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Project Volunteer Engagement – please vote!

Project Volunteer Engagement – please vote!

Project Volunteer Engagement PART 1 – Please vote

I am on the board of a local not-for-profit that has been suffering from some volunteer challenges – all of our community events are volunteer-driven, and lately we have not been able to find enough warm bodies to pull off the community events side of our mandate.

So here’s my idea: I am going to use my organization’s situation as a source of inspiration for the blog. I am going to propose 7 options, and then, I would like you to vote on which ones you think will work best. I am also going to open the survey up for comments too.

Background: This is a small (around $100,000 annual budget) organization whose mandate is two-fold: to deliver quality programming within the community (exercise, youth programs, children’s programs) and put on special events that enhance the community experience (community parties, pumpkin fundraisers, winter party in the park). The organization has a very capable Executive Director that has been holding her volunteer’s hands very effectively, perhaps too effectively, over the last few years. This means that she has gotten so good at what she does, that people in the community are starting to think that volunteering at community events is a “staff” job, not a volunteer job. The impression is “Oh well, if I don’t volunteer it is ok, because they seem to be doing fine without me.” Finding volunteers to help at special events is eating into the Executive Director’s programming hours and, as a staff member, she is the wrong person to be asking for volunteers.

So which strategy will work best? Here are the contenders:

1 – Pick up the telephone. We could get our 5 board members to pick up the phone, call some friends and ask them to join a roster of volunteers. In the same conversation we could also ask them what times work best for volunteering, and what kind of events they are interested in volunteering for.

2- Write up a Board restructuring document. Basically, this involves writing up an organizational document that leaves programming and things that have to get done to paid staff, and everything else – special events, community parties – to fall under the volunteer arm of the organization. Paid staff will prepare a blueprint of what has to get done in order to mount the event and a lead volunteer, with their team of volunteers will execute.

3-Add more board members. The more people at the current board table, the more access we will have to the community. Our board spiders (to steal some web terminology) will go out into the community and communicate the need for more volunteers.

4- Write an article in the local newspaper. The article will highlight how we recently had to cancel an event because not enough people volunteered to help.  We will also communicate how these events are entirely volunteer driven and cannot survive without the community’s support

5 – Host a volunteer thank you event. As we prepare for a big unveil of some new programming space, we can build in a volunteer appreciation event – wine, cheese, good conversation – to let people know how much we appreciate them, and that we are looking to connect with more community-minded people like them.

6- Establish 4 volunteer team captains. Each volunteer team captain will be responsible for finding a team of volunteers to help him/her at an event. Maybe a certain street could commit to running a particular event every year. After all, it’s always easier to volunteer to do the same thing you did last year, because you know what’s expected of you.

7- Ask the community for event suggestions. I hesitate to add this one, since the phone will start ringing with crazy, unrealistic things that our little not-for-profit could do, but it speaks to the question “Have our events become irrelevant to our community?” I think it’s worth the risk, even if it means responding to a lot more feedback in the short term.

Ok, enough about me. It’s your turn now: Vote for your top volunteer engagement strategy here through Survey Monkey. I will post results when they come in.