How Volunteer Recruitment Works

Warm Body and Targeted Recruitment

This sign is a form of warm body recruitment.
This sign is a form of warm body recruitment.

An effective fighting force depends on organization. This, by degrees, separates armies from mere mobs. Few examples illustrate this concept as well as the game of chess: different pieces, different movements and different values. You don't want an army of pawns. Nor do you want an army of rooks. You need foot soldiers and generals in order to carry out military strategy. In the realm of volunteerism, these same principles hold true.

Imagine a scenario where a group of volunteers come together to help elderly members of their neighborhood with yard work and housework. For much of this work, you can depend on virtually anyone willing to volunteer -- warm bodies in other words. One volunteer might have a medical degree while another boasts mad "Halo 3" death match skills, but as long as they both can pick up a rake, that's all that matters. This is where warm-body recruitment or broad-based recruitment comes into play.

If it's volunteer work that virtually anyone can do, such as distributing flyers or picking them up off the roadside, then it often pays to try to recruit virtually anyone. To recruit these warm bodies, an organization simply promotes its message and need for volunteers to as broad an audience as possible. This might entail taking out ads in the media or sending recruiters to target groups.

Warm-body recruitment typically works very well, but it takes both quality and quantity out of the recruiters' hands. To jump back to the gardening analogy, the results are often more tomatoes than you know what to do with -- and there might be some you'll want to keep clear of the dinner table.

While warm-body recruitment works well for pawns and foot soldiers, many volunteer efforts need their specialists and generals as well. If a volunteer organization needs to recruit a Web designer, for instance, it would want to go after individuals with that particular skill set. This is called targeted recruitment and it's exactly what it sounds like. If you want a volunteer Web designer, you approach Web designers and you make an individualized plea for a donation of service. It's not a blanket approach, which also means that it requires a lot more time and effort.

On the next page, we'll look at two additional modes of recruitment.