How Can You Recruit More Volunteers to Your Organization?
You sent out the email…three times. You created a flyer that was sent home with each child or in each congregational letter. The night of your first committee meeting has arrived and fifteen minutes after the start time, there are only five people in the room with you.
The same five people that are always there.
As your team starts to develop ideas for whatever reason you are meeting-because, after all, there is a job to get done-your are feeling a bit resentful at always being the one to carry the ball and wondering where everyone else is.
Photo from Ivorymix
You feel like quitting, but you don’t. Dropping the ball is not an option or a road you will take.
So many organizations are run by a handful of volunteers; the same men and women who are committed to whatever cause they are championing. They know that others are interested as well, but for whatever reason, they do not come out to help.
How can your organization get more volunteers?
Here are five ways to get more help.
Get Back to People as Soon as Possible
If someone actually calls or emails you about wanting to volunteer on your committee or for your organization, seize the opportunity! The person contacted you because whatever you are doing is something that interests her. Strike while the iron is hot and make contact as soon as possible so you can guarantee a commitment.
If you wait to respond, the potential volunteer may think that you are not interested in her help (and in her as a person). Waiting too long makes it seem like you are doing the volunteer a favor by responding. Do that one too many times and you will develop a reputation of being cliquish and hard to work for.
A Scene from "Up"
Be Specific About What Jobs Need to Be Done
Every year when it is time to renew my synagogue membership, I receive a form about all of the committees that are available for volunteers. All we have to do is check off a box and someone will be in contact with us.
How many times does that form not get returned?
People are reticent to volunteer for many reasons, one of them being that they are afraid if they sign up, they will be inundated with more work than they can handle or assigned tasks that are not in their wheelhouse.
Instead of a generic form to be filled out, the organization’s website needs to have a specific page dedicated to each committee. The events need to be describe with some detail, and a breakdown of the jobs and help required should be listed.
For example, if the fundraising committee is having a Bingo Night, there needs to be people in charge of various aspects of the event like:
- Getting the room set up before the event
- Getting donations and sponsors
- Making raffle baskets
- Making the flyer
- Finding the paper goods
- Making centerpieces
Maybe someone is interested in joining, but with young children at home, she cannot make meetings at night. But she can go to someone’s home in the afternoon when her kids are in school and help put baskets together.
Perhaps this person is great at creating flyers and can create a great one for your event. It is a small thing to do, but necessary to get the event advertised in the community. This contribution may appear to be small, but it really is not.
But if this person believes that she will have to do work that she does not want to do or is unable to do, she won’t volunteer. If you advertise a job that is needed, then the odds of her signing up increase dramatically.
Be Friendly to Newcomers
Now this should be a no-brainer, but there are plenty of people, myself included, who have felt ignored and slighted when they were new to an organization. In my own experience, it was months before I made another attempt to offer my help. I felt like my presence really did not matter since no one approached me, a new face in the crowd. These are the same people who were always begging for help!
Those in charge need to go out of their way to make sure that everyone is welcome and that any help they can offer-even if it is something as simple as stuffing the envelopes for the event-is appreciated. (after all, it is one less thing that other people have to do).
Bring the new person into your conversations-she may be hesitant to join and ask for her opinion if she is shy, or she may feel like she is imposing on the people’s territory.
Say hello, say “thank you” for coming and ask them if they have any questions about the task/committee/event. Tell the person that you are the go-to person for any questions and to not hesitate to ask-it’s what you are there for! Ask for updates at each meeting and see how the new person is progressing. As she grows into the role, she will need less help from you.
A person needs to feel wanted and comfortable in order to return. If the experience is a positive one, then the likelihood that this person will return to help on another event increases.
Ask in Person
With technology-texts, emails and Facebook-how often do you have an actual face to face conversation or a personal phone call? It is easy to say “no” via technology, but it is much harder to say no to a request in person.
I know. I just accepted an invitation to chair a committee that has been stagnant at my synagogue. The new president is a long time friend of twenty years and while I have said no to her (and others) in person before, this opportunity really fits in with my life at this time. The fact that she asked me face-to-face made a big difference. It made the experience personal.
Cast your net wider than you have in the past. Have another committee member ask a friend to bring a new friend-but have her ask in person. People still like the personal touch.
Find Out What Your Volunteers' Strengths Are-And Use Them
Asking an introvert to go door to door to solicit sponsors is setting person up for discomfort and a guarantee to not have them come back to the next meeting. Maybe this person is better at email requests and can work from home to help your organization. Permit them to work where they are comfortable. After a lot of compliments at their success, this person may want to branch out to do more.
I have been on committees where there have been older members who are not comfortable with technology, but love to get to the event early to help with the finishing touches and check guests in at the start. This help is invaluable, as those who are steering everything have friendly, reliable people to help process the attendees while the final things on the checklist are being completed.
More Ideas for You to Implement
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Getting volunteers is not the easiest job, but it can be done. You just have to go about it the right way.