How to Find Your “Dream” Volunteer at Make a Difference Day and Other Single Days of Service
In the U.S., Make a Difference Day is upon us. There is a flurry of excitement, Tweets, Facebook posts, ads, and articles getting us geared up for the big day. As volunteer managers, we may be charged with excitement or simply going through the motions of another single day of service exercise. Let’s face it—some of us still yearn for that devoted, long-term volunteer, who we can count on week after week or even month after month. Yet, we know national days of service have their benefits: the opportunity to ride the tails of national-level ad campaigns; a chance to accomplish a project that might otherwise get pushed down in priority on the list of organization goals; and exposure for our cause to new groups of potential volunteers and donors.
Single volunteer day events have become the norm for us…but we don’t have to give up our desire to find that “right” volunteer who is ready and willing to serve on a more committed basis. In their book Keeping Volunteers: A Guide to Retention, Steve McCurley and Rick Lynch give us some ways to mold single days of service into excellent tools for finding your “dream” volunteers. Here’s what they say:
- Consider Single Days of Service as Attractor Events
Attractor events can be organized around a clean-up (park, home, nonprofit agency), around community education (a mall show or a corporate fair), an “a-thon” fundraiser, an educational or outreach event, or any other activity which meets the following requirements:
- it can involve groups of people in a variety of volunteer tasks and projects
- many volunteer positions don’t require any substantial training or preparation
- the work is fun and exciting and allows people to work with others
- the activity is photogenic, thus attracting attention
- Assign Volunteer “Scouts” to Identify the More Engaged
During the attractor event, current volunteers should be assigned as “scouts” to work among groups of newcomers. Part of their assignment should be to help manage the work during the event, but another part of their assignment could involve “scouting” those who are attending, looking for individuals who show the most interest and potential. These scouts should be encouraged to do the following:
- establish personal contact with each of the volunteers with whom they are working
- give the newcomers a sense of “welcome” and appreciation
- get the names and contact information of those attending, so that they can be thanked afterwards
- ensure that each new volunteer gets some basic information about the program and about its involvement of volunteers, and receives a briefing on the cause of the organization and its work in furthering that cause
- Nurture Additional Involvement
Once you’ve identified individuals who show signs of wanting to be more engaged, you’ll want to cultivate relationships with them. The process of cultivating vary depending upon your circumstances, but here are some possible avenues to explore:
- Offer to include the volunteer in agency communications (newsletters, volunteer social media groups, etc.) so he or she can learn more about your work and stay in touch.
- While the volunteer is at the event, he or she should receive further information about the agency and its work. This should include information about the work of the agency and about the variety of volunteer positions that are available within it.
- The potential volunteer should also be introduced to staff and volunteers at the agency. Becoming acquainted with others in the organization can serve as an anchor that holds the connection of the volunteer to the agency.
- If the event is a recurring one, you can increase involvement by offering the same opportunity at the next event. The offer should be phrased in terms of being a continuation of the work that has already been done rather than as an entirely new task or activity.
- If the volunteer takes on more responsibility, he or she could receive some sign of promotion with the agency, such as an official title that indicates their new status, access to materials or equipment, a business card or some other items that create an official link with the organization.
Not every individual you identify will turn out to be a long-term committed volunteer, but structuring singles days of service each time as a networking event will help give you more opportunities for finding that “dream” volunteer.