By Ruby Maddox
One thing we can probably all agree on is that most community-based organizations (CBOs) are usually under-resourced. Many rely primarily on grants and other monetary donations which often take the bulk of any executive director’s time and attention. Indeed much of the organizations focus can be focused on keeping the lights on and staff salaries paid and right-fully so. As the saying goes, “no money – no mission”.
Increasing volunteer participation can often feel like a worthwhile endeavor as well as another charge, the organization may have trouble fulfilling. But there are simple ways organizations can boost volunteer participation while engaging donors and creating exposure for the organization.
1. Use Your Board’s Networks.
What better way to engage others into your cause than by utilizing the volunteers you already have. Board members are a group of people who are already enthusiastic about your organization. Why else would they have committed to being the trustees of the health and wellness of your organization – for FREE. Utilizing your board’s networks gives them the opportunity to not only engage with the organization beyond board meetings but invite their friends and family into sharing in their passion for the organization, instead of only asking them for money.
2. Boost Your Social Media Presence – (yes, you have to.)
I hope by now this is a given. Social Media can be a cbo’s best friend. After all, it allows organizations to share the same marketing space as some of the bigger well known organizations without paying a cent!
While it may not be necessary to jump onto every social media platform out there, be where your audience is. Use social media to tell your organization’s story. Portray a cause that volunteers want to become a part of. If appropriate, post pictures of volunteers working at your organization and post them to your site.
Habitat for Humanity will often take pictures of their build sites and allow volunteers to tag themselves in photos. This allows volunteers to showcase to their friends and family the work their involved in.
3. Reach Out to Local Colleges
Most colleges have some kind of community-based learning or community engagement program. These are programs where students are encouraged to get involved in activities within the surrounding community. Some programs offer credit to students who participate in these programs. The school will often provide transportation for student groups on big volunteer days and some offer more long-term support for organizations that are able to take on individual students for more lengthy assignments. The structure of each program can vary so it’s often a good idea to inquire at each institution how their program works and if it’s a good fit for your organization.
4. Connect to Your Message
Even though you might know why you come into work everyday or why your organization’s cause means so much to the community, this may not be readily felt and understood by your volunteers. I can remember having this experience on a couple occasions of volunteering for an organization that didn’t take the time fully explain why the work we were doing mattered to the organization. While this is not always possible in every situation an organization can choose to either have an orientation session, where the particulars of the organization and the role of the volunteers are explained OR they can develop a 3-5min explanation on how the work of the volunteers connect to the organization’s mission.
5. Show Gratitude
Your organization does not need to be rolling in the dough to stock up on thank-you cards. If thank-you cards for every single volunteer group is a stretch, consider handmade cards or a special email, a mention in the next newsletter or a phone call. Volunteers want to feel that they’ve been able to make a difference. What better way to thank them than by letting them know that they have? This will increase the chance that they will volunteer again with your organization and that they will tell others about your organization.