seen as an extension of the strong social infrastructures that already exists. People in small communities seemingly are more passionate about their village or town; therefore the recruitment campaign takes on a more personal approach and is likely to focus on inserting public notices in church bulletins, asking local stores and gathering places to put-up flyers as in store windows or on bulletin boards. The need for volunteers in one part of the community is apt to surface in other places such as service clubs and church guilds. The volunteer recruitment effort is more targeted in a lot of cases meaning organizations know the type of volunteer they need and are able to identify an individual who fits their needs and they approach the person they have in mind.
Recruiting volunteers is small communities is a challenge as there are less human resources to draw on. However a case can be made that it is important to keep the call to volunteer specific and channel its message through established social circles.