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Volunteering at ENGin: An Inside Look At Volunteer Engagement

Our recent updates about volunteer recruitment at ENGin sparked dozens of comments and questions from our wonderful volunteer community. So, in this article, we wrote in more detail about volunteering at ENGin, looked behind the curtain of the program and talked about how we introduce potential volunteers to ENGin.

the photo shows volunteers of the ENGin online conversational English language practice program

Who are ENGin volunteers? 

We are proud to have an incredibly diverse volunteer base. While our biggest age groups are high school and college students, we have sizable groups of volunteers in other age groups (see chart below). 

Over 80% of our volunteers live in the US - the remainder are spread across 140+ other countries. 67% of active volunteers are female.

the graphs in the photo show the location and correlation by gender of the volunteers of the ENGin online conversational English language practice program

ENGin has a wonderful group of volunteers in Ukraine working with beginner students. Outside of Ukraine, the vast majority of volunteers do not have Ukrainian roots. 

When we dig beyond these basic demographics, we find a fascinating tapestry of life experiences. From stay-at-home parents to speech therapists to finance and IT professionals, from avid gardeners to expert athletes to magicians, to budding scientists and dancers, we welcome all kinds of people to our program. 

Personality-wise, ENGin volunteers are extroverts, introverts, and everything in between. Some are world travelers; others have never left their home state. Some come to us after a string of other volunteer experiences; others are first-timers. 

The bottom line: When we say that literally anyone who speaks English can volunteer for ENGin, we’re not exaggerating!

the graph in the photo shows the age groups of volunteers of the ENGin online conversational English language practice program

Why do volunteers join ENGin? 

Of course, while anyone can volunteer at ENGin, not everyone does. Why do volunteers make the commitment to meet with one (or more) of our students? 

Believe it or not, interest in supporting Ukraine is not a primary motivation for many new recruits! Our interviewers report that about half of new volunteers mention a desire to help Ukrainians. Others have more general reasons for joining, which can vary by age. 

Younger volunteers are often looking to fulfill community service hours and/or build their resumes. They’re also interested in developing their tutoring, mentorship, or communication skills, and they love the opportunity to socialize and make new friends. 

Adults may be eager to use their skills to help another person and explore a new culture. For some, their employers reward or encourage community service, providing an extra push. Others are not currently working and are looking for an interesting, impactful way to spend their free time. 

Retired people are particularly excited about the opportunity to share their life experiences, mentor a younger person, and find human connection. 

Volunteers of all ages are excited about ENGin’s flexibility - the commitment is easy to fit into a busy schedule, can be done on the day of the volunteer’s choice, and does not require a lengthy commute.

How does the ENGin team find volunteers?

Of course, even the most motivated volunteers won’t sign up if they don’t know about our program! We have a volunteer recruitment manager on our team and use four major strategies for spreading the word about volunteering at ENGin. 

First, we rely on online postings. From VolunteerMatch, the king of online volunteer websites, to dozens of local and regional websites (and some international ones as well), we’re always looking for places to post our volunteer opportunity. 

Second, we do direct outreach to organizations and communities whose members might be interested in volunteering at ENGin. We’ve put together contact lists for and emailed tens of thousands of groups in these categories: 

  • High schools -  IB and AP programs, Honor societies, and individual schools around the globe  and international schools 

  • Universities - community service offices, Eastern European studies departments, international studies departments, foreign languages departments, and more around the globe

  • Religious institutions of various denominations

  • Professional associations - current and retired teachers, speech therapists, coaches, human resources professionals, and more

  • Community service groups - Rotary, Junior League, etc

  • English Language Learning Communities - ESL, TESOL, and similar programs and instructors

  • Social groups - Toastmasters, women’s clubs, etc

  • Senior centers and councils on aging

  • Local media in areas where we have volunteers

  • Social media groups - Facebook and Linkedin groups, etc

  • Other nonprofits engaged with supporting Ukraine

  • Direct messages to influential people (Ukrainian and non-Ukrainian) - our representatives in Congress, celebrities, journalists, other nonprofit leaders, and many more 

Third, we do online advertising. Currently we are using Google Ads since we qualify for free advertising as a nonprofit, and we post on our social media. We are exploring paid advertising on social media, though this is a challenge due to budget limitations.

Finally, word of mouth is one of the most effective ways to recruit new volunteers, and this is an area we are hoping to expand with help from our wonderful volunteer community! 

Volunteering at ENGin: what are the challenges we face? 

Our greatest challenge by far is capacity - we have just one staff member responsible for recruiting hundreds of volunteers each week and no paid advertising budget. 

We were able to meet our volunteer needs despite these limited resources in 2022 and early 2023, due to the wave of support for Ukraine after russia’s full-scale invasion. More recently, as interest in Ukraine has faded worldwide, the effort needed to bring in each additional volunteer has grown, resulting in a decrease in volunteer signups.

the graph in the photo shows the dynamics of registration of volunteers of the ENGin online conversational English language practice program

A second challenge is our lack of a local, physical presence. We don’t have staff on the ground who could pop into a library or coffee shop to hang a flyer, set up a table at a fair or make a presentation to a congregation or social club. Instead, we rely on ambassadors and other volunteer leaders to perform this kind of traditional outreach. 

Our reliance on cold outreach (i.e. sending emails to thousands of people and/or organizations we don’t know) is another Achilles heel, as response rates to cold emails tend to be very low! 

How can current volunteers (and students) help? 

Here’s the great news: our growing ENGin family is an incredible source of support and perfectly positioned to overcome these challenges!

When hundreds of students and volunteers take just an hour or two each to help spread the word about ENGin in their community, our capacity and reach increases exponentially. When volunteers reach out to their (or their family members’) employers, schools, places of worship, social groups, their messages resonate far more than cold outreach from our team. And, volunteers can conduct outreach in person, whether flyering, tabling, or making a presentation. 

Here’s how to join our recruitment effort in three easy steps: 

  1. Select where you will do your outreach - ENGin has a dozen options to choose from here. Focus on your and your family’s world - the communities you belong to, the area you live in, and the places you go. 

  2. Tailor your message - think in advance about whether to highlight rewarding human connections, cultural exploration, community service hours, the opportunity to mentor a younger person, etc. What will speak most to your particular audience? 

  3. Go out there and tell our story!

A special note to students: We are always looking for volunteers in Ukraine to work with our beginner students. You can share your opportunity with friends who already speak English well (or maybe sign up yourself - your English does not need to be perfect to volunteer with us!)

Thank you all, as always, for being part of our ENGin community, and please don’t hesitate to reach out to our volunteer recruitment manager Erin ( for support with your outreach efforts or custom recruitment materials.


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