I just finished an event and like to reflect afterwards on the “wins” and “hurdles”. When I arrived that evening, I noticed they had such wonderful volunteers that were passionate about supporting the event by giving their time that evening. So…..what was the hurdle? The volunteers didn’t know what to do. They had the best of intentions, but didn’t have directions on their roles for the evening. So, I wanted to offer up some guidelines of utilizing one of our most valuable resources. 

We often hear of people wanting to support our cause… they want to do something, but aren’t in a financial position to assist. So what can they do? VOLUNTEER! This also works well for young professionals that have a philanthropic heart, but haven’t established their philanthropic wallet. So, when we take them up on their offer, the least we can do is to provide a path for their time. 

In order to maximize the talents of your volunteers, have them fill out cards listing their interests and gifts, such as: organizational skills, accounting, sales/marketing, decorating, etc. There are people that love to sell raffle tickets, and others that would rather crawl under a desk than get in front of people. By matching up your volunteers with their skillset, you’ll make happier volunteers, let alone, add to your bottom line.

Now that your volunteers have been assigned a job, share your vision of the event with them. Whether you’re having a meeting a day or two before the event (which I recommend) or meeting last minute before your starting time (I do not recommend), get your team on board with the timeline and expectations of the role. Get them excited as a team. You might even consider offering gift cards for rewards for those selling the most raffle tickets, etc. We’ve have great competition when we have had college groups come in to work for their community support hours. You would be amazed at the number of raffle tickets I’ve seen cheerleaders sell for a $50 Ulta card. 

Next, have a preprinted list of team members and their jobs, in addition to a detailed job description (in case you need to make substitutions) as well as the time they are to arrive and what they should be wearing. You might put a question mark on the timeline so the volunteers will know that their time might last longer than originally intended. Don’t forget, if one job is a greeter, make notes as to where that team member is to go once the event starts and greeting is over.

Too often, we’ll see tables set up for volunteers at the gala and then no one at registration for late comers. We recommend that you have a separate celebration for your volunteers so they are able to be attentive to your attendees, instead of trying to enjoy the party. However, if you want your volunteers to be able to enjoy the event, then consider hiring temps that evening to fill roles that require attention during the program. As a bonus, some temp agencies have experienced workers in the software platforms such as Greater Giving, GivesSmart and OneCause. It’s also helpful to have a “volunteer room” that is stocked with snacks, bottled water and even sub sandwiches, chips, fruit, etc. It is much more practical and economical to feed your volunteers this way than for them to try to run in to the gala, eat a plated dinner, running back to check to see if anyone is at registration, doing coat check, etc.

Lastly, how do you plan on thanking your volunteers? We talk about our gratitude plan for donors, but what about our volunteers? It’s so imperative to keep our volunteers engaged just as it is to keep our donors. They serve a completely different role, but are just as important. Think about having a fun trivia night, pizza party, bowling, etc. to thank them for their time and talents. 

As we end the year, it’s a great time to think of our volunteers and the role they play. It’s also a great time to say, “Thank You”! Hope your December is full of love, family and the celebration of life!

Shannon (Mays) Eason, CAI, BAS

Auctioneer, Fundraising Consultant