Volunteers are the lifeblood of most communities. Whether it be a school P&C, sporting team, recreational group or charity, vollies keep the fundraising up and overheads down.
Some people are born volunteers. They love to be involved, are dedicated to their cause and get a buzz from being involved in their community. Then there are other people who wish they could be involved but can’t for a variety of reasons. They may be time poor, over-committed elsewhere, feel uncomfortable putting themselves forward, not have transport or not have support at home to offer assistance (e.g. single parents). Then, of course, there are the people who don’t really want to be involved at all.
Trying to recruit and engage new volunteers is an ongoing and time-consuming necessity for all groups.
We know exactly how hard it can be to get more hands on deck so we’ve put together some ideas from both the School Mum community and some fundraising tools to try to help.
1. Make people feel comfortable
Many people avoid volunteering as they fear the group already established will be “cliquey” and exclusive. Looking at the culture of your group is extremely important to ensuring people will want to join you.
Here are some things to consider about your existing volunteer group:
- Is it welcoming to newcomers?
- Is input from others openly accepted?
- Is there a democratic process for decision-making or is there a core group of people in charge?
- Is there flexibility for involvement? (see points below).
2. Be clear about what you need
Some people may be unwilling to sign up for a long-term commitment or be unsure of what exactly will be asked of them.
“Generally parents want to offer to help, but are hesitant because they aren’t sure exactly what will be required of them, how long it will take etc. There s always the fear of putting your hand up then being lumbered with everything. If you take that uncertainty away, you get more volunteers.” – Member of the School Mum community
Here are some ways you can make expectations clearer:
- Ask them to do one thing – The “Just One Thing” concept is a great way to give people the option of what they can help with, without the fear of over commitment. They get to choose on their terms. The Fundraising Directory has a great letter template to demonstrate the idea.
- Use a roster system – Similar to the above, a roster system lets people know their exact commitment. Using an online system such as Sign Up Genius can help with your rostering.
3. Think Outside The Box
It is important to be creative when trying to recruit new volunteers. Consider the reasons people may not be engaging and attempt to address those. For example, single parents may have trouble getting kid-free time to do on-site work but can do to work from home or the office. People who have skills to offer could help by applying those.
For example, an accountant could help take the load off of the Treasurer by helping with bookkeeping, freeing them up to do more “hands on” work.
Think of jobs that can be easily delegated to others to free up the core group of workers. There will be people who are willing to take on things the stuff around the edges like collating raffle tickets, sending emails, washing uniforms etc.
The wonderful thing about most communities is there is such a vast array of skills, interests and abilities ripe for the picking – it’s just about tapping into them!
4. Make It Worth Their While
It’s human nature to want to get something in return for your efforts. This doesn’t have to be extravagant or counter-productive, but acknowledging the efforts of your vollies goes a long way to making them come back. Try:
- Making it fun – A great atmosphere can be very rewarding and making new connections is a wonderful trade off for volunteers. Show people the social benefits of giving their time.
- Offering incentives – This could be as simple as tea and biccies or a free lunch for canteen helpers. Some schools even accrue points for the children of parents who help and they get the benefit.
- A fee reduction – This is a trade off for helping/not helping. Essentially, a certain amount of hours volunteered will amount in a reduction of fees. There are a number of ways this can be done and is used by some schools. Some School Mums describes the system at their schools:
“We have PPP – parent participation plan we contribute 15 hours to the school then are credited $150 of fees it’s up to you if you do it or not but at least we get something so to speak!” – School Mum community member
“My child’s kindy does a surcharge of $70 per term which equates to 2 hours volunteer time – working on the assumption that if you don’t do it, they will have to get someone external to come in and do it and pay $35/hour. When you think about it that way and explain it, you tend to get more people putting their hand up!” – School Mum community member
Sometimes it is necessary to look outside the immediate community group to find people to help out. Services such as GoVolunteer link people who want to volunteer for various reasons, whether social or for work experience in a certain environment.
Grandparents, retirement villages and social groups are also good places to try to recruit extra hands!