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Volunteers at Your Charity Event, Part 1: How to Attract Volunteers

Posted by Ashley Shaw on 3/7/17 11:00 AM
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Did you know that over 60 million people across the country volunteered in 2015But how do you get some of those 60 million volunteers to help at your event?

The volunteers at your charity event can make a huge difference as to how it goes this year (and whether people want to come back next year). That’s why I’m starting a three part series on volunteers.

Part 1: How to Attract Volunteers to Your Event

Part 2: How to Select, Train, and Manage Volunteers

Part 3: How to Keep Volunteers

So get ready to learn a lot today, and then come back this Thursday and next Tuesday for more!

12 Ways to Attract Volunteers for Your Event

For the first entry in this series, let’s take a look at how to get volunteers signing up to help in the first place. To help, I’ve come up with 12 things you can do to start increasing your volunteer participation. 

1. Start Early

One of the best ways to attract volunteers to your event is to start looking early. If you don’t get the word out as soon as you can, then you’ll end up relying on last minute help, which will lower your number of volunteers and likely reduce the quality of those volunteers, as well.

In fact, you can even start thinking about volunteers for your next event at your current event. Besides getting donations, one of your goals can be to get X amount of people to sign up to help in the future.  

So put the volunteer process near the top of your to-do list.

2. Be Organized

Imagine this:

You’ve got no process for volunteers to sign-up for your event. So this great potential helper just hands you her resume. But someone had put up some type of notice on a volunteer board. And a couple of good candidates asked to help. However, since the post wasn’t monitored, no one got back to them.

Then, a couple of other potential volunteers told a few other members of your team that they could help. They forgot to tell you, though.

In this scenario, you’ve got tons of volunteers that want to help you, but you only know about one of them.

That’s why it is so important to be organized in this process. You don’t want your volunteer numbers to be low because of a lack of communication and organization.

  • Decide how you want volunteers to sign up to help.
  • Clearly iterate this process to everyone on your team.
  • Stick to it. If the process is to fill out an application through a volunteer board, then make sure to tell anyone who tells you they want to help something like, “Great! We’d love to have you. Could you go to whatever.com and fill out the form so we can get you started.”

3. Create a Position Title

A lot of people volunteer for purely altruistic reasons. But some people combine their good impulses with a need or want. And often, that need or want is experience.

Many people, especially those just entering the job force or those trying to make a career change, like to include volunteer opportunities on their resume.

Help attract volunteers by creating a position title, especially an impressive sounding one. It could be what makes a great candidate apply to help at your event instead of another.  

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4. Take Advantage of Social Media

Social media is a great way to get the word out there about anything you want the world to know. And finding volunteers is not an exception.

  • Use the right hashtags to be found.
  • Keep a compelling social media platform all the time. When potential volunteers research your cause, you want them inspired by your pictures and stories.
  • Ask outright for your followers to retweet and share your posts with their followers.

5. Approach Businesses and Schools

Many students are looking for community service hours for a wide variety of reasons. And many businesses have programs that encourage workers to volunteer (such as Volunteer Days Off) or have annual team activities that have them volunteer as a group.

That’s why spreading the word of your open volunteer position(s) to local schools and businesses is a great way to make sure you get the help you need to run an amazing event.

6. Put Out an Ad (in the Right Spots)

There are lots of places you can advertise your need for volunteers. I know I personally have found many volunteer opportunities through VolunteerMatch.com. So if you want me to potentially find your opening and apply (and you should. I’m an awesome volunteer.) then that may be where you want to go.

However, that isn’t your only option. There are tons of volunteer forums and software companies that help you find volunteers. Do some research and find out which is best for you. And then add a link to the opening on your own website to make sure you also get all those people who specifically want to help you.

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7. Give Out Incentives

You can’t pay a volunteer, obviously, because if you do, they aren’t volunteers. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t offer them something.

If you are going to do something for volunteers - for example, offer a free dinner at the event - then make sure you let people know. It is unlikely that someone is going to volunteer with you because they get a free meal. After all, if that is all that they were after, they’d get a paid position instead.

However, incentives show that you appreciate the people willing to help you. And volunteers do like feeling appreciated for their hard work.

(Side note: giving them things isn’t the only way to show your volunteers you appreciate them. So if you can’t afford to give them a meal or a pizza party or anything else material, don’t worry. In Part 3 of this volunteer series, we will talk about other ways to make volunteers feel appreciated.)

8. Tell Your Story/Describe the Position in a Clear and Compelling Manner

There are two super important things you need to do when you post a volunteer opening:

  1. Tell potential volunteers what you want them to do.
  2. Tell potential volunteers why they should want to help you.

This is common sense:

If I am going to do a lot of work for someone for no pay, then there has to be a compelling reason for me to do it. And when it comes to volunteering, that probably means I really believe in their cause.

So if you want volunteers to want to help you, you’ve got to make them believe in your cause enough to want to help. A snippet of this can be placed in your job description, but a lot of it will already be out there.

They will research you. What will they find? Make sure your story is clear, compelling, and out there for all to discover.

But more specific to your post, make sure you say what the candidate will be doing. This will help you get qualified candidates, but it will also help you get candidates at all.

If you don’t put any information in your post, then a lot of people will be leary of applying.

9. Ask Your Supporters

This is an important one. Ask all the people who normally support you (donors, social media followers, etc.), if they or someone they know would like to help.

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10. Ask Your Friends and Family

Same as the above: even people who might not have any specific support of your organization may want to help because of their support of you.

11. Talk to Your Regular, Past Volunteers

You know what they are like. You know what they can do. You know they have, at one point in time, wanted to help you.

That is why your past volunteers are such a good starting point. Keep in regular contact with your former volunteers - maybe through a regular, volunteer newsletter. And then, when you need them again, you can easily reach them.

12. Ask Your Network’s Networks

Now that you have touched your network (through the last three points on this list), it is time to take it one step further:

Even if they can’t help you, ask them if they know someone who can. You’d be surprised how far your network expands when your network brings in all of their networks.

Getting Volunteers at Your Charity Event: The Wrap-Up

Can you think of more? Tell me your best ideas in the comments or on social media.

And now that you’ve got all these ways to get volunteers lining up at your door, it’s time to figure out how to pick and manage the best candidates…

But you’ll have to wait until Thursday for that.

In the meantime, if you are planning an event, make sure you get our free ebook, “How to Host an Amazing Charity Event”.

Get Free Event Planning E-Book

Topics: Volunteers

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