Here we are – the Monday before Thanksgiving. ‘Tis the season to join with friends and family over a lovely meal and, hopefully, many laughs and good stories. It’s also the start of a very popular season for volunteering. Holidays can be a time of excess; fortunately, as people are reminded of their good fortune, they often look for opportunities to help others less fortunate. I always find that to be a wonderful reminder of the goodness in humanity. It would be easy to sit back and enjoy a hearty meal and spend a day not thinking about the many challenges in our communities – but many people choose to do just the opposite. Many families take the opportunity to introduce their children to volunteering and lots of businesses include volunteer days or gift drives as part of their own celebrations. I’m reminded that most people will choose to help another – but they have to see the need and see how they can help.
Once they see the need and join in, the challenge is to help this spirit last all year long. For volunteer coordinators, this season can be an opportunity to engage new volunteers and to recruit them to serve beyond the holiday. How to capitalize on this opportunity?
It’s all about being prepared!
- Be ready with volunteer position descriptions so that you can talk with the volunteers and let them know about other opportunities.
- Have some applications or a sign-up sheet so people can indicate that they’re interested in continuing to serve.
- Be prepared to provide some type of volunteer recognition – a meal, a thank you note from a client, or a celebratory dance after the service activity is complete.
- Provide a reflection activity after the service so the volunteers can see the deeper impact of their service and, even more importantly, the ongoing need for them to volunteer.
Then, of course, follow up, follow up, follow up! Send your volunteers a photo of the day showing how much fun they had. Call them and ask them to come back. Let them know how much you appreciate their service and paint them a picture of how they fit into your organization.
You can see that these tips are no different than what a good volunteer coordinator would do after any volunteer event or ongoing service. The difference? This time of year may bring in a bunch of new faces. If you can keep them coming back, then everybody wins all year long.