Volunteers. They are why and how we accomplish all that our groups do each year. To avoid the same small group volunteering over and over again and burning out, we need to make a concentrated effort to reach out and grow our pool of volunteers. There are some ways more effective than others. To start…you have to build relationships. It’s always about relationships. But what else? What else do we need to do to get volunteers and then keep them returning?
It sounds so simple, but asking someone specifically works wonders. When we receive those generic emails or forms that went home with every student, we say we are going to get to it, we think “someone else will volunteer”, or we want to help but fear the unknown (we are new, don’t know if we’d be welcome). When someone approaches us and asks, we know they are asking us. They want us to be a part. Some of the anxiety is removed by not having to be the one to raise our hand.
Share The Excitement
People like to be part of something fun, positive and successful. With limited free spare time and no financial gain, you will struggle to find volunteers happy to join in if the perception is they will have no fun or pick up added stress or frustration. Last week a read a tweet (I wish I could remember who wrote it), that read something like “Apply now for the greatest opportunity of all time?” It wasn’t in reference to volunteering…but we need to bring that same positive energy. The results of the efforts do provide great opportunities for our children. I’m not saying sugar coat or disguise the hard work needed to accomplish the task – but don’t forget to highlight the good, the positive AND the why. Why are their efforts important? What is the end goal?
Volunteers are giving you their time and energies. Chances are they are going to give you their best efforts. Those efforts might not produce the exact results you wished for – but we need to trust that they will learn from their experience and make the changes necessary as they go along. Plus, different isn’t bad. Their approach might not be the same as yours, but they might reach a new group with it.
Empower Them To Take Ownership
Allow them to make choices that they feel are best to help reach the goal. Allow them to see that they are an important, valuable part of the group, and their talents are needed.
Value Their Opinion
They may be volunteering for the first time – or this might be their 7th year; either way, they bring something to the table. Take their opinions and use that feedback to make your event or group that much better. Maybe it’s the way someone or something is perceived or how an event is run…no matter what, that information can be used to improve.
Provide Them With Support
Nothing is worse than that feeling of basically being set up to fail. An event is dumped in your lap and you have no idea what to do; where to start. We need to provide them with a guide on what worked or didn’t work before. Step-by-step instructions on what to do and when. When and how to distribute flyers, reserve the space, request tables. Anything and everything that they may or may not think of. In addition to a guide…there needs to be a person they can turn to with questions or simply to reassure they are doing something correctly.
Respect their time, their family and limitations. Don’t place so many volunteers on at the same time that they feel useless standing around with nothing to do. Remember that they have families who also depend on them. Know their limits; do computer instill fear? Can they not lift heavy items? do they have small children at home?
Use Social Media
A wonderful quick way to fill those last minute openings, send reminders, recognize efforts.
We CANNOT forget to say thank you!!! Thank them for their time, efforts and donations; because we know that they didn’t have to contribute…but did. We get caught up in the craziness so often, and although we don’t mean it, we forget sometimes. But a thank you doesn’t need to be grand. A face-to-face, verbal thank you. A post on the group’s blog, Facebook or Twitter. A quick note jotted down on a piece of paper and sent home with their child; or the traditional note card mailed to them. No matter what your thank you looks like, what matters is that you told someone that you appreciated them.