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Blood, Sweat, and Tears: Using Passion and Community Connections as Recruitment Tools

Posted By Jenn Jozwiak, Education Coordinator - Grassroots Growth, April-28-16
Updated: April-14-16


“One of our best members was brought on by another team member.”


“We had a friend of a volunteer who came last weekend to a workshop we were doing…and then, by the end, she was ready to sign up.”


These are the kinds of stories about recruitment that I heard this past January, when I conducted a series of video interviews as part of my position as Education Coordinator for the Grassroots Growth Project at Volunteer Toronto.

They were different from the typical tales of recruitment I’m accustomed to hearing from volunteer managers: while there were still discussions on finding skilled volunteers for particular tasks and using social media to get the good word out, there was an emphasis on local networking that made these responses distinct.

That’s because grassroots groups – defined as non-profit organizations operated entirely by volunteers – rely on connections to exist. Often, there isn’t a dedicated volunteer manager to take on the task of recruiting new team members. Instead, the responsibility of bringing on new volunteers tends to fall to the group as a whole, and everyone gets involved.

There are two elements that came out of my discussions with grassroots leaders this winter that I’d like to highlight here. Born from the need to solicit additional support while working with limited time and resources, grassroots organizations invite friends and family to join their ranks, and solidify their recruitment pitch by not really pitching at all, and instead simply speaking from the heart about projects they care deeply about.


Grassroots Groups Bring Friends into the Fold

Leadership and initial recruits tends to be comprised of the founder’s friends and family members, and so the circle remains small at the beginning. However, grassroots groups often expand organically: a member will bring a friend to an event, and the friend then joins the group. The next time a position opens up, that new member contacts their network about the opportunity, increasing the organization’s reach for potential volunteers. In this way, new connections are created. These expanded networks bring new ideas to the original group, and grassroots organizations not only gain more volunteers – they also gain access to new ways of understanding issues and solving problems.


Grassroots Groups are Built on Passion

Members of grassroots organizations are intimately linked to the ideas that drive them. Often, groups form to address a community need, and volunteers involved with the organization are directly impacted by their work. When grassroots members speak about their involvement with their organization in their communities, their personal experience is a powerful motivator that inspires others to join the team.


Of course, many grassroots groups employ traditional recruitment methods as well. However, these approaches to recruitment bolster conventional strategies by directly addressing two of the main incentives volunteers cite for donating their time to organizations: spending time with people and a shared belief in the cause. This, combined with the fact that recruitment is by default often a team effort, creates a group that is both unified and welcoming – exactly the kind of atmosphere that encourages people to volunteer in the first place.

  Jenn Jozwiak is currently the Education Coordinator with the Grassroots Growth project at Volunteer Toronto, where she is developing training workshops, a series of handbooks, and online content for volunteer-run non-profits. She has worked with volunteers at Hot Docs and TIFF, and established and managed her own grassroots film festival in Winnipeg. Jenn spends her days off drinking tea, watching movies, and reading about writing.


Tags:  Grassroots organizations  how grassroots groups recruit volunteers  how to recruit volunteers  recruiting friends  Volunteer Toronto Find volunteers  volunteering in Toronto 

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