You’ve got a big event coming up, yet not enough volunteers. No one is scheduled for the Friday driver shift for the third week in a row. Your star volunteer is sick, and you can’t find anyone to cover for her. Now you’re stuck asking the same handful of volunteers to step in and take on more work — again.

If this sounds familiar, you need to start recruiting more volunteers! A robust volunteer pool ensures that you always have the right people available when you need them. It’s no fun for you or your volunteers if you’re left scrambling to fill holes in the schedule.

There are lots of ways to increase the number of people who come across your volunteer postings (social media, cross-posting on community websites, asking for referrals — just to name a few), but if your application process is daunting or ill-organized, no one will be inspired to apply.

The first step towards improving recruitment? Take a look at your signup form.

Skip the paper and PDFs

If your organization is still asking your volunteers to download a PDF, call to inquire, or fill out a paper form to apply, you are probably missing out on some fantastic supporters.

More people are looking online for volunteer opportunities each year, and your website is their first impression. If you don’t provide a quick way to get involved while you already have their attention, you’re limiting your chances they will even apply.

A simple embedded signup form lowers the barrier for potential supporters more than anything that requires paper, PDFs, or emails. Once you have their contact information, you can request more details later.

Keep it short and sweet

So you’ve created an embedded signup form — now what? Keep it short and sweet. The less you make the application process feel like a piece of bureaucracy, the more motivating it will be for people to complete. Ditch the formal language, and tell your new volunteers how excited you are to get to know them.

If you need inspiration, our friends at @charitywater created a great example of a fun, Timecounts-powered signup form for volunteers.

Get mobile-friendly

Approximately 20% of visits to your organization’s website are by mobile. Make sure your signup form is mobile and tablet friendly so volunteers don’t have to check back later when they’re at a computer (because who can remember that?).

Be smart with your data

At Timecounts, we love building powerful form creation tools for organizers, where they can sort contacts and manage incoming responses in one place. One awesome trick we have is ‘autotagging’ for checklists and multiple choice questions. New volunteers who are interested in helping at events, for example, can be automatically tagged in our system with the corresponding tag, ‘Event Volunteer’. Smarter forms make for easier volunteer management.

If you’re still using spreadsheets for form responses, try integrating your volunteer data with other lists and data sources, like your donor database or mailing list. You don’t want all of that valuable information to just sit there in a spreadsheet collecting dust, especially if you have a cyclical volunteer program.

Don’t forget to follow-up!

An amazing signup form won’t improve your volunteer recruitment if you don’t follow-up. Potential volunteers expect to hear from you within 24 hours. Even if someone isn’t a great fit for the roles you currently have available, it’s best to get in touch and welcome all applicants. People always remember how you interacted with them — when you do need someone, that initial thoughtfulness could make all the difference.

The key to following up is keeping track of who you’ve contacted. Timecounts lets organizers flag the status of every volunteer in their community, making it easy to communicate with different segments of supporters and ensure every applicant completes the requirements. If you use a spreadsheet to manage your volunteer applications, try setting up additional columns to track the status of your volunteers.

In a nutshell

Remember that people volunteer not only because they’re interested in your cause. Today’s volunteers want to turn their time into impact, and they want to be a part of something. By welcoming potential volunteers with a simple and friendly signup form, you can improve recruitment rates and start growing your community.