Keeping Your Volunteers Invested Through the Year

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For time-strapped volunteers, it can seem like your work is never done—especially when it comes to school fundraisers. So how do you keep your volunteers motivated? 

Share the Mission
First, all fundraisers need a purpose, and the “big picture” should be shared early and often. Volunteers need to know, comprehend and support exactly why they are working so hard. Perhaps you are holding a canned food drive near the holidays for needy families or selling candles to raise money for a school play. If a volunteer is not invested in the cause, their efforts may dwindle or cease completely. 

Set Some Goals
Volunteers are also more likely to engage when realistic goals are set early. While most fundraisers set a final goal, accurate expectations over the course of a fundraiser allow parents to plan ahead and carve out time to work on projects to progress towards major goals. Your goals should be clear and purpose-driven. Make sure your goals are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Agreed upon, Realistic, Time-Framed. For more information on setting these goals, check out the Fundraising Handbook at AFRDS.

Remember to remind your volunteers of your mission, goals and progress on an ongoing basis. Especially in situation that require months-long commitments like festivals, concerts or events, progress reports are crucial to motivate your volunteers. Keep a chart in your lobby tracking the amount of money you’ve raised or send regular emails or letters charting progress. 

Use Volunteers Wisely
When setting your plans for your fundraiser, keep in mind that your volunteers are individuals with different personalities and skill sets. Applying their skills appropriately is one of the best ways to keep your volunteers invested. Does each person possess leadership skills or prefer to follow someone’s direction? Are they extroverted or introverted? Creative or analytical? A loner or a group worker? All these characteristics are important in determining where an individual can help you succeed. And when a volunteer displays unusual or impressive skills, don’t hesitate to find or create a role that utilizes their special abilities.

Motivate Your Team
To further motivate your volunteers, implement incentives as your fundraiser progresses. Schools often encourage students to fundraise by promising to shave a principal’s head or throw a party if they meet their goals, but most of the time these don’t benefit your hard-working parents. consider gift cards for your star performers or turn planning sessions into mini-parties with appetizers and music.

Be Appreciative
Finally, volunteers need to feel appreciated. Saying “thank you” is the most important step to recognize their dedication and hard work and motivate your volunteers to come back for other fundraisers. Use your incentive program as a way to show your gratefulness. Acknowledge them publicly, by name—in a speech at an event, or in a list in the school newsletter. A handwritten thank you card is always an effective tool, showing that you took the time out of your day to show that you value their efforts for your organization and gaining their support throughout their child’s school years.

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