For those of us with years of fundraising under our belt, the very mention of the word “volunteers” can send shivers down one’s spine. However, while, volunteer management is not everyone’s cup of tea, volunteers are frequently an under-utilized asset—and a very cost effective way of achieving your development goals.
First, a bit of a disclaimer: this posting is not intended to be a “How To” for using and managing volunteers. There are plenty of great web articles that do a fantastic job of that. A great primer is a Community Toolbox posting, “Developing a Plan for Involving Volunteers.” This relatively short but insightful article is just one of many I would recommend to anyone exploring ways to initiate or expand a volunteer program.
My goal here, on the other hand, is simply to share a couple of insights aimed at addressing one of the frequent obstacles to managing volunteers: Finding a convenient time to train/educate them for the job at hand. If you have worked with volunteers in the past, you have probably found that the best ones are extremely busy—the very thing that makes them good at volunteering makes them great at many other things as well, so they are in perpetually high demand. Trying to find a “good time” that works for a group of individuals can be a challenge—and often means you are conducting the session at a time you would rather be home.
The solution? The Internet! Whether you are doing the training yourself, or providing access to “experts in the field” for topics such as gift planning, board training, etc., take advantage of the variety of available online tools. These are often offered at little or no cost and frequently accessible for download at the volunteer’s convenience. Case in point, recently I was asked by my pastor to participate in a Planned Giving webinar for church volunteers. We had three participation options:
- Meet at church and watch together (over a Pizza and Beer Dinner!)
- Join remotely from home
- Watch it on our own at a later date
WOW! And who says technology hasn’t made our lives easier?? The cost to participate for the group was nominal and any number of participants could join. The speaker was outstanding and 7-8 individuals learned a lot about planned giving for our church in a 90 minute session (and the pizza was great, too).
Similarly, when training volunteers yourself, consider videotaping your session. Ideally this would be available to distribute via email or to access online. You, too, can be a YouTube star! Much more dynamic than a packet of materials, this will allow individuals unable to attend to not only hear your presentation, but also benefit from questions asked during the session.
So, don’t hesitate to think creatively when structuring volunteer training opportunities. The best answer can literally be right at your fingertips!
Got a volunteer training success story? I’d love to hear about it. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
*Laura Worcester is a consultant for Target Analytics.