As event directors who work with many different organizations and volunteers we keep seeing a common theme: Organizations struggle when it comes to engaging committee volunteers and volunteers feel unsupported and guilty if they haven’t “done enough” – leaving all parties feeling frustrated and unsatisfied.
Here are some ways we can all work to improve the volunteer / organization relationship:
Set Realistic Expectations
You need to first find the Right Volunteer for your committee or board. Many times charities are so happy to have someone say “yes” to sitting on a gala committee they leave out all the vital details about the role. If you are going to ask your committee and board to fundraise (as you should) then you need to tell them.
I’d go as far as to say change the name from “Golf Planning Committee” to “Golf Fundraising Committee”. You need volunteers to sell tickets, encourage their corporate contacts to purchase sponsorship opportunities and donate auction items - so make sure this is clear.
Setting clear expectations will help in determining the types of people you need on your fundraising committee – people who have contacts and are not afraid to ask.
Support and Engage
Now that you have the committee of your dreams you need to support them along the path to fundraising glory. Ensure you have the proper documents needed for soliciting and stay in contact with volunteers. Make sure everyone knows about deadlines and keep volunteers up-to-date on the status of the fundraising goals. We like to send weekly (or bi-weekly) revenue updates focusing on tickets, sponsorship and donations to highlight progress.
If there are exciting developments within the organization or with the event, send your volunteers an email – let them be among the first to know – keeping them engaged and motivated. One aspect we enjoy is including committee members in a menu tasting. It is such a nice treat and it gives them a voice for contributing to the event itself. This goes a LONG way!
Do you know how your volunteers like to be thanked? Have you asked them? This is a good place to start – do not assume you know. Finding out how each one of your volunteers wants to be acknowledged or thanked is a vital step in getting it right. Some want the public recognition – name on the program / in the newsletter, verbal recognition from the event MC / at the AGM, while others may shudder at the thought. For many volunteers a hand written thank you note, a coffee date, or a donation back to the organization in his / her honour is more touching. However you thank them ensure it is personal and most of all ensure that you do thank them.
Let’s squash the 80/20 rule (80% of the work is done by 20% of the volunteers) and build committees with the right people, the right support and the right thank you for better results with your fundraising events.
Co-Owner & Event Director