10 Surefire Strategies to Attract and Keep Fundraising Volunteers
We know how hard it is for teachers to get parents to help in the classroom. According to classlist.com, “Less than 5% of parents take on the lion’s share of volunteering duties at school and fewer than 15% regularly dip their toes in the volunteer pool…” That problem gets even more challenging when the task is to attract and keep fundraising volunteers.
In fact, volunteerism across the board is lower than ever before. One common problem is that single-parent families rely on one parent holding a full-time job. Many of them often have second and third jobs in order to make ends meet. When the household includes both parents, 72.5% of those families also rely on both parents working to pay the bills. Add to that the lack of community many parents feel in regard to school, the discomfort of not knowing how to help, and not understanding the need for help, and you are left with a few parents doing all the work.
This challenge isn’t going away anytime soon. You can, however, take action to minimize it by developing healthy relationships with your volunteers that make them feel appreciated and useful. These 10 tips to attract and keep fundraising volunteers will both appeal to the personal needs of your volunteers and ensure your fundraising tasks get done, making the most of your fundraising efforts:
1. Meet Parents Where They Are
Meeting parents where they are can mean a few different things. First, you can meet them at an actual location. That can be at their work, home, or church. You can also meet them at the ball fields, bleachers, band hall, or wherever they may normally hang out to watch school events. Fortunately, with today’s technology, it can also mean meeting them in no location at all. If parents have difficulty attending regular meetings, you can offer Zoom video conferencing options and chat room meetings.
Second, meeting a parent where they are might simply be about matching your requests with their skills and availability. For example, a parent who understands accounting will make an excellent treasurer. When asked if they can lend their expertise to their child’s fundraiser, you are actually complementing them by suggesting that you trust their abilities while giving them the opportunity to work in an area where they feel confident and comfortable. But, if the parent is time-constrained, meet that need by limiting their role to simple tasks like picking up printed flyers or delivering boxes of chocolate bars to local businesses. You will be more likely to attract and keep fundraising volunteers if you make it easy for them to meet you.
2. Minimize In-Person Meetings
These days, most parents are busy with work, after-school activities, and general parenting responsibilities. Not many people are eager to add more meetings to their schedule, especially when those meetings take valuable time away from their families. Fortunately, these days most people do have access to a phone where they can attend an online meeting from just about anywhere.
Rather than requiring parents to attend face-to-face planning sessions, opt to schedule virtual meetings and other ways to connect. For example, instead of holding a vote at a meeting, you can ask parents to respond to a survey for decision-making and voting purposes. You can also create a group chat in a private Facebook group where you can pose questions and post polls and allow parents to answer on their own time.
When a meeting is easy to attend and can be worked into their own schedules, you will have a better chance of getting more parents to attend.
3. Attract and Keep Fundraising Volunteers with Shorter Meetings
No one likes a three-hour meeting, especially when they are concerned about their kids’ activities and a late dinner time. Instead, attempt to keep your meetings short to around 30 to 45 minutes to attract and keep fundraising volunteers. To do this, prepare your meeting agenda in advance and vow to stick to it.
Create an agenda that includes your opening and closing statements. Keep those statements short, attempting to allow no more than 5 minutes at the beginning and end of your meeting. The body of your agenda should focus on resolving one to three important topics depending on the depth of the topics. Prepare a short list of questions that you hope to get answered by the end of the meeting.
Defer any side discussion by announcing that there will be time in the closing for parents to talk about their concerns or afterwards. If those concerns have quick answers, go ahead and answer them. Otherwise, add the items to discuss to a list. You can address these concerns either during the next meeting or in a chat discussion where people can respond throughout the week. If further discussion is needed, you can then add it to your next meeting agenda.
Finally, assign a timekeeper to announce that you have reached the halfway point and the final 10 minutes of the meeting. Your timekeeper can also be in charge of keeping speakers focused by using their phone alarm to set a time limit. The alarm is an easy, non-confrontational way to suggest to speakers that they need to wrap up their comments.
Or have some fun with the time keeper picking an animal sound like a dog barking or crazy triggering word or phrase like “cheeseburger in paradise.”
4. Connect Using Email
During the beginning stages of your fundraiser, create an email list of parent volunteers. Then use that list to keep your parents updated weekly or more often if needed. For simplicity, use a generic outline with topics such as fundraiser progress, where help is needed, meeting recaps, and next meeting agendas. Fill those sections in using short bulleted statements making the email easy to scan.
To simplify your email-sending tasks, use your email server to create a group email list that goes out to all volunteers.
You can also create subgroup lists for different aspects of the project such as delivery day volunteers.
For added appeal, include a logo at the top of the email and a feature image in the middle of the email. Pictures of top sellers and volunteers are perfect for this and give honor to people who are doing a good job. It also will become motivation for others to increase their effort. If you aren’t sure how to create email groups or how to format your email template, click here.
5. Encourage Attendance with Food
Everyone loves a good Eatin’ Meeting where they are both fed and informed at the same time. There are several ways you can manage your food-featured meetings.
- First, you can budget for and purchase catering-styled food such as potato salad and buckets of fried chicken from your local grocery store.
- Second, ask your local restaurant supporters if they would be willing to provide some food for meeting attendees.
- Third, you can opt for a potluck-style meal from those people attending.
- Fourth, try a brown bags meeting where attendees simply bring their own meals and you provide beverages and napkins. These meetings are great for midday breaks where parents might have to forgo their lunch to attend a meeting instead.
Remember, your Eatin’ Meeting doesn’t have to include a four-course meal meant to send them home stuffed. Rather it can be a deli-style meat tray and a few side appetizers. Eatin’ Meetings not only encourage community but they are also just plain fun.
6. Plan for Childcare
No one appreciates a meeting where young children are running around and causing distractions. Furthermore, not all parents can leave their children at home while they attend. Instead of losing parent volunteers to the inconvenience of finding childcare, attract and keep fundraising volunteers by hiring a responsible teenager or trusted adult to watch and entertain the children (on-site if possible) while your parents attend the meeting.
7. Create a Welcoming, Inclusive Environment
We live in a diverse world where every community includes people from varying social backgrounds. Your volunteer fundraising team is no different. You will have single-working parents who are short on time and in some cases money. At the same time, they want to be involved in their children’s school activities. They want to give you their time.
You will also encounter members of differing religious and cultural backgrounds. For example, you might have a parent whose religious beliefs don’t allow them to labor during certain days of the week. You might also have immigrant parents who have difficulty understanding English, creating communication problems and ultimately exclusion from activities. Instead of losing patience with these differences, welcome them by leading with kindness and honoring special talents. If you use smartphone apps like Google Translate, parents who have a limited understanding of English may be your greatest ally when it comes to other parents with the same difficulty.
Remember your common humanity and celebrate your differences.
8. Tame the Inner Tiger Parent
The first part of “parent volunteer” is the “parent” part. And nothing can create discord like meddling about parenting issues. You may have read all the best parenting advice books and follow Dr. Becky Kennedy and other parenting experts on Instagram, but your child’s fundraising event isn’t the place to share that information.
Rather, give other parents with different parenting styles space to work through their unique family dynamics and maintain focus on creating a successful and enjoyable fundraising experience for everyone.
9. Practice and Encourage Self-Care
While King Fundraising makes near-effortless fundraising a priority, we acknowledge that fundraising requires manageable work, if you manage it well. This is especially true with a small fundraising committee. It’s important that you take time out to rejuvenate. More importantly, be kind to yourself. When things don’t go as planned, don’t beat yourself up over it. Instead, learn from the experience but focus on the impact you are making for your children’s school. Your calm demeanor achieved from self-care will more likely attract and keep fundraising volunteers than a frazzled stressed one.
You should also encourage your parent volunteers to do the same. Remind them that they are doing the best they can and to avoid being too critical of their work. When the work is done, celebrate with them. Recognize them for their contributions with a fun, relaxing dinner or weekend picnic potluck. Arrange to budget for child care so that your volunteers can enjoy the experience. When they feel appreciated, they will be more eager to volunteer again the next time.
10. And the Best Way to Attract and Keep Fundraising Volunteers: Be a Leader
Remember, people want to be led–not controlled or manipulated. Parent volunteers have been unfairly labeled as control freaks when in reality all they are trying to do is create a better environment for their children.
Like you, they volunteered to help support your school’s fundraising efforts to do just that. Unfortunately, fundraising to improve school conditions, buy equipment, and fund trips become so important that we sometimes lose sight of what it means to be a leader. Rather, instead of leading, they end up taking control and in some cases take a manipulative stance.
You will attract and keep fundraising volunteers better by shifting from a ‘control’ mode to a more Zen and group-discernment flow mode. Put some flowers in your hair, don your tie-dye t-shirt, and let the universe determine the outcomes. Show gratitude for whatever contribution your volunteers can provide. At the same time, do your part to move everyone forward to meet some (if not all) the organization’s goals. Keep your focus on the good and goodwill of the organization.
Your Efforts Will Attract and Keep Fundraising Volunteers
Appreciation, organization, and communication go a long way when fostering volunteer relationships. If someone takes the time to show up and make even the smallest amount of effort, acknowledge it—without comparison—as its own unique gift to the organization and the community you serve. When they see how much care you put into the work, they will be encouraged to do the same.
Hopefully, these tips will help you recruit more volunteers, and develop healthier relationships with them so they keep coming back year after year.
King Fundraising Can Help You Attract and Keep Fundraising Volunteers
And Overcome other Fundraising Challenges
If you’re having a particular challenge in your organization with volunteerism, tell your King Fundraising specialist what you’re experiencing. Our experts can help you think through strategies to better accommodate the differing personalities that make up a volunteer committee. We have worked with hundreds of groups similar to yours and can share what other schools and non-profit organizations do to successfully manage healthy fundraising volunteer relationships.
Comment below about how your organization attracts volunteers and makes them feel appreciated.