The holiday season is all about giving and giving back. Giving gifts to our loved ones, giving the to the less fortunate, and giving back to our community through volunteering. In November and December, it seems like there is an abundance of people wanting to volunteers, while the other 10 months of the year, it’s pretty slim pickings. As a result, this is a dream for nonprofits who often have a limited budget, and limited reach. So how can you use the holiday season to begin a long-lasting relationship with your volunteers?
First, you’ll need to get the word out. Most people are looking for a quick shot of volunteering joy, so you’ll want to get the word out. Clear communicate to them what you expect in terms of hours, your commitment to the volunteer experience, and basic policies you would like them to follow. Try to make volunteering convenient by making the event location close to your home office and not requesting anyone on days that they will likely have plans with their loved ones.
Once you have volunteers signed up and at the event, you’ll want to make sure that you actually have activities for them to do! One of the worst mistakes you can make is to have people volunteer and then have nothing for them to do but stand there. Keep the tasks relatively simple (requiring little training or prep time), and make them feel productive by keeping them busy for the entirety of their “shift.” Try to make it fun (working with children, animals or the disabled are innately more enjoyable than stuffing mail)!
But most of all, you want to try and show your appreciation. Whether you do this by feeding your volunteers, inviting them to volunteer-exclusive activities, holding an annual volunteer appreciation party or giving a short speech that simply expresses your gratitude, a “thank you” in whatever form can and does go a long way!
Another way you can do this by discovering what a participant hopes to gain from their volunteer experience. Are they looking to get into the industry? Maybe you can connect them with other organizations that are similar to yours. If you meet their expectation about what they hope to get, they will
Finally, once the event and volunteer opportunity has concluded, get your volunteers’ information and stay in touch! Keep them updated with what your organization is doing and inform them of any future volunteering opportunities.
The need for volunteers doesn’t just stop when the holidays were over. By creating your own network of volunteers, you lessen the stress and hassle of finding brand new ones for each event.