Volunteer Coordinators and their nonprofit organizations have noticed a decline in the number of volunteers over the past couple of years. This decrease in volunteer support has greatly affected all of us and we’ve seen it across the programs and services we offer at Mentor North. In our youth mentoring programs. Mentor North asks our volunteer adult mentors to commit to a 1-year mentoring relationship with a youth, and meet with them for at least four hours a month.
It’s an intensive volunteer opportunity due to the onboarding process and time commitment, but we still have youth on our waitlist and we know that our onboarding process is essential for ensuring healthy and safe matches. We won't stop recruiting until all of our youth in the community that wants a mentor, have one.
To make this possible, we’ve embraced a new method of recruitment through the form of recruitment events and we’ve started listening even more to those already volunteering in our programs.
Listening to our current volunteers
One step we’ve taken to engage our volunteers was holding a mentor focus group, where we sought volunteer insights and knowledge to help grow our youth mentoring programs. Our mentors shared with us that the best recruitment for us during events and outreach is to “paint a picture of what volunteering with the organization looks like.”
We realized this was a powerful way to focus on the work that we’re doing, and how we share our volunteer opportunities with the community at large.
Planning our first recruitment event
Mentor North had its first recruitment event in April 2022, and due to the success of that event, we’re now looking at holding more.
Having never held events like this, our first step was to connect with community partners to locate a site to host the event and determine a theme/activity for the event. We were lucky enough to partner with Duluth Art Institute for a painting class where they provided the space, instructor, and supplies.
Then we invited all of our waitlist youth and did outreach to the community about the event where interested individuals could learn more about us and get to know some of our youth.
The main goal of our recruitment events is to show a small sample of what mentoring could look like and that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to mentoring relationships.
Moving forward with what we’ve learned
As we look to host more events, we have multiple community partners who are interested in hosting them for us, as they believe in our mission and want to help our youth get matched. Time spent while mentoring can look different for each match and we want to illustrate that throughout our upcoming recruitment events by doing a variety of activities such as skating, canoe building, yoga classes, and more!
If you are considering running a recruitment event and have hesitations, I would say to go for it! Even if you recruit one new volunteer, it’s worth it, as they are going to enhance your organization. Mentor North has also recognized the need to focus on retention because we have such a strong volunteer team and we know how valuable they are.
We also recommend listening to your volunteers and holding focus groups! The findings from our focus groups continue to help us keep a strong, focused vision as we move forward into the unknown which is volunteer engagement.
If you are ever curious about where to start or what steps to take next, with volunteer recruitment and recruitment events, never hesitate to connect with MAVA or with other volunteer coordinators as we are all in this together and when we work together we only enhance ourselves, our organization, and one another!