Three tips for making a website that recruits volunteers

Police officers are paid, full-time or part-time employees of the municipality, but in many communities, the trained firefighters who risk their lives to battle blazes in homes and businesses are volunteers. If it were not for these volunteers, fires would not be fought. Recruiting volunteers is a major focus of the Bucks County Fire Chiefs & Firefighters Association, which was founded in 1913 to provide training and education for members. The chiefs who lead the association work to ensure that firefighters across the county stay current with the latest techniques and technology for fighting fires. So it is no surprise that these leaders also want to employ the latest techniques and technology for recruiting volunteers. Receipt of a federal grant to support recruiting efforts has given the association the wherewithal to take a major leap forward in 2014. The association hired The Communication Solutions Group to plan and execute a countywide recruitment campaign, and CSS partnered with Hollister Creative to design and develop a new recruitment website: BucksFire.org. The site also describes opportunities for adults and teens to volunteer for support activities that do not involve firefighting. While the public area of the new website is entirely focused on attracting volunteers, the website serves a secondary purpose. Fire stations often have a booth or table to recruit volunteers at community fairs and events. For each occasion, they need to order supplies, such as brochures and imprinted giveaway items. They now can do so online because the website has a private login area where chiefs can browse the available marketing materials, indicate quantities needed, specify when and where the materials are to be delivered, and place an order. If you need to create a website, or part of a website, for recruiting volunteers, here are a few tips to make it successful.

  1. Connect emotionally. Use colors and visuals that evoke the challenges and satisfactions of this kind of volunteer work. Show website visitors real (not stock) people like themselves doing the work in a video or photos. In describing the work, include all of the ways a volunteer can benefit from it emotionally, such as pride from doing important work, gratification from helping others and a sense of belonging in a group of fellow volunteers. If there are off-duty opportunities for volunteers to relax and have fun together, certainly mention those and include one or more fun photos.
  2. Be specific. Few people will step forward if you are vague about the opportunity. State the jobs you need filled, the skills required (if any), the training provided and the time commitment expected. Try to answer the usual questions in an FAQ. Offer to answer any additional questions when the prospective volunteer contacts you via a web form, email or phone call.
  3. Make the ask. Place a prominent “Volunteer” button in the header, so that is appears in the same spot on every page. But don’t stop there. In every section of text where you are describing an opportunity, link a call-to-action phrase in the text to the page where you want the website visitor to act (i.e. by filling out a web form, emailing you or calling you). In addition to “volunteer today,” linked call-to-action phrases could be “inquire now,” “get more information” or “join us.”