A crucial component to the success of any fundraising event is the volunteers who lend their time and energy to make it all happen. But how do you go about finding the right volunteers, training them effectively, and showing them the appreciation they deserve? Whether you're a seasoned event planner or a first-time organizer, these tips and strategies will help you build a strong volunteer team that will help make your fundraising event a resounding success.
How to Find Volunteers for Your Event
Volunteer recruitment is one of the most important parts of planning a successful fundraising event. But where do you find these awesome people who are willing to give their time and talents?
Ask People Who Are Connected to Your Cause
Your first stop on the journey to find volunteers for your event should be within your own organization. Family and friends of people who benefit from your organization are usually more than willing to lend a helping hand because they’re already invested in your mission. Send an email to your database that communicates your need for volunteers and the roles you need to fill, and ask them to sign up or forward the email to someone they know (or both!)
Look at People Who Have Volunteered at Past Events
If your organization has hosted events before, look at who volunteered and ask if they can return to help at the next event. Even if you have not hosted an event before, who is volunteering at other events in the community? Social media and local news articles may give you clues about what groups and individuals are volunteering, and you can reach out to them to see if they will help with your event.
Ask People You Know
If you’re managing an event, your close friends and family probably know about it. Ask them to help you by volunteering for a few hours. You can also post on your social networks with a callout for volunteers.
Reach Out to Student Organizations
Many high school students are now required to get out into the community and volunteer. Reach out to groups like the National Honor Society, Student Council, or even the school counselors to get on the list of organizations that will give students volunteer opportunities. Greek organizations on college campuses are also looking for ways to get involved. You could get dozens of volunteers from just one student organization!
Make Inquiries to Large Corporations in Your Area
Corporate organizations love to be seen in the community, and some will even pay their employees to volunteer at your event. Kohls will not only gather volunteers for you, but they also make a donation to your organization for every hour one of their employees volunteers their time. Start with your corporate sponsors and large employers in the area and ask if they have a program that will help you recruit volunteers for your event.
Do a Volunteer Swap with other Organizations
When you network with organizations in your community, you not only have the chance to learn and gain new ideas but there may even be an opportunity to share volunteers. Many volunteers are generous with their time, and may be willing to serve for multiple organizations at more than one event.
Turn To Your Corporate Partners
Businesses recognize their duty to give back to their communities. Many fulfill this obligation by launching workplace giving programs.
Through these programs, companies encourage their employees to make regular charitable contributions through volunteering, payroll deductions, and matching gifts. Know that most companies leverage workplace giving platforms to power these programs and simplify processes such as logging volunteer hours and awarding volunteer grants.
That means your corporate partners are a wonderful source of volunteers. Reach out to them to promote existing volunteer opportunities or create special volunteer days. Using their corporate giving software, they can publish upcoming volunteer activities, increasing visibility for your event.
If your corporate partners don’t already offer volunteer grants, have a conversation with them about that, too. Companies that offer to donate to a nonprofit when an employee volunteers can encourage volunteerism and the growth of employee skills outside of the workplace.
How to Train Volunteers for Your Event
You need quality volunteers that you can rely on so you can spend more time with your donors on the night of your event, whether you’re hosting an auction or a walk-a-thon. Here are some tips on how you can train your volunteers for success:
Train Your Volunteers Hours or Days Before Your Event Begins
Avoid stress and the risk of error during the event by training your volunteers hours or days ahead of time, whenever possible. You may even be able to accomplish some training by sending out a short video for volunteers to watch in their own time, leading up to the big night.
If your event begins at seven in the evening, ask your volunteers to arrive by four or four thirty so you have plenty of time to feed them, get them settled, and train them in their position.
Put the Right People in the Right Positions
As you recruit volunteers for your event, take each person’s skillset into account when assigning them to a position. Ask the right questions to understand where they might feel the most comfortable and be the best fit.
For example, if someone tells you they aren’t good with technology, putting them in front of a laptop at check-in or check-out might make them uncomfortable, and it could create challenges or mishaps for your guests during the event. However, if they really enjoy talking to people, they would likely excel in helping your organization procure items for a silent auction.
Explain the “Why" Behind Each Volunteer’s Role
Give your volunteers the WHY behind what you’re asking them to do. We’ll use check-in as an example since it seems to be the part of an event that causes a lot of stress among event managers:
Explain to your volunteers that the goal of check-in is to provide a great experience to the guests as they arrive. Check-in is the guest’s very first impression of the whole event, so everyone needs to be greeted warmly, and volunteers checking guests in should treat every guest like they are special. You would also communicate that the goal is not to have a line of people waiting to check in.
Split Your Event into Shifts
One way to make good use of a volunteer’s time is to split your event into shifts. This way, people can choose how long they’d like to work, and you can maximize the manpower available to you.
For example, if your event begins at 7:00, you can have a setup shift from 2:00-6:00, a shift for check-in and other things required during the actual event from 6:00-10:00, and a checkout and clean-up shift from 9:00-midnight. Doing this increases the availability of more people, and keeps volunteer groups fresh and ready for the next set of tasks.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Communicate as much and as often as possible. Regular communication via email, text, or even social media, keeps volunteers engaged and invested in your event. Send snippets about your mission and the goal for the event, what their role will be, what you’ll feed them, where they should park, and any changes or updates to logistical planning during the days and weeks leading up to your event.
How to Thank Your Volunteers
Thanking your volunteers is not only the right thing to do, but it will also help to strengthen connection and loyalty to your cause. When you do recognition right, volunteers are more likely to return to your events year after year! Here are a few ways you can show heartfelt gratitude toward your volunteers:
- Provide snacks and beverages at your event. Your volunteers invest their time, skills, and effort to ensure that attendees have an enjoyable and memorable experience at your fundraising event. Offering them food and drinks can keep both their energy and morale up throughout the duration of their volunteer service.
- Give them free branded merchandise. Show appreciation to your volunteers by rewarding them with branded t-shirts, hats, or tote bags. This way, they can leave your event with a memento to remind them of their volunteer experience. Plus, these gifts have the added benefit of providing some additional marketing for your organization.
- Send a personalized thank-you note after the event. Follow up promptly with each volunteer after your fundraising event to thank them for their support. Be sure to personalize each note with their preferred name and specific details of their contributions to ensure that they feel individually valued by your organization.
- Host a post-event thank-you lunch. Take your appreciation efforts one step further by planning a thank-you lunch or brunch after the fundraising event. Doing so demonstrates that you care about your volunteers and that you’re committed to building long-term relationships with them.
- Inform them about volunteer grants. After your event, emphasize how each volunteer played a role in your success. Then, give them the opportunity to make a greater difference by informing them about volunteer grants. Many companies use workplace giving software to process and award grants to nonprofits after their employees volunteer a certain number of hours there. Chances are, your volunteers will be thrilled to learn that their support can earn your organization even more funding.
Your volunteers are pertinent to your cause. Make sure they know you appreciate them. A simple “thank you” can go a long way in inspiring them to stick around and continue volunteering for your cause.
Tune into the Elevate Your Event Podcast for a more in-depth conversation about these topics, and find out how we recognize volunteers at our own events!
When you recruit volunteers to assist in your efforts to put on a fundraising event, your organization can become a powerful force. It all starts with creating a strong volunteer program that better prepares your team and your event for success. When you take care of your volunteers, they’ll take care of you. Use these tips to guide you along the way and you’ll be unstoppable!
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