One of the things that makes Waffleman events so successful is having a good group of volunteers to help the event run smoothly. Many non-profit organizations run on huge amounts of volunteer help (often 80% or better) with only a small paid staff to manage the day-to-day operations. So how do you get people to give their time willingly?
It’s true that we all lead VERY busy lives and that our personal time is precious. With meetings, normal work days, managing households, and kids with athletic practices, rehearsals, clubs, scouts, lessons and homework, it’s no wonder that most people would rather just donate a set amount of money rather than give up some of their free time. In the case of The Waffleman, we are just trying to get enough people to do a one-time event. Now imagine the difficulty for non-profit arts organizations, schools, museums, churches and other who need to keep their volunteer pipeline full at all times! It can be a Herculean task at times.
Here are a few ideas that I have found that may help you change how you approach and engage volunteers. Nowadays, they can really be your most valuable resource, so treat them well!
- Ask them early – ask them often!
Ask them to volunteer well before an event so that they have plenty of time to clear their calendars. And don’t assume that a “no” now means a “no” forever! They may just have prior plans for this one event. So if they give you a no, ask them if you may call on them again for the next one!
- Create job/role descriptions
Often, volunteers simply don’t what they are supposed to be doing. If you outline their responsibilities and in many cases give them a brief training, they will stay engaged and not look at volunteering for your organization as a waste of time.
- Ask for feedback
Volunteers love to feel like part of the organization – and they are an important one! Ask them what went well, what could be done better and if they have ideas for future promotions. Who knows? You may find your future leaders this way!
- Value their time
A well-organized event with the right amount of volunteers will make sure that no one is left standing around. One reason why many people don’t return to volunteer is that they didn’t feel like they were needed. Having a plan in place with an organized schedule speaks volumes to volunteers and others that you truly care about having them there.
- Thank them, thank them again and then…thank them some more!
Let volunteers know that you truly appreciate their time and talents. Whether that is through a note, a gift or an end of year dinner or awards ceremony, people need to feel valued. Let your volunteers know that you really could not get along without them! It is their contribution that makes your organization hum!