Nonprofit events are the perfect opportunity to bring your community together to celebrate and support your cause, but they also require a lot of work. From designing an effective marketing strategy and securing sponsors to coordinating details like venues, catering, and entertainment, there are dozens of tasks that need to be completed before the day of a big event.
This is why many nonprofit organizations rely on volunteers to help them pull off events—because volunteers can put in the work behind the scenes to help your team offer an unforgettable experience that also pulls in donations for your cause.
However, volunteers can quickly become another challenge for your event team if you don’t know how to effectively recruit and manage them. That’s where this quick guide comes in handy—in it, we’ll walk you through three tips for involving volunteers in your nonprofit’s events.
These tips will help you level up how you’re approaching volunteer opportunities for all the events on your calendar, whether they’re in-person, hybrid, or virtual. Let’s begin!
1. Actively market event volunteering opportunities.
To recruit a team of energetic and helpful volunteers for your next event, you need to actively promote volunteering opportunities to your community of supporters. After all, people can’t volunteer for an event without knowing about it first.
Use these three strategies to make your marketing efforts extra effective:
- Use a multichannel marketing strategy. A multichannel marketing strategy is best for meeting potential volunteers where they’re at. With this type of strategy, you use multiple communication channels that you know your volunteers and supporters respond well to, whether that be radio ads, social media, your website, or direct mail.
- Tell a story that your volunteers can connect with. Sharing your organization’s story within your volunteering marketing materials can inspire people to sign up. For example, with an email newsletter, you might remind your potential volunteers of your mission and how many beneficiaries you were able to help thanks to the funds raised by last year’s event. Illustrating for your volunteers what they can be a part of when they help out at your event can boost sign-ups. As you share your story, remember to be authentic and descriptive to really grab potential volunteers’ attention.
- Optimize your volunteer program sign-up page. If your nonprofit requires an application process for volunteers, it’s a good idea to optimize your volunteer application page on your website. Make the page easy to get to from your website’s homepage, and refine the application or registration form so that it’s fast and convenient to fill out. Also, ensure that potential volunteers understand any additional application requirements such as having their backgrounds checked or getting fingerprinted.
Start your volunteer recruitment and marketing processes early in the months and weeks leading up to the event. This guarantees help on the day of, but also gathers volunteers to assist with any event planning tasks you need help with such as securing sponsorships or auction items.
2. Match volunteers with roles that complement their skills or interests.
According to CharityBids’ guide to nonprofit event planning, “The most effective volunteers are those who are put in a role where their strengths can shine.” When you take the time to match volunteers with roles or tasks that complement their skill sets, expertise, or interests, you’ll be creating an unstoppable team.
Some nonprofits try to tap into their volunteers’ strengths early on in the recruitment process by posting volunteering opportunities with “job descriptions.” These job descriptions can include details such as:
- Training requirements
- Time commitment
- Instructions for applying
By creating volunteer job descriptions, you can find the volunteers you need to handle specific tasks, like managing your social media marketing or ushering. Plus, job descriptions help to align expectations between your organization and your volunteers from the beginning, so everyone is on the same page throughout the event planning and execution process.
There may also be situations where a volunteer approaches your volunteer coordinator and requests an assignment or role more closely aligned with their area of expertise or interests. For example, a volunteer who works as a theatrical technician might inquire about assisting with tech management for your virtual charity auction. In these instances, you should try your best to match the volunteer with an opportunity that fits their interests. If that’s not possible, make sure to note it for the future.
3. Show gratitude.
Once your event is over, it can be tempting to wash your hands of it and move on to a new campaign or turn your focus to your day-to-day operations. However, the days and weeks after an event are critical. This is the time to express gratitude to everyone involved with your event, including your volunteers, for helping to make it a success. Doing so will not only help your volunteers feel valued for their contributions but can encourage further involvement down the road.
One of the best ways to thank your volunteers is to write and send thank-you letters. According to Fundraising Letters, they should include the following elements:
- A personalized salutation. Volunteers, like donors, should be recognized as people. Instead of starting off your thank-you letter with something generic like “Dear Volunteer,” use your volunteers’ first names. This will make the thank-you letter feel more genuine and heartfelt.
- Acknowledgment of what the volunteer did and their impact. Clearly state what the volunteer did to contribute to your event, whether they served as a runner for one of your board members or helped to conduct a raffle. Then, explain how their work had an impact on the results of your event, and consequently, your beneficiaries. Acknowledging specific contributions will help volunteers feel like their work truly mattered.
- Upcoming volunteer opportunities. Within the thank-you letter, highlight one or two upcoming volunteer opportunities. Including these in addition to words of gratitude will help boost your volunteer retention rate, as many of your volunteers will be eager for another opportunity to get involved.
- Contact information. Include your volunteer coordinator’s contact information in the thank-you letter so that recipients know who to turn to with questions or concerns.
- Signature. If possible, have someone who met or worked with the volunteer sign the letter. A handwritten signature from someone the volunteer knows can add another level of personalization to the letter.
You can take your volunteer gratitude strategy up a notch by sending along small gifts of appreciation with your thank-you letters. These might be hats, t-shirts, and water bottles branded to your nonprofit, or gift cards to local restaurants. Use what you know about your volunteers to select items that will resonate with them and remind them that they mean the world to your organization!
Having a strong team of talented volunteers can make all the difference in how your nonprofit is able to plan and execute events, so prioritize involving volunteers in the next event on your calendar and making their experience one to remember.
If your hands are full with event planning tasks, consider working with a charity event planning and production team that can take care of the heavy lifting for you. This way, you’ll be able to get back to tasks that matter more, like recruiting and managing your volunteers.