Are you doing enough to encourage local heroes into your organisation? Rob Jackson reveals how to turn potential into participation
Fundraising is a popular role for volunteers. Two thirds of those that give their time to charities raise or handle money as their main activity. Here’s how to tap into this valuable resource and effectively engage volunteers in your fundraising activities.
1. Offer opportunities
When people volunteer they want to gain a sense of fulfilment and not waste their time. Does volunteer fundraising at your organisation deliver this? Perhaps your volunteers can work in groups, enabling them to support the cause and network at the same time. It is particularly important to make sure that they see how their work has benefited the cause. A good way to do that is to arrange for them to visit a project after they’ve done their fundraising to see how the money might be spent.
2. Who do you need?
Think about what skills, experience and abilities the right volunteer will have and be clear about when they will need to be available. It’s important to think about the activities you expect your fundraising volunteers to do and what skills they should have. It’s likely they’ll need to be good communicators, have a link to or compassion for your cause, some sales experience and possibly be available at evenings and weekends. The clearer the picture you have of who the ideal person would be, the easier it will be to find and engage them.
3. Effective recruitment
Most people think the biggest problem with volunteer recruitment is not getting enough volunteers. In reality, the biggest problem is not getting enough of the right volunteers. If you have clarity over the roles available and the ideal people to fill those roles you can target your efforts to find those people. This may mean fewer applicants but they are more likely to be the right kind of people.
For example, if you need volunteers to regularly empty collection tins placed in local businesses, you probably need people who can drive and are available during the day. You need to consider where you might find them. One idea might be to put leaflets on the windscreens of cars parked during the day at your local supermarket. It is certainly more likely to yield an appropriate response than a poster in the GP surgery.
4. First impressions count
Do you remember the days when if you bought something mail-order you usually had to wait 28 days for delivery? Now we’re surprised, frustrated, even annoyed if next day delivery isn’t an option. When people respond to your volunteer fundraising recruitment requests make sure you get back to them quickly, even if it is just to give them a clear idea of how long a proper response will take. You only have one chance to make a first impression so make it a good one.
5. Day-to-day management
People’s interests, motivations and availability will change over time, so make sure you regularly speak to your volunteers and ask them about their interests and availability. It might have suited a volunteer to regularly help with daytime fundraising while they were unemployed but when they get a job they will be unable to do that. Is there something they could do in the evenings instead? If they don’t have the time to volunteer anymore, maybe now’s a good moment to ask them to give you money, not time.
6. Make it rewarding
It is critical that volunteer fundraising is enjoyable if you want to attract and keep volunteers. You’re not competing with other organisations for volunteers, you’re competing with all the leisure activities that people could spend their spare time doing such as, going to the cinema, having a meal with friends or watching a sports event. So make your volunteering fun and rewarding
Our lives are increasingly complex and time pressured. Few people will be thrilled by the idea of committing the next 20 years of their lives to you for two hours a week. Would you want to do that? To successfully engage and retain a pool of fundraising volunteers you must be prepared to let them go. If volunteers see you’re willing to accommodate their changing priorities and allow them to take a break from volunteering, they will be more likely to come back to you in future.
8. Be courteous
Certificates, parties, awards, and volunteers’ week events are all well and good, but nothing beats regularly thanking people for giving you their time, in a way that is appropriate to them and their motivations. Oh, and if fundraising volunteers tell you they don’t want to be thanked, try not doing it and see how long they stay around!
Rob Jackson is director of Rob Jackson Consulting
This article first appeared in The Fundraiser magazine, Issue 10, October 2011