4 Fool-proof Steps for Creating a Winning Volunteer Team

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Welcome to the final topic in the four-part series: ‘The Secret Behind a Profitable Fundraising Event: 4 Steps to Success.”

If you’ve been following along from the very beginning, chances are you are well on your way to a profitable and sustainable fundraising event!

The last piece of the successful and sustainable event puzzle is centered around landing a winning team of volunteers.

  • Fact: Recruiting an awesome group of volunteers can be challenging. Many do not give this task the credit and attention it deserves.
  • The Result: Poor retention and higher stress for the committee chairs to take on. 
  • Reality Check: You’ve spent months working tirelessly to ensure your fundraising event is going to be perfect! You’ve ensured the right people are attending, they’ve been communicated to effectively, and are ready and excited to give and then . . . you’re going to hand this precious cargo over to a group of individuals tasked with being the hands and faces that represent your cause. 

Did you have a little panic attack when that reality set in?

Yup, your volunteers have full access to each of your guests . They are responsible for ensuring the guest experience is top-notch and unforgettable. 

Here’s the thing, it’s just not going to be possible for you to be in all the places on your event day. So, let’s make sure you’re prepared to let it go and feel good about your volunteers stepping in. 

Maybe now it’s starting to make sense why volunteer recruitment should be taken as seriously as any other aspect of your event. What’s more, ensuring your volunteers are not only the right fit but stick around for years to come, reduces the daunting task of starting the process all over again next year. 

Want to know how to be a recruiting and retention master?

Then settle in and learn all about the 4 fool-proof steps that will get you there!

#1 SUCCESSFUL VOLUNTEER RECRUITMENT

A winning team of volunteers starts with having an actionable plan for recruitment. 

Before you get ready to post an announcement on all your social media channels for a casting call, take a moment to consider avenues in which you may already have access to some really great options. 

  • Recruit from within.  Chances are you’ve already got an entire database of individuals already involved in your cause. Perhaps they’d LOVE to be more involved or better yet, they might just have friends they can ask to get involved. Next thing you know friends are inviting friends and viola! Instant team. 
  • Influential asks.  Have an influential individual on your board? They are a gold mine for recruitment. Even if you don’t have direct access to an influential figure that aligns with your cause, chances are with a little brainstorming you might find you’re less than six degrees of separation away from someone that is. (Psst.: Julia C. Patrick and Jarrett Ransom host “The Nonprofit Show” and offer great advice about board management and engagement to help bolster volunteer recruiting efforts!)
  • Sponsors.  Companies often LOVE the opportunity to volunteer for events that align with their personal mission. In fact, there are many businesses out there that encourage their employees to give back to their community through service work. Start by putting out an ask to those that have already committed to sponsoring your event. Or perhaps those that responded to your initial sponsorship ask with a “maybe next year,” because hint hint volunteering = free advertising! (Think volunteers wearing t-shirts or baseball caps with their company logo)

Securing all of your volunteers might not be possible from these three areas, but it can be an excellent place to start. 

BONUS TIP: Be prepared to respond to top excuses why someone may decline the ask and be prepared with incentives that debunk these reasons. 

Examples:

  • “I can’t give that much of my time.”  Response: The shifts have been broken down into 3-hour increments and we have many different times slots to work with to accommodate different schedules. 
  • “I’d love to, but I don’t have anyone to watch my children.” Response: No problem, we’ve arranged for a care provider to be onsite to help out with that, at no charge to you!

#2 HAVE THE RIGHT PEOPLE FOR THE JOB

Correction: Have the right people for the job before they start.

Getting people to sign-up to volunteer for your event, shouldn’t be where the recruitment starts and ends. You’d never post an open job position and call the spot filled with the first person that walks in the door. 

Filling volunteer positions should be given the same level of consideration. They’ve got big shoes to fill. You want to make sure you’ve got the right individuals lined up for the job. 

Bottom line: Choosing volunteers is like hiring an employee. 

Start with an Interview:  

Volunteers should be assigned to specific tasks based on their personality, attributes, and strengths. Asking an introvert to be in charge of selling raffle tickets is probably not going to yield the best results. But they might the best volunteer when it comes to preparing registration packets.

Taking the time to understand your volunteer’s strengths and weaknesses ensures you’ll both end up with a successful and pleasing outcome. There really is a job for everyone. It’s more about making sure you give the right job to the right person.

Need ideas on what to ask during the interview? “Volunteer Interview Questions: Everything You Need to Ask & How to Conduct the Interview”

Protip: You’ll also want to stay organized in the process. And we’re not talking sticky notes all around your desk. Digital tools ease the volunteer management process and a volunteer management CRM will help you keep track of volunteer assignments and create and manage volunteer shifts.

Provide a Job Description (don’t sugar-coat it!)

Just as you wouldn’t hire an employee without a proper interview, you probably also understand they need to be given a job description to understand what their job will entail. Volunteers need the same thing.

This doesn’t need to be a fancy document, but it should be very clear. One of the worst mistakes made with a new volunteer is sugar-coating their job description. Be upfront from the start with expectations. Otherwise, volunteers will feel they were tricked into helping.

Here are a few items to consider in your job description

  • Clear outline of the tasks
  • Number of hours required
  • Date and time of service
  • Meals, if they are provided
  • Mileage reimbursement policy
  • Physical demands

The more information provided from the beginning, the less chance of disgruntled volunteers later. Outlining expectations in a document they sign minimizes the risk that they missed something.  

It’s better to learn about miscommunications out of the gate rather than on the event day when stress levels are running high and there is little room to adapt. 

Bonus Tip:  Don’t overstep the boundaries of the job description you promised. Have them sign an accountability document if you need it!

#3 GIVE VOLUNTEERS THE RIGHT TOOLS

Now that you’ve got volunteer recruitment in the bag, let’s work on making sure they’re prepared to get the job done well. 

Training:

The key to success here is to be:

  • Clear
  • Purposeful
  • Underwhelming

Making a job seem more complicated than it is, will send volunteers running. Start the training off slowly. Allow everyone to meet each other and understand the purpose of your event and how the team will be working together.

Pair down the training to be focused on their specific job. Make sure you are not feeding them too much information. It may be more work for you, but holding shorter training sessions over an extended period will allow for better retention than a two-hour long crash course. 

Employees contributing to your company need to feel knowledgeable, appreciated, and engaged otherwise chances are they won’t show up for work the next day. Volunteers are no different. 

Help volunteers feel they’re doing something good for a greater cause. That in essences is their ‘paycheck.” Let them know they helped make a difference. So . . . set them up for success from the get-go and they will be asking YOU if they can return the next year!

Make it Fun:

It’s easy to fall into “all business” when you are in event mode. However, ensuring your volunteers are having a good time is just as important as making sure that your guests are too. 

Providing a little incentive to get the job done well can be a wonderful motivator and build camaraderie. When appropriate, develop some competitive challenges that get your volunteers striving to go above and beyond. For instance, whoever sells the most raffle tickets gets two tickets to an upcoming concert or sporting event. Our friends at Winspire can help with curating a special volunteer experience…and the raffle item!

#4 SHOW VOLUNTEERS THEY ARE VALUED

The last piece to the retention puzzle involves showing your appreciation. Remember, volunteers are not paid; so demonstrating your gratitude for their efforts is a top priority. 

Hospitality:

Appoint a volunteer coordinator who makes rounds  and checks in on volunteers throughout the event. Are they having any struggles? Is there anything they see that doesn’t seem right? Do they need a bathroom break?

Make sure they are just as well taken care of as attendees. Provide meals, breaks, little gifts, or whatever is appropriate for your style of event. 

Welcome Feedback:

Welcome your volunteer’s feedback on how they felt about their assignment or how the event could be improved. Demonstrate genuine gratitude by looking to implement changes based on their suggestions. Volunteers provide yet another valuable perspective on how successful your event was or could be in the future. 

Don’t Forget About Them:

And most importantly, don’t let them fall off the radar when the event is over. Keep them connected throughout the year.

  • Send them a birthday card, updates on how the money they helped raise is being spent.
  • Give them a $5 gift card to Starbucks just because they are awesome!
  • Send them a note or call them and just say thank you!

It’s the little unexpected things that make someone feel special, appreciated, and a part of a team. 

Volunteers are the backbone of a great event and finding them can be hard work which is why taking the time to find the right individuals is absolutely worth the effort. Once onboard, provide clear expectations, train them well with meaningful jobs, and show your appreciation for their efforts and your retention rate is sure to skyrocket!

Wrapping Up!

Well there you have it, “The Secret Behind a Profitable Fundraising Event: 4 Steps to Success.”

But, it’s not a secret anymore. That’s perfectly OK. Pop the cork. You’re ready to have a profitable fundraising event.

Cheers to your success!

Guest Author

Danielle Snelson

Virtual Event Producer & Event Fundraising Educator

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Additional Resources:

FREE Facebook Group – Nonprofit Event Fundraising

Profitable Nonprofit Events Discount Code

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