No matter how great this year's fundraising concept is, it's not going anywhere without volunteers—and lots of 'em! But recruiting volunteers is no easy task. In today's over-booked, busy world, it seems that everyone's schedule is packed to the max. Piano lessons, soccer practice, art class, dance recitals—add these kid-focused commitments to full-time work, and you've got yourself a case of missing volunteers.
It's more important than ever to up the recruiting ante by using the most effective methods possible. Here's a how-to guide for recruiting a fundraising dream team:
1. It's Never Too Early Start early, and start strong. As soon as there is a fundraising idea in place, it's time to start getting that glue that will hold it all together—the volunteers. The quicker you get an initial group of helpers together, the more assistance you'll have for the grunt work of further recruiting, buying supplies, and planning the event.
2. Get the Word Out You've got more than just newsletters and word-of-mouth at your fingertips, so use as many different methods as possible to attract potential volunteers and inform them of the fundraiser's needs.
- Network, network, network. Reach out to your readily available resources—friends, family, the PTA—to start talking to the people they know. It's much easier to say no to a flier on a bulletin board than a personalized request from a close friend.
- Throw a coffee or tea party. Pick a venue that's easily accessible by the community—a home in the neighborhood, or a room in the school itself. Lure in potential recruits with the promise of coffee or tea, and then spill the beans on the fundraising logistics. To really cut down on costs, try getting your coffee sponsored by a local coffee shop. Tell them that if they provide the goods, you'll advertise for them by passing out business cards or coupons to attendees.
- Set up a phone tree. Start with a list of contacts that you'd like to get involved in volunteering, and then split up the contacts with all of your initial volunteers. With everyone responsible for a certain number of calls, they'll get done much faster, and you won't have the burden of taking that on by yourself.
- Start a website. We're smack dab in the middle of a technological revolution, so take advantage of it! It's easier than ever to put one together—even without some tech savvy. With announcements, planning, a timeline, and assignments all happening online, it makes it easy for the entire community to be in-the-know about the goals and to help carry them out—on their own time. And the best part: you can do it for free! Try using a do-it-yourself blog site, like wordpress.com or Google's Blogger. And don't be put off by the word “blog”—it won't look any different from a regular website, and the user-friendly structure means that you won't have to deal with any complicated programming issues.
3. Recruit for Special Skills Just like you would for a “real” job, it's important to track down the unique skills and qualities that you'll need for the school's fundraiser. Looking to generate community interest in the event? Find someone who specializes in marketing. Need help organizing the day's events? Recruit someone who's especially skilled at event planning.
4. Involve the Entire Family With the action-packed schedules so common for today's families, it's tough to convince parent volunteers to trade in the hours they could be spending with their kids to plan a fundraiser, instead. The solution: turn the fundraiser into family time! Come up with specific roles that kids can independently take on—passing out fliers, making posters, selling raffle tickets, etc so that both parents and kids can help out together.
5. Work with Working Parents Another reason it's difficult to spark interest in volunteering is the prevalence of parents working full-time. When they're spending 40 plus hours at the office per week, parents may be hesitant to step up to volunteer—much less find a time to work volunteering into their schedules. Make it simple for them: come up with tasks that people can do on their own time, create roles that have differing levels of time commitments, and cut down on the required meetings that volunteers must attend.
6. Say Thanks! It's not necessary to give volunteers expensive or elaborate gifts—a simple and heartfelt "thank you" card will mean the most. If you can, take a photo of the entire group of volunteers together and turn them into cards. You can get multiple prints of the picture and paste them onto the front of blank cards, or take advantage of one of the many online companies, like shutterfly.com, that will create snazzy-looking photo cards for you. Volunteers will be grateful to see their generosity recognized—and they'll be more eager to volunteer for future fundraisers!