Strategies you can use to win over volunteers.
Picture this: your school is hosting its annual fundraiser, and you are in charge of putting together a dream team of volunteers. A few questions or concerns might come to mind: Where will you find these volunteers? How will you persuade them to participate? How can you manage them effectively?
With any school fundraising event, it can be challenging to turn potential volunteers' "maybe" or "I'll see if I have time" into an enthusiastic "yes!"
Fortunately, there are a few strategies you can use to win over volunteers:
- Create a Welcoming Environment
- Set Expectations
- Play to Volunteer Strengths
- Express Gratitude
You don't have to wait for a major annual fundraising event to begin building your volunteer committee. Instead, Schoolauction.net suggests fundraising year-round to realize your fundraising goals quicker and allow volunteers to help whenever works best for their schedules.
With that said, let's break down some top tips for building your volunteer network.
Create a Welcoming Environment
When writing your volunteer recruitment messages, explain your needs clearly while painting a positive, welcoming picture of your school. This will encourage new school members to check out the program while engaging current members. Plus, it shows that your school is interested in building genuine relationships with volunteers and inviting them to be part of your community.
To create a welcoming environment, consider implementing these best practices:
- Encourage parent leaders to wear "Ask me" badges. Along with posting signs, encourage current committee representatives to wear badges that identify them as members of your volunteer program. Then, interested parents know who to ask for more information.
- Be flexible with meeting times and venues. All parents have busy schedules, so be flexible with committee times or hold meetings online to remain inclusive. Send out recordings and notes to members who cannot attend.
- Foster a sense of community. Plan non-school-related activities to foster community and get to know your members personally. Prospective volunteers will be more inclined to attend a low-stakes event before joining full-blown fundraising campaigns.
- Put your network online. Use Facebook or Instagram to add a digital dimension to your volunteer committee. Post-event signups, gauge interest in upcoming activities and connect with new members continuously.
Volunteering is more than just transactional. Prove that your school values all its committee members by fostering a sense of community beyond fundraising planning.
One of the most helpful things you can do as a volunteer recruiter is to set clear expectations. Be upfront about what you're asking from volunteers and why their roles matter. Accurately and transparently define volunteer roles by covering the five W's in your recruitment materials:
- Who: Who can volunteer? Does your school need volunteers for specific tasks, like individuals with community connections who can help your auction item procurement team?
- What: Are you planning a significant event like a silent auction, field day, or walkathon? Lay out the basics of your fundraising event and provide information, such as the activities you have planned and what volunteers will be expected to do.
- Where: Will your volunteers need to stay on school grounds? If not, how far is the commute from your school?
- When: Share your fundraiser's date, when volunteers must attend, and the expected time commitment.
- Why: What will your event or campaign fund? Are you raising money for your elementary school theater program or sports league? Parents who have kids in the relevant programs might be persuaded to lend a helping hand.
Be as specific as possible when promoting your volunteer needs. If you're still unsure about your fundraising plans, work with your team to iron out the fine details before recruiting volunteers.
Play to Strengths
Play to your volunteer's strengths for a positive and meaningful volunteer experience. Consider the specific expertise, time, talent, and know-how they can bring. Doing so will maximize your school's fundraising potential and ensure each volunteer has a task they feel comfortable and qualified to perform.
To make sure all volunteers feel motivated and engaged in their roles, put these tips into practice:
- Identify strengths. Survey volunteers about their skills and expertise. If you have a large body of volunteers, ask them to rank their expertise in technical skills, relationship building, general management, and other relevant skills to your fundraiser.
- Create a job board to match volunteers to roles. After identifying each volunteer's strengths, match volunteers to open positions. For instance, a volunteer with a more technical background might be a fabulous silent auction tech lead.
- Take volunteer preferences into account. Some volunteers may feel more at home with behind-the-scenes roles, while others may enjoy working alongside others and representing your school to the rest of your community. Consider offering micro-volunteering opportunities for volunteers with limited schedules, like shifts for event day set-up and clean-up.
Make your volunteers feel seen by listening to their preferences and catering to their expertise. If a role requires significant time or labor, like managing an event day schedule, consider assigning it to a volunteer team rather than one volunteer.
Expressing gratitude is an essential part of managing volunteers. Volunteers should be recognized and thanked for their efforts since they freely offer their time. And writing an authentic thank you letter or sending volunteer gifts is the perfect way to show appreciation.
Fundraising Letters shares a few pointers for how to write an effective thank you note:
- Be specific. Indicate how a volunteer helped out when expressing gratitude. For instance, some volunteers may have helped build a set for the school play or assisted with your school's read-a-thon.
- Communicate impact. How did their volunteer time make a difference? Show metrics of your latest fundraising project, such as event attendees or the total amount donated.
- Show the finished product. Include photos or videos of your school's field day, silent auction, or other events to remind volunteers of everything they accomplished.
To make the gratitude process even more meaningful, consider using digital tools like eCards. You can use customizable templates to send a quick thank you to their inboxes, saving you time and creating a memorable experience for recipients.
Recruiting volunteers does not have to be daunting! Create a welcoming environment where prospective volunteers can learn more before committing. Once you have volunteers, work with them to create a fruitful experience for everyone involved and thank them for their contributions.
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Clay Boggess has been designing fundraising programs for schools and various nonprofit organizations throughout the US since 1999. He’s helped administrators, teachers, and outside support entities such as PTAs and PTOs raise millions of dollars. Clay is an owner and partner at Big Fundraising Ideas.