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Making volunteers a part of your winning team!

3 Top tips for working with volunteers at a fundraising event

If you’ve ever organised a party, community fundraiser or large event you’ll know that teamwork is vital to success.

That’s never truer than in the charitable sector. From admin support to hands-on help at events, volunteers have a unique contribution to make and play a fundamental role in any charity fundraising event.

I’ve been lucky enough to work with hundreds of volunteers over the past 20 years – in fact my introduction to volunteering began at just aged 8! In my experience, time and again, volunteers have enriched and supported the wide number of different charity and community projects I have worked on. They have a wide variety of skills and experience to offer, they give their time and they tell lots of people about how they help your charity – which is great PR!

Last month I worked with some amazing people at CCPA’s first ever fundraising ball. On the big day the midlands based charity had a team of fabulous volunteers who swept in and demonstrated that ‘many hands make light work’.

Here, then, are my top tips for working with volunteers at a fundraising event;

Getting to know your volunteers and recognise their skills

For a one off event, such as a ball or village fete, its unlikely that you’ll be undertaking the type of volunteer interviews needed for more formal roles, however it’s a good idea to get to know what skills and experience your ‘helper’s have. 

When you use your volunteers unique talents you’ll be ensuring they feel valued and your organisation will benefit from their experience. Perhaps they are creative: an ideal volunteer for dressing the ball room. If they are good with figures can they help count-up after the raffle and tombola? When asking for their help be honest about the different roles, tasks and time commitment of the project.

Once you have established who is going to best at each of the the tasks make sure you spend time talking to them about the more formal health and safety aspects of the event; when they can take breaks or instructions on moving furniture or instance. Make sure they know who to go to if they have a problem.

Give your volunteers worthwhile tasks

Having drawn up your running order for the event put together a list of of specific tasks. It may help to produce a short description of each job. You can begin to match volunteers to each task. Talk through the list and then circulate to volunteers. For smaller events you could pin it to a table or flip chart so that volunteers can put themselves forward for the job they are best suited to do. They can tick off each task as its completed and move to the next one. Let them know they can ask for help at any time and make yourself accessible.

Don’t underestimate how important being involved with your charity is to your volunteers. Whether ‘just helping’ at an event or a long-term volunteer, individuals can get a great deal out of volunteering. When I worked in the Midlands we had a volunteer who came to us with extremely low self esteem. His disability and low self worth meant he hadn’t worked for some time. But gradually through volunteering he built his confidence, signed up and completed some college courses and eventually left the charity to start a new career in admin.

Say thank you

Everyone likes to be appreciated and although, in my experience, volunteers are very humble, and generally don’t like to be made a fuss of, it is important to thank them for their time and effort.

Endeavour to recognise your volunteer’s efforts both publically and privately if you can. An acknowledgement in the event programme, or flowers on the day of the event sends the message that your organisation values the support of your volunteers. You may want to organise a thank you ‘get-together’ or ‘wash-up’ which both recognises their effort and lets them give valuable feedback on how the event went from their point of view.

A hand written thank you note is a very personal gesture and shows individuals how much your organisation values their time, effort and support.

Recruiting volunteers to help at an event can be easy. It’s getting them to come back to help again at the next event that can be a challenge. Remember to keep in touch, let them know how much they helped to raise and how their support makes a difference.

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