Shelley Gillespie

Recruiting Volunteers: The Lifeblood of Nonprofits

posted by 
Shelley Gillespie,
Venture Court Productions

President

Nonprofits love volunteers. After all, they are the lifeblood of many organizations. When budgets are tight— and they always are with nonprofits— volunteers take up the slack.

So, how do you recruit volunteers who will integrate well with your paid staff, perform the functions they are assigned, and stick around?

Recruiting those committed and talented volunteers does take time and a strategic approach.

An example from my past— I was a regular volunteer for my alumni organization and usually said, "Yes" when asked for anything. At one meeting, I was asked to run a particular volunteer effort and said, "Yes," without really thinking about it. As the officer who had asked me walked away, I suddenly realized that the volunteer position was going to take place during the time my son was scheduled for an extensive surgery and recovery period. Not a good time to volunteer.

So, I quickly found the officer and explained that I wouldn’t be available this time. She looked put out and walked away.

Did they ask me to volunteer again? No, they did not. I subsequently took my volunteer efforts elsewhere.

If You Don't Ask, You Won't Get and Thinking Outside That Old Box

posted by 
Shelley Gillespie,
Venture Court Productions

President

During my time with a national nonprofit in Washington, D.C., I found myself assigned to projects that were already in process or rehashes of annual solicitations. This required some fast turnarounds, as we were on tight deadlines. But, we still had to make these donor requests lively and effective.

The section where all of the stories and marketing efforts came together was in the "check-off" area. Strangely, the top amount our pamphlet was requesting was a mere $2,500. I asked my director why.

 His answer was, "That's what we've always done."

With a little coaxing, I convinced him to increase the top amount to $5,000.

After the solicitations were disseminated, the results spoke for themselves. Four donors had upped their donations to the new top level, increasing our yield by over $12,000. With a few extra numbers and an underline, we made a difference to our bottom line.

Crush the box!

"Think outside of the box"— is so clichéd that I hope the world will invent some new catch phrase to indicate a refreshing approach to arriving at solutions.

Perhaps we should crush the box, dismantle the box, jump over the box, or invite others to join us in the box for a party.