6 Best International Volunteer Recruitment Strategies

What’s unique about recruiting volunteers for international programs?

Recruiting volunteers for international programs doesn’t sound like it should be hard, in theory, to people who already love to volunteer. And travel abroad. And have experience with the latter. Noticing a potential personal bias? Sure, there’s plenty of tried-and-true volunteer recruitment strategies, but when you throw in the international part, you start facing some unique challenges. Never fear, for that’s why GoAbroad is here!

Keep reading to learn about some creative ways to recruit volunteers and develop your own effective volunteer recruitment plan for your programs abroad.

People putting hands together to symbolize unity
Let’s do this!

The 6 Volunteer Recruitment Strategies You Need for Your International Programs

1. Start with a SWOT analysis.

Like any good marketing plan, your volunteer recruitment plan should begin with a SWOT analysis. “Um, sorry…what?” you may be asking? Let’s save you a Google search. SWOT stands for:

  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Opportunities
  • Threats

Enlist your team for a good ol’ fashioned brainstorming sesh, and ask yourselves the following questions:

  • What are the most attractive elements of your program[s] abroad?
  • What elements of your program can lead to difficulties recruiting volunteers?
  • Who makes up your largest untapped demographic?
  • Which international volunteer programs are similar to your own, and how do their strengths and weaknesses compare?

Your team’s collective answers to these questions is the first step in developing the most effective volunteer recruitment strategies for programs abroad!

By the way, we couldn’t stress the team aspect of increasing your volunteer recruitment for international programs enough. Remember that whole personal bias thing? It could be blinding you to elements of your SWOT analysis that you alone wouldn’t think to consider. You’ll stumble upon the most creative ways to recruit volunteers when you utilize ALL your resources by putting your heads together—and boost staff morale by showing that you value their opinions, at that!

Team meeting in a workspace
Your team has the wisdom you need.

2. Review, reviews.

Like, all of them. Not just from your own programs, but from your competition’s, too. Reading alumni reviews is critical in developing successful volunteer recruitment strategies for international programs. Jot down some notes as you find the answers to these questions:

  • Who is already participating in volunteer programs abroad?
  • Does your current volunteer recruitment plan speak to those demographics?
  • Which aspects of volunteering abroad did alumni enjoy the most?
  • Which aspects didn’t they like?

If your volunteer recruitment strategies aren’t already focusing on what people enjoy most about participating in international programs, then it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that your volunteer recruitment strategies for international programs have room for improvement.

Recruiting volunteers is a process of trial and error. Lucky for you, you can learn from the trials and errors of other program providers, too. Find programs similar to your own, do a comparison analysis, and figure out what creative ways to recruit volunteers for programs abroad those providers are implementing. They may have more participants, but they could also just have a higher level of alumni engagement on social media—which certainly doesn’t hurt.

Remember that having a hefty number of reviews for your programs signals to a candidate that it’s popular and vetted, so part of your strategy for your volunteer recruitment plan should be sending a thank you email to your former participants and asking them to rate and review their experience, because you value their feedback! Make it easy by linking to a relevant site.

3. Speaking of social media…

If you’ve yet to consider how social media ties into your volunteer recruitment strategies for programs abroad—well, start. People who can afford to take time off from earning an income generally fall somewhere in the age range of 16-24. You’ll surely notice this while you’re strategizing new and creative ways to recruit volunteers. And for better or worse, young folks these days value photos way more than they do words.

Encourage your staff and alumni alike to take lots of photos during program sessions to utilize for your website and social media accounts (with permission, of course). We can’t stress enough that these days social media engagement should be a non-negotiable factor in all of your volunteer recruitment strategies. Increasing the engagement of your program alumni is a critical step in recruiting volunteers who are still in consideration phase, which is perhaps the most important phase of all when it comes to volunteer recruitment for international programs.

Man on his laptop at a cafe
Consider him recruited!

4. Consider the consideration phase.

So what could possibly be stopping aspiring volunteers from considering an international program? Why should there be any differences between regular ol’ volunteer recruitment strategies and volunteer recruitment strategies for international programs?

When you’ve fallen victim to the travel bug, it can be hard to wrap your head around the idea of not using any excuse to go abroad. You’d think the whole international aspect would make the job of recruiting volunteers for international programs easy. But let’s go back in time.

You’re young, you’re idealistic, and you’re eager to make a difference. You’re an animal lover, or an environmental activist, or an advocate for gender equality. You’re no stranger to how your own country falls short on these fronts. And you’ve never traveled alone.

Since you’re super excited about the prospect of volunteering, you’re devouring every online advice resource you can. And they’re all telling you the same thing: there’s no doubt that volunteering is incredibly rewarding, but it can also be just as challenging. So why opt for the added stressor of navigating a foreign country “on your own” for the first time?

Ok, back to the present. First of all, you know that your participants are never truly alone—you have their backs throughout the entire process. You also know just how challenging travel can be, but how in its own way, it can be just as incredibly rewarding as volunteering. But most of all, if you’re recruiting volunteers for international programs, you know that there’s no need to choose. Now it’s your job to pass that wisdom along to your program candidates.

The best volunteer recruitment strategies for programs abroad go the extra mile by supplementing all those articles about volunteering that your candidates are reading with articles about volunteering abroad. You can certainly write your own—but then again, you could always simplify things for yourself by linking to some of ours!

We should also point out the obvious: if your strategy for recruiting volunteers doesn’t involve them finding out about you in the first place, utilizing the rest of these volunteer recruitment strategies for programs abroad will be a matter of luck—and we like luck, but it’s unreliable. Since we know your volunteers are doing a ton of research, getting exposure during that stage will put you ahead of the pack.

Two women sitting at a table for an interview
Volunteer abroad experience is everything in an interview.

5. Sell ‘em on the extra benefits to seal the deal.

While your potential program participants are clearly super rad people who are eager to make a positive impact on the world, few acts in life are truly selfless. At least, they don’t always have to be. When planning how to boost volunteer recruitment for international programs, it never hurts to mention how many personal benefits there are to participating in a volunteer program abroad.

In many cases, your candidates are about to apply to college, grad school, or their dream jobs—and they know how good that volunteering experience is going to look on their applications or resumes. When finalizing your volunteer recruitment strategies, make a point to educate them about how much of an added bonus it is to do a volunteer program abroad. Remind them what interviewers see in candidates when they see travel experience:

  • They can be independent
  • They can adapt to different cultures
  • They have strong communication skills
  • They can cope with curveballs
  • They can empathize with people who have different worldviews
  • They surely have some great stories to share!

If that’s not enough to convince them, we don’t know what is. Oh wait, scratch that—we do.

6. Make meaningful connections.

If you’re in deep enough that you’re researching how to improve your volunteer recruitment strategies for international programs, we know it’s because you’re committed to your cause abroad. Recruiting volunteers will be a breeze when you show program candidates that you’re genuinely enthusiastic about your volunteer program and its home in the world. Be available to answer their questions quickly and sincerely. Tell them all about the meaningful connections they’ll be sure to make with other volunteers, the program staff, and the residents of the community they are there to help.

Now you know the 6 best volunteer recruitment strategies for programs abroad!

Man in desert with indigenous tribe
Oh, the people your volunteers will meet!

Recruiting volunteers for programs abroad may seem like a challenge, but it’s quite the rewarding one if you’re up to it. Your program participants are already sold on saving the world, so it’s your job to show them why actually seeing the world is a critical part of that process.

Just remember to be considerate of the perspective, keep your eyes open to feedback, and don’t go it alone—your team and alumni are two of your strongest assets developing creative ways to recruit volunteers. Ultimately, the best way of recruiting volunteers for international programs is loving what you do, why you do it, and where you do it.

Keep Reading: How to Improve Recruitment Strategies in 2019!

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