When it comes to fundraising, the more the merrier, right? Get the extra and support you need to make this year's fundraising campaign a huge success! Here are 4 strategies to recruit volunteers from Clay Boggess, Senior Consultant at Big Fundraising Ideas.
Gala planning and hosting socials invoke glamorous images of volunteerism and philanthropy; school fundraising, not so much. Thus, when it comes to getting parents on board to help run them, it takes a little extra ingenuity to sell this as an impactful opportunity.
Parents, especially working moms and dads, already struggle to find time to make dinner. Breathlessly running out of the house with lunches, backpacks, and multiple kids with shoes untied is a familiar image for many. With such limited bandwidth to offer up, parents may choose to avoid assuming additional duties for a fear that they won’t be able to meet the demands of something like a school fundraiser.
Therefore, potential volunteers need major value propositions to consider giving up their time, which is already at a premium. As fundraising season approaches, start thinking about ways you can recruit (and hopefully retain) fundraising volunteers.
Moms and dads, have you ever felt bad about going to that happy hour or Bunco night? Parents are the first to feel guilty when they take some “time off” from their most permanent role.
You might be surprised to know that researchers encourage you to take this time off and relish in it. Time away from the kids is something increasingly recommended, according to Washington Post, and it might even make you a more relaxed, happier, and effective parent.
Translate this into your fundraising by building in and highlighting a socialization component throughout the course of planning, carrying out, and wrapping up the school fundraiser. Find ways to make your “adult time” feel productive and fun. Consider these ideas:
- Host a short kickoff breakfast that parents can attend when they drop their kids off for school. If you can wrap it up before 8:30 a.m., parents may be able to attend without missing any work.
- Host an appetizer hour right after work and offer to provide babysitting. Find some high school students who can watch the younger kids, and eliminate a barrier to participation by ensuring parents are covered.
Fundraising leaders will find that these opportunities to bring parents together will offer the dual appeal of time to unwind and the “warm and fuzzy” feeling of giving back. You’ll gain a captive audience where you can communicate your mission; get parents to sign up for specific roles; and inspire them with the unique energy and enthusiasm found in coming together for a common cause (and some tasty snacks).
Have Options for Commitment
School fundraisers are uniquely appealing as volunteer opportunities because they are generally short in duration. Nonetheless, that does mean that some volunteer roles won’t require a couple months of commitment, or a lot of concentrated time during those few weeks. For example, if parents end up on a “planning and celebration” committee, they might have volunteer responsibilities before, during and after the selling period.
However, the modern parent may not have this kind of time, according to “We Are Teachers.” Their research found that uncertainty about what the school’s needs are coupled with too little time to volunteer are major hurdles to parent engagement. This may sound discouraging, but it also means your volunteer team has its work cut out and can strategize effectively to overcome these hurdles by breaking down big jobs into small, manageable tasks. Ensure your tasks are:
- Specific. Clearly define the expectations and completion time for tasks. Fill in as many blanks as possible. The less uncertainty a parent will have to overcome before signing up, the better.
- Tied to larger impact. Small tasks don’t have to be insignificant. Communicate how even posting fliers can make a difference.
Creating roles of different sizes might mean that, as a leader, you’ll have to fight your fears of delegation. Accept as true that someone out there is good at and wants to do a task you personally loathe. If you’re investing time in building a committed volunteer team, you owe it to yourself to trust its members.
Social media and the smart-phone revolution is not just something for the kids; the power of rich, remote connectivity can be a powerful tool for parents on the go.
Find out what remote platforms the parents in your volunteer group are using by doing a simple survey at the first meeting, and make as much use of these tools as possible. Good managers in the workplace regularly talk about “playing in the same sandbox” as their audience, and this metaphor translates well for fundraising volunteers.
If your volunteers are already spending their free time on a site like Facebook, or are comfortable learning a new tool like WhatsApp, use these options to create efficiencies that will get business done. You can explore tips on how to take your fundraiser into the social space, as this is something student sellers and parent volunteers increasingly look for.
Of course, some folks will always prefer face-to-face interaction, so don’t forego the occasional traditional meeting. Being at the same table is still one of the most effective ways to work and create a sense of team spirit. But for those parents who still want to be a part of the action, explore forms of communication—such as Facebook or emailing—to update and inspire on a more convenient and regular basis.
About the author: Clay Boggess has been designing fundraising programs for schools and various nonprofit organizations throughout the US since 1999. He works with administrators, teachers, as well as outside support entities such as PTA's and PTO’s. Clay is a Senior Consultant at Big Fundraising Ideas.