Working in the nonprofit industry can typically guarantee at least two things: you’re most likely a jack of all trades and your time is probably stretched thin. Any extra hands are appreciated, especially for your events. But how do you get those extra hands and how do you make sure they return?
Recruitment: Getting volunteers in the door.
If your organization has an event coming up that you already know you’ll need volunteers for, begin with the obvious: recruitment. Start by contacting past (or current) volunteers and donors. Individuals who are already involved with your organization will often be most likely to volunteer their time and/or services. Also, post a compelling call-to-action asking for volunteers on your website, social media, newsletters, etc.. You’ll want to cast a wide net and reach out to as many people as possible without demanding their help. Be sure to include some long-term benefits to volunteering with your organization. Including information about building friendships and lowering stress through volunteerism is sure to pique the interest of potential volunteers.
If your event requires skilled work, try reaching out to local businesses. A majority of companies offer paid time off for their employees to volunteer, and most employees actually want a chance to volunteer with their coworkers.
When your volunteers are at the point of signing up, there should be relevant paperwork for them to fill out so that they can be contacted in the future. This paperwork should include organizational policies, an actual application and formal agreements. If you’d like to be able to gauge their skill sets before they arrive, it may also be prudent to include a section where they can list activities or positions in which they excel. This can help in preparing job assignments before the day of the event.
The Work: What they’ll do.
If you know exactly how many volunteers are coming to your event, plan their individual tasks prior to set up. The volunteer applications will come in handy for this piece. Utilize the strengths of your volunteers. It may seem obvious, but knowing all of the available skill sets at hand will help you put the most qualified people in the right positions. This step will help your event run smoothly, and free from major issues.
One thing to keep in mind is the fact that volunteers often show up empty handed. If anything is needed for them to complete their assignments, make sure it is provided upon arrival or taken care of beforehand. For the skilled volunteers, send out a reminder for them to bring in any tools they may need.
When assigning tasks to volunteers, you may also want to consider pairing sets of volunteers together. Depending on how many volunteers you need and their abilities to work together, doing this can decrease the stress on volunteers trying to complete tasks on their own, and can make the event more manageable.
Be sure that you understand the difference between your employees and volunteers. Even if the volunteer is there because of a particular skill set, they aren’t there to replace your employees. If some of the necessary work is something you are paying employees for, volunteers should not be burdened with it.
Say, “Thank you!”
When all is is said and done, remember that your volunteers donated their time and energy to make your event a success. Take the time to not only thank them in person, but afterward as well. Post a picture of the event or volunteers with a well-written thank you message on social media and on your website. (Hint: giving your volunteers free shirts to wear when they show up makes them easily identifiable among event attendees and makes the volunteers appear more uniform and professional). If you prefer hand-written notes, you can hand them to volunteers before they leave or send them out later. If someone feels appreciated for their work, they’ll be more likely to come back when you contact them in the future for your next event.
If your nonprofit needs help recruiting volunteers or advertising for an event, contact us! We can utilize the Google Grant to drive traffic to your event and calls-to-action. We’re always happy to help!
By: Katie Kelderman, Social Media Strategist