What is an International Volunteer Recruiter and Coordinator?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), about 25.3 percent of the U.S. population volunteered for an organization at least once between September 2013 and September 2014, representing nearly 63 million Americans. Of those, about 1 million people volunteered overseas.

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International volunteers are a unique subset of volunteers who volunteer their time working for organizations or causes outside of their home country. In most cases, international volunteers serve in developing countries, focusing their efforts on humanitarian disasters or crises, environmental causes, promoting the interests of the poor, and on activities aimed at providing humanitarian assistance.

The recruitment and coordination of international volunteers is a challenging and demanding endeavor; one that takes place both domestically and internationally. International nonprofit organizations must be able to put together teams of volunteers who travel to foreign countries and participate in programs and initiatives that demand intensive planning efforts.

In order to successfully execute international efforts, international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) must assemble trustworthy and capable teams of volunteers. Therefore, international volunteer recruiters and coordinators are valuable members of international NGOs whose dedication and hard work helps people around the world survive and rebuild their lives.

Volunteer recruiters/coordinators are highly motivated experts in international relations who must actively coordinate international recruiting activities, such as:

  • Scheduling interviews
  • Managing the volunteer posting process
  • Overseeing the organization’s social media presence
  • Organizing incoming applications
  • Overseeing volunteer recruitment efforts
  • Submitting background checks for volunteer staff

Volunteer recruiters and coordinators must be able to demonstrate:

  • A creative, proactive approach to problem-solving
  • A strong attention to detail
  • A high level of organization
  • Positivity and professionalism
  • Problem-solving and critical thinking skills


Understanding the Work of Volunteer Recruiters and Coordinators

Volunteer recruiters and coordinators must ensure that the international volunteers they select uphold the values and principles associated with their nonprofit organization. In general, volunteer recruiters and coordinators search for volunteers who can deliver integrity, service, and accountability.

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These nonprofit professionals must successfully accomplish a number of tasks as to acquire volunteers who are prepared to produce a successful endeavor:

Assess the Use of Volunteers

Before volunteer recruiters and coordinators can begin building a team of international volunteers, they must ensure that they, their staff, and their board of directors agree on the organization’s use of volunteers. In other words, everyone within the organization should be on the same page regarding the reason for using volunteers and the way volunteers fit into the organization’s structure. Doing so allows volunteer recruiters and coordinators to ensure that the volunteer positions they create are meaningful and important.

Assess the Work of the Volunteers

Volunteer recruiters and coordinators must determine what the organization expects volunteers to accomplish, whether it is enhancing the delivery of programs or answering phones and providing general clerical support.

These specialists of nonprofit organizations must also keep in mind that volunteers must always fill unique roles as to not duplicate efforts within the organization. Therefore, they must set specific goals and objectives for volunteer achievement, review these goals regularly, and modify them if necessary.

Assess the Type of Volunteers Needed

Volunteer recruiters and coordinators should be able to divide volunteers into three areas:

  • Volunteers who provide general support
  • Skill-specific volunteers
  • Professional volunteers providing their services pro-bono

Identify Resources for Supporting Volunteers

Before welcoming in new volunteers through recruitment efforts, volunteer recruiters and coordinators must ensure that staffing is adequate to train the volunteers and that volunteers have the space and resources necessary to perform their jobs.

Develop the Volunteer Program

To produce highly effective volunteers, volunteer recruiters and coordinators must ensure the organization possesses:

  • A defined volunteer program, with volunteers possessing specific position descriptions
  • A comprehensive training program and supporting materials, such as a volunteer handbook
  • A clear set of rules, policies, and procedures for volunteers
  • A recruitment and management plan
  • A volunteer recognition program


How to Become a Volunteer Recruiter/Coordinator

Although the path to becoming a volunteer recruiter/coordinator with an international nonprofit organization is not clear-cut, most large NGOs require these professionals to possess, at a minimum, a bachelor’s degree in a major related to international relations, global affairs, or international business.

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Other requirements typically include:

  • Demonstrated, related work experience, usually in recruiting in the international development sector
  • A history in recruiting or human resources as a profession
  • Experience in international development or other international sectors
  • Study abroad, international work, or related experience
  • Fluency in another language

Master’s degrees in this field are also common, particularly for large organizations that require expansive volunteer recruitment and coordination efforts. Graduate programs in international relations and related programs often allow students to spend time studying abroad, and many provide students with the opportunity to study a second language and/or a specific country or region of the world.

Earning Potential for Volunteer Recruitment Specialists

According to The Nonprofit Times, the average 2014 salary for a volunteer coordinator was $35,535 and the average salary for a volunteer director was $55,360.

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