It is a common cry from fundraising committees everywhere. ‘It’s the same old people who help again and again!’.
It is true that some people are inherently generous with their time (let’s call them ‘Natural Born Givers’) and gravitates towards volunteering their time for you. It’s almost as though they were born with a special gene. When you are in need of helpers, these are the people you can always count on and are therefore your first port of call.
This is where the problem lies. Just because it is easier, doesn’t mean it is the best option for the long term. This approach prevents you from building up a broad base of helpers and leads to the ‘same people over and over’ syndrome.
Apart from our beloved ‘Natural Born Givers’, there are 4 other types of people within our direct community.
- The ‘Natural Born Givers’ within your community that you simply haven’t connected with yet.
- Those who are prepared to help if they (or their skills) are desperately needed.
- Those who are prepared to help if they are directly approached for a specific task.
- Those who have little interest in helping – these people are the ‘What’s in it for me’ type and are very difficult to recruit.
Apart from your loyal core of volunteers, this first category is gold. The ice simply needs to be broken – then they are ‘yours forever’. An invitation to participate in a volunteering activity that has a social element works best here. For example, packing up orders while someone organises a coffee order or a brainstorming evening that is enriched with wine or chocolate (maybe I’m projecting here!).
I believe that the majority of people fall into the second category. These people are not always easy to get involved, but once they have committed, they are happy to help. The trick to engaging these people is to be specific with both the ‘need’ and the request. For example, ‘We’re re-building the chook sheds so we’re running a speallathon – I am looking for a person who is good with excel to help set up a spreadsheet. It can be done from home – can you help?’
The third type of person requires even more work. They need courting and personal face-to-face solicitation (isn’t solicitation a horrible thing for us fundraising volunteers to have to do – when did we sign up for this?!?!?). Invite this person for a coffee and do your best to persuade them to come on board for a particular purpose. Have something specific in mind, and have answers to their objections ready. For example, reassure them that they won’t be loaded up with additional responsibilities (the black hole of volunteering) once they have committed, and also that they will be supported by existing volunteers.
For the fourth type of person, don’t bother. I don’t mean to be negative, but for the most part, it simply isn’t worth it.
We asked our Facebook community for their ideas, and here are a couple of our on-the-ground ‘experts’. I love what they have to say!
I used to run a volunteer program and yes I would agree. It is a certain type of person who will volunteer voluntarily!!! Often people need to be asked… not pressured though… and they will be willing to step up! When I run events I work on the mentality that the more people can be involved the more successful it is… the $$$ value may not change but the people capital will… and slowly the concept that a few do LOADS of work will change to become LOADS of people do a little work and have a LOT of fun in the process! Also, I think leaders are often not good at LEADING… they think they have to do all the work and are so “competent” that no one else sees the need to step up. Good leadership delegates LOTS and breaks big jobs down to small ones so the group ends up having ownership, not just the leaders. It also makes it so much easier to find leaders to fill roles… This is not just theory… I’ve seen it work many times in practice… but it takes vision and willingness to let go and let others have a go…
Delegate! Unfortunately, if you are the ‘leader’ or organiser, you are left to organise it, alone…and if people feel you are doing well, they probably won’t even offer. I found not many people are the one who will ask what they can do and mean it. Most are more likely to say nothing or just say ‘let me know if there’s anything I can do’, so I do! I’ve found when organising something, the majority of time is spent co-ordinating. breaking down jobs and delegating. And unfortunately having to track people down and ask them personally. Even calling meetings to make arrangements doesn’t always help. It’s usually easier to work out the jobs to be done and either think about who would suit that job best or ask people to volunteer themselves for jobs, but if you take the later approach, you often need to remind them every day with an update that no one has volunteered yet! When it’s an association for a school, club or group, in my experience in Australia at least, most say they’re ‘too busy’ or they ‘asked once and were told they weren’t needed’ or they ‘offered ideas once and were shot down’. Some are honest and just say they ‘can’t be bothered’ and some will even say they’ll help with something and then just not show up! Many people see the regulars and think they’ve got it covered, they don’t want anyone else to help, they’re clicky, etc but it’s often that lake of confidence to step up. Making sure you do your best to show appreciation and recognition is important but also asking personally to do a specific job tends to be responded to well, maybe because they feel you have confidence in them for that role? Basically…if you don’t ask, you won’t get.
I hope this helps you!