Did you know that degree-educated individuals are three times more likely to volunteer than people with no formal education? And according to the NCVO, BAME people are less likely to volunteer formally than white individuals.
Now, that may not come as a total surprise. Not everyone has the time or resources to get involved. But surely, it’s our responsibility, as a sector, to make sure volunteering is accessible to everyone.
An inclusive volunteer environment is not just welcoming—it’s fair. Equality is about more than ticking boxes; it’s about recognising that individual volunteers are different and ensuring equal access to the opportunities available. Every volunteer brings something special to the table, and the more you diversify, the more your charity gains.
How to be more inclusive in your volunteer recruitment
A big part of widening your reach is evaluating how you present your volunteer opportunities. Are you scaring good people off without even realising it?
Consider things like the language used in adverts and any imagery posted on your website. All these factors can subconsciously put off certain demographics of people. And that’s a bad thing.
If you want to ensure you’re appealing to every type of candidate, consider the following the next time you post a volunteer ad:
1. Keep accessibility in mind
According to Scope, 19% of working adults in the UK have some form of disability or impairment. The problem is that most websites fail to meet even the basic accessibility standards, and that ostracises people with limitations who may want to get involved in your cause.
By ensuring your volunteering adverts meet accessibility standards, you create more opportunity for people with disabilities to get involved in charity work. The Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) recommends the following:
- Avoid italics or difficult to read typefaces
- Don’t print adverts on glossy paper (the glare makes it difficult to read)
- Try to use dark text on light backgrounds (i.e. black text on white/yellow background)
Language is an important part of this as well. Think about how you present yourself and the opportunities available: do you use a lot of jargon, acronyms or complicated words? That can be hard for people with reading or learning limitations. Try to keep your messaging clear and easy to read wherever possible.
2. Make sure any imagery reflects the diversity you’re trying to achieve
Always use images that reflect the ethos of your organisation and speak to a diverse range of communities. You want your volunteers to see themselves in your charity; if that lack of representation is there, they might feel less comfortable to apply.
But be wary of stereotypes. We’re all fabulously individual, and if you lean into misconceptions (i.e. all mature people have grey hair and all young people are students) it can actually alienate more than it can entice.
3. Be transparent about expenses and time commitments
Although most volunteers understand that their work won’t be compensated, there’s still the question of expenses. Are you willing to pay for their lunches? What about the commute to get to you? And will you reimburse money spent on childcare during their volunteer involvement?
If you want to attract a more diverse volunteer base, you might want to consider reimbursing expenses. That way, you’re not limiting opportunities only to people who have the financial means to help out. By making it clear on the volunteer ad that you’re helping with expenses, you’re showing that you value your volunteers and are actively ensuring that financial barriers don’t exist.
But remember, volunteers should only be paid for out-of-pocket expenses. Anything more than that and you run the risk of violating minimum wage legislation.
5. Be cognisant of the many barriers that might get in the way
You might not even realise you’ve created barriers that keep people from volunteering with you. First, you need to recognise your faults. Then, you have to change the way you do things. If you want to ensure a more inclusive diversity recruitment strategy, consider doing the following:
- Offer a variety of volunteering roles that require different levels of skill and commitment
- Organise transport where necessary
- Ensure all your buildings are fully accessible (where possible)
- Provide appropriate training and support
- Minimise the amount of form filling volunteers have to do
- Create targeted recruitment campaigns that appeal to under-represented groups
Promoting diversity within your organisation
Remember, diversity is a holistic commitment. If you want to improve the overall diversity of your charity, you can’t just target one element of your organisation and hope the rest follows suit.
Educate and support your staff. And above all, empower your people. The more you do to support your volunteers—no matter where they come from or what they bring to the table—the more likely they are to come back and help take your charity to the next level.