Recruiting, Training, and Retaining Volunteers
Parents may be sitting on their hands and not volunteering for fear of disappearing in a volunteer black hole – a place of unending obligations. Parents who are already busy with work, kids, activities, etc., get sucked into this place with volunteer “asks” and fear that they won’t be able to escape. Clear communication right up front is key to getting – and keeping – your valuable volunteers. (Source: “School Fundraising: So Much More Than Cookie Dough,” Appendix D-1, by Sandra Pfau Englund.) In this post, we’ll discuss the bullet points from these three essentials in “School Fundraising” with reminders of best practice.
There are lots of variables in who and when volunteers might be available. If you keep an open mind, ask around, and consider that sometimes a “no” is temporary, you’ll find a lot of success in recruiting volunteers.
- Fill the black hole. Make sure your parent volunteers understand the time commitment involved. Offer multiple volunteer opportunities, with each one that is well-described and includes time requirements such as 1 hour a week, 1 hour a month, 2 hours for the year.
- Cast a wide net. Reach broadly into the school and community.
- Provide details on roles and goals. Descriptions, photos, outcomes from prior years, help parents know what would be expected of them.
- Ask people personally for help. Go beyond messaging to make a direct appeal to someone.
- Ask local businesses to help. This can work in a local business’s favor!
- Look for special skill sets. Someone may prefer to contribute with what they know how to do best (e.g., baker, artist, carpenter). Connect with your community to find out what people like to do.
- Make meetings convenient and worthwhile. Busy parents spend a lot of time in their cars. Schedule meetings at convenient times and places. On your agenda, always include a topic or speaker the parents are interested in. Make your meetings more than a recitation of reports.
- Don’t forget to get students involved! Some schools require students to submit volunteer hours on college applications. Your events are the perfect solution!
Provide volunteers with any training and/or tools they need to do their jobs properly. Offer variable times to account for work schedules. Group training can be a time-saver.
- Getting along. Make sure your trainers can work well with volunteers.
- Develop a guidebook. Keep written records to pass on year to year. Consider cloud-based storage for ease in transferring your knowledge to the next group of volunteers.
- Hold a “launch” meeting. Get everyone on the same page regarding expectations and responsibilities and generate excitement about the event.
- Watch for signs of someone struggling with an assignment. Send in reinforcements or support to decrease the possibility of being overwhelmed.
To keep people happily working without pay, you need to find out what motivates them.
- Make volunteering convenient and fun. Make sure volunteers can socialize and network.
- Offer flexibility with tasks, hours, how and where the work is done.
- Offer special perks or privileges so volunteers stay motivated.
- Give praise and kudos widely (always asking first – some prefer to stay anonymous)
- Keep your volunteers busy so they feel needed and helpful.
- Make your volunteers feel valued. A simple thank-you and a smile goes a long way toward a person feeling great about what they are doing. They are likely to continue if they feel appreciated.
We hope you have found these lists helpful. Recruiting, training, and retaining volunteers can be tricky, but we believe it can be easy and friendly. If you have any questions, feel free to contact Parent Booster USA. We would love to hear your success stories about volunteering!
The only organization of its kind in the US, Parent Booster USA is about helping school support organizations (parent teacher organizations, high school booster clubs and other school fundraising groups) handle the state and federal government paperwork required of fundraising groups.
Founded in 2004 by an attorney skilled in nonprofit and tax law, Parent Booster USA has more than 5,000 member organizations in 50 states and DC with a 95% annual renewal rate. We provide peace of mind for parent volunteers, school administrators and school district leadership.