Recruiting volunteers in the future

by Nancy Ougo, Kenya Red Cross

Change is a constant factor. Volunteering is not an exception. There is a growing consensus that the way people engage in volunteering has changed and will continue to evolve. Initially, volunteering was majorly cause-driven but it is shifting to reward-driven volunteering

Reward-driven volunteers are conceived due to employment commitments. Mostly in developing nations, rate of unemployment among the youth is sky rocketing. It will reach a point that Red Cross and Red Crescent will have to offer small incentives so as to encourage individuals to engage in volunteering. Another approach that can be taken is issuing recommendations that will be beneficial to the individuals at a later stage of employment seeking, for instance, issuing certificates or letters of recommendation to prove that someone was engaged with the organization in a specific project.

The degree to which a person is involved in a community is another dimension that has begun to impact on volunteering. Omer, an intern at IFRC in Geneva highlighted in an interview that:

“It is important to hire people who have been affected since they

are in a better position to empathize with the affected individuals.”

This is another factor that IFRC should put into consideration. Generally, the more varied a person is involved in the community, the greater the likelihood they will perform volunteer work. According to Omer this will also help to curb the problem of victims questioning the credibility of the organization thus making it easier to approach the vulnerable.

Consequently, there is a need to fully embrace episodic volunteering. Traditionally, volunteers were subjected to high levels of time and commitment to a cause. Times are changing. It is therefore necessary for societies to adopt episodic volunteering approaches that limit the amount of time involved e.g. some require volunteers to commit themselves to a specific task at a given duration. People are most likely to volunteer their time in short and simplified tasks.

The digital space is rapidly changing the way volunteering is done. There is need to develop online tools to offer online training to volunteers. Louise, head of HR at IFRC emphasizes;

“There is a need to equip volunteers with an understanding of technological processes used by Red Cross and Red Crescent. Volunteers need to be skilled

Recruitment of candidates can also be done by automation as suggested by Louise:

“Strike a balance between the human and technological
 elements of decision making when recruiting.”

Customer Relations Management (CRM) tools can also be applied to document volunteer information in an organized manner, thus making the information easily accessible to the recruiters. 

There is need for volunteers to be in a position to access information easily. Social media sites are the most utilised online tools by Red Cross and Red Crescent to disseminate information and also attract volunteers. There is need to have effective and updated social media platforms and websites. A volunteer at the Mexican Red Cross stresses this by stating that:

 “There is a need for Red Cross and Red Crescent to make it easier for volunteers to identify the exact volunteer slots available and also to provide clear terms on the contract. There is also need to provide clear information during the duration when one is waiting to know whether he or she has been chosen as a volunteer or not.”

Finally, there is need to embrace a strategic approach to volunteering. IFRC needs to focus more on quality rather than quantity and make great use of episodic volunteers. Moreover, if possible, create frameworks that will accommodate some of these episodic volunteers in the long term.

Author

Digital Volunteer, research assistant from Kenya Red Cross

Nancy Ougo

Kenya Red Cross Society