Finding Specialist Volunteers: Limited volunteer time/skill base

Finding Specialist Volunteers

Some time ago I wrote about creative ways of engaging volunteers.  One aspect I spoke of included defining roles that could be done outside of work hours so working parents could have the opportunity to contribute.

A reader wrote in response to describe her challenge. She said that she was involved with the parent body of a school in a lower socio-economic area, and a large proportion of the parents were single mothers without the resources to volunteer.  ‘Luxuries’ like finding specialist volunteers to write grant applications were simply outside the scope of the school.

‘What are my options’, she asked?

Here is a plan that might help to bring this group closer to finding specialist volunteers and be able to submit grant applications.

Step 1:

Define the need you want filling (your greatest wish might be a playground or music facilities for example).  Find a grant you want to apply for, write a short description of what is required in preparing the application and go back to your community.  Always try your own people first – you never know who will respond to a specific request for help.

Step 2:

Get some backup – if you are the lone voice asking for help it can sometimes be hard to be heard.  When you’ve defined the need and you’ve put together a bit of a blurb about it, it is easier to sell the idea and the benefit to your Principal (if they haven’t already been involved in the process) and get them on the look out for potential volunteers with the right skills.  The Principal also has the luxury of knowing all of the parents’ occupations and is in the position to narrow in on some likely volunteers.

Step 3:

Get the word out – the school newsletter, school facebook pages, etc. Make it clear that even if they don’t think they can help, that it would be great if they could check with their parents, family friends etc. to see if they might know anyone who could help. Who knows maybe that Uncle in Rotary could help out every now and again.

Step 4:

Many companies support their staff in community volunteering. Banks, in particular, are reknowned for these programs.  Typically, staff might be allowed to volunteer 1 or 2 days per year on full pay.

Approach your local bank or possibly insurance company (ideally the one your organization deals with) and explain your predicament.  Let them know that you lack the volunteer capacity to try for these grants, and this disadvantages the children at your school. Ask if they have any staff members who would be prepared to take the time to draft a grant application on your behalf.

Step 5:

If this fails, try putting the call out more broadly.  Your community or suburb’s Grapevine or Noticeboard (on facebook) is always a good spot to try.  There might be a past pupil who has some time spare or a community group who would be happy to help. Or try a free listing on Gumtree (, under ‘jobs’.  For both, make it clear that it is a volunteer role.  Explain your predicament, as well as what is involved in the role.  There are people out there wanting to get experience who would be happy to contribute to a good cause.

These steps might not work, but at least you can say that you have done everything possible to find the specialist volunteer support you need.

Best of luck!
Mandy Weidmann

Originally published May 30, 2014

You might also be interested in: