Guest Post by Lance Trebesch
Volunteers… they make the fundraising world go ‘round, don’t they? Without volunteers, many fundraising events would never get done – the volunteers drive the progress of almost any successful event. In a perfect world, everyone would have time to volunteer and we’d all be rich.
And in that world, the best volunteers grow on trees and always come back to help you the next time you hold an event, too.
Unfortunately for the rest of us here on Earth, we have to go a little bit further than the backyard to find and keep great volunteers.
But it’s not impossible. In fact, finding and keeping volunteers is very doable, and if you want to retain consistency and quality with your events, taking the volunteer into consideration is a must.
The first place I usually look – and find – my most quality volunteers are on college campuses. At first I was a little hesitant to go because, well, they are college students and we all remember being that age. But the truth is this: college students have the energy and motivation to be volunteers.
Often times, college students are easy to get excited about causes because of the nature of their age. They’re idealistic and feel they can help make a difference. But students are also still trying to build resumes for when they get out of college, and volunteering is a great way to build that portfolio that companies look at.
College students are also a great resource because they can sometimes use the experience to fulfill a course credit, which is ever-important with how expensive classes can be.
I usually put up flyers on community boards or in coffee shops around campus. I’ll also put an ad in the college newspaper (this is usually fairly cheap) to maximize my reach. And depending on the event, I might also set up a booth in the campus quad or student union.
The second place I usually go (and this one is still fairly new to me) is to social media. If your event or organization has a Facebook page or Twitter feed, you’ve got a natural base of followers that are dedicated to your cause. If you send out a notice or call to volunteers, you are bound to get a reaction and support from that natural base.
The third place to look is your local community. If people in your area are familiar with your organization, reaching out to the community will be easier. You can place ads in the local paper, places banners or calls to action on the boards in coffee shops or community centers. Many communities also have some sort of “volunteer network” that you can tap into.
Finding volunteers can be tough, but making sure you hold onto the good ones can be even tougher. There’s bound to be natural rollover in your volunteer corps from year to year because of changing schedules, changing family and financial situations. There are an endless number of variables that can prevent someone from coming back to help out your organization.
But creating a situation that the volunteer wants to come back to, if they have the opportunity, is essential to reducing the amount of turnover in your great volunteers.
First and foremost, always recognize hard work and recognize good work. It’s a natural human desire to hear that they’ve done something well, so when you notice it, let them know about it. Not only does this foster a positive environment, the volunteers will feel noticed and appreciated.
Secondly, be sure to create a social environment for your workers. Sending volunteers off to do something remote by themselves can make them feel excluded. After all, many people volunteer for the social aspect of it. You can help this along by having people work in groups. Another good idea might be to create some type of “volunteer night” where the volunteers get together after their done working for the day for some pizza or just a general get together.
Thirdly, try not to overwork your volunteers. Remember that they are there helping you free of charge and of their own goodwill. At the same time, though, don’t underwork them. They are there to help and want to feel like they are helping, too.
Lastly, if you can swing it, try and let the volunteers take part in what they put together. Give them a break during the event and let them enjoy a portion of it with their family and friends. Again, do this only if you have enough volunteers to cover their absence.
Lance Trebesch is the CEO of TicketPrinting.com & Ticket River which offers a variety of event products and ticketing services. After nineteen years of Silicon Valley experience, Lance found the key to happiness is helping customers worldwide beautify and monetize their events with brilliant print products and event services. Listening to his customers and learning about how they plan their events – ranging from concerts to fundraisers has helped him gain insight and expertise on how to host a successful event that he is always eager to share.
Photo Credit: Brande Jackson