Charities provide a well-needed service to many communities. Whether it’s about delivering meals to the elderly, raising awareness of the anonymous reporting of crime (Crime Stoppers, by the way, gets no funding from the Government), sheltering the homeless, assisting those experiencing domestic violence or any other number of groups – they are there to support the local community as a whole.
I personally belong to, work in and volunteer for half a dozen groups. Am I retired? No. Do I have a heap of spare time? Heck no! So remember, even a busy person, working full time, running a business or with family commitments can probably find a spare couple of hours a month. Meals on Wheels (deliveries) is usually 1.5 hours once a month (gosh, this week we got through the run in 40 minutes). So many of us are so fortunate … if everyone got in and did just a little bit more, then we make a better world for everyone.
So, for the organisations, here are my tips to help you bolster your volunteer numbers:
1. Value and support those you have
Ensuring your current volunteers are happy is important. In fact, looking after volunteers is almost harder than employees. You need to keep them motivated, enjoying the work, possibly provide some training, absolutely ensure they are operating in a safe environment – all without the enticement of a wage. Thanking your volunteers regularly is important and one great way of doing this is ‘years of services’ badges … year 1, 2, 3 etc. Morning teas are nice too. What really surprised and brought a smile to my face was being nominated for the Greg Cook award recently which is run through Volunteering Redlands. It was a great honour and a lovely gesture. It can give members a renewed energy.
2. Share the load
In one organisation I help (and I’ve seen this a few times) one of the roles was too much. So consider splitting a role as often two people will be willing to do a smaller amount than one person committing to a larger job. For example, the role of secretary could be broken up so that there is a Minutes Secretary and General Secretary. Treasurer can be split to Banking & Receipting Treasurer and then Reporting Treasurer for the balance. I believe this is actually more effective than having a Vice. This allows both people to have a more balanced and equal role which is clearly defined and means the job is shared and therefore do-able for a busier person.
3. Ask volunteers and members to bring a friend
The best way to invite someone is to have a close friend or family member invite them. For Meals on Wheels, I went as a fill-in one day with a good friend. I wasn’t hassled at all but figured I could find an hour or two once a month and be on the roster. The best way of inviting is a personal invitation from someone.
4. Ask publicly
Whenever you run an event, remind your audience you’re always looking for members or volunteers. Put a message up on Facebook (I did this recently and someone I know reached out to me) … asking a person personally and privately works best, but it doesn’t hurt to occasionally put up a post to remind people who’d love and appreciate any help they can offer. Personal invitations are most effective but don’t dismiss social media.
5. Have Information about the roles
The lack of information is often a turn-off. I know I was recently asked to be a Vice Chair. I was interested but absolutely wanted to know more. Ideally, as you ask someone to fill a role, send them some information. People want to make an informed decision and lack of information can be ‘fear of the unknown’ or fear it’s going to be far more work than they can or are willing to do. Providing (no different than from a business) a position description with an estimated number of hours a week or month means people know exactly what’s expected, and in fact, it might be less than they thought.
6. Have a ‘sales/recruitment’ process
By this, I mean have a system (or specific person within your organisation) who is responsible for recruitment and inductions. This person should ideally have that information on hand about the organisation and the roles. They should be able to email, talk about or meet with a prospective person to share what it’s about. The most important thing is to not lose a contact and to strike whilst the iron is hot. I know one organisation years ago I wanted to volunteer for, I asked and left my name with them twice … and never heard back. Lack of system and follow-up would be a real shame to lose a prospective volunteer.
As a business coach, I’m always guiding clients to follow-up with their prospective leads and their quotes. Never just leave it to the customer or prospect to contact you. The same concept applies here. If you’ve sent some info to a prospective volunteer, or met with them (even better) then follow-up with them. Please don’t just email them (which can end up in a spam folder) – pick up the phone and give them a call. See what they are thinking. Maybe they are keen, but lack a little skill in that area. Maybe they just can’t make all commitments, but wouldn’t 75% effort be better than zero? Maybe they just forgot about it for the time being, and your prompt reminds them and they are keen to get started. Follow-up is NOT hassling, as long as your manner is not hassling; be friendly, listen to their needs and ask questions. Their ‘concerns’ may actually be wrongly assumed and you can give them the right information in which to make an informed decision. Remember this, a ‘no’ now is not a ‘no’ always. Possibly a follow-up in a year or so may find them in a more available position.
If you would like to know about the organisations I’m involved in – just ask me (0411 622 666), or contact Volunteering Redlands on 3086 0000 and I know they can direct you to many options. Volunteering gives you a wonderful sense of fulfilment; it helps so many others in needs and benefits our local community as a whole. Give it some serious thought – we need you!