Giving Thanks on Giving Tuesday

That time of year is upon us – family gatherings, gift exchanges, and over-eating.

 

For many of us, it also means coat drives, food drives, and donations to our favorite organizations. Six years ago, a campaign was started that kicks off the season of giving, aptly named Giving Tuesday. Occurring on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving in the U.S., it’s a chance to give back to your own community. 

 

The holidays are a time to reflect on those things we take for granted during the year and remind ourselves of what is truly important. It can be busy for everyone, and trying to juggle the regular holiday mayhem while piling on volunteer work may sound a little daunting. But as we become overwhelmed with holiday shopping and family feasts, prioritizing giving back becomes even more important for your community – and for yourself. 

 

As the weather gets colder, it’s a reminder that not everyone have access to the necessities we often overlook as comforts, such as a warm coat, a hot meal, or gifts for the holiday. Volunteering your time to work at a soup kitchen, or organize a gift drive for a local youth shelter makes a huge difference for community members in need.

 

Whatever type of community that you belong to, there are also likely festivals, nonprofit organizations, or charity races happening that raise money for a cause or offer an opportunity to bring everyone together. As members of a community, it is our responsibility to make sure those efforts are supported.

 

We each have a unique perspective of the world, and sharing your own passions through event organizing or volunteering helps others broaden their understanding of different communities. They might even find they have a passion for it, too.  

 

Feeling overwhelmed by the thought of organizing a gift drive or food pantry? VolunteerLocal is available for events of all sizes and budgets – including no budget. And however you give back, use this Giving Tuesday as a day to reaffirm your commitment to the power of volunteering. 

 

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Best Preparation Practices for the Big Day

Clipboard? Check. Volunteer contact form? Check. Sanity? Kind of.

 

There are a million and one things a volunteer coordinator needs to remember the day of an event. Setting a plan, preparing for potential obstacles and keeping everything on course is just the beginning. To help our volunteer coordinators out, we’ve whipped up a few of our best practices for prepping for the big day.

 

Communication is Key

Emails, texts, Facebook groups and even old-fashioned phone trees are all great ways to communicate early and often with volunteers. Clearly stating arrival and dismissal times, expectations for behavior and dress, and other pertinent details are crucial to making sure volunteers show up informed and ready.

 

Be Realistic

Volunteer coordinators should always believe in their volunteers, but they’re not superheroes. Can three people really set up your entire event before the rest of the volunteers arrive? Probably not. Consider exactly how many people you’ll need for each shift and then add a few more to be safe. Volunteers are ready and willing to help you, so let them!

 

Know Where to Go

When you’re in the middle of managing a group of helpers, chances are you won’t have much time to direct volunteers to the bathrooms. Making a detailed map of everything a volunteer might need to find (bathrooms, water station, breakroom, etc.) will provide a quick reference point. And if they still ask you where the bathroom is, take a deep breath and kindly point to the map.

 

Self Love is the Best Love

Coordinating volunteers can be incredibly rewarding – all these people giving their time to help your organization?! – but it can also feel like herding giant, human cats. So, our biggest suggestion to help you prepare is to take care of number one. Meditate, listen to music, eat all the chocolate in your house. Do whatever you need to do to show up at your event calm, collected and ready to coordinate.

 

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Connecting with Volunteers Before, During, and After Events

So, you’re a volunteer coordinator.

 

There’s software to keep you organized and spreadsheets to print out and timeslots to fill. But how do you manage volunteers in a way that makes them feel like more than a number? After all, you couldn’t make things happen without them.

 

Build a relationship with volunteers

 

Learning what makes your volunteers tick is the first step towards leveraging their strengths and abilities. Once you know what they are most excited about or what made them want to volunteer with your organization in the first place, you might be able to really connect with them on a deeper level. Instead of puzzle pieces that need to fit in various roles and schedules, remember that volunteers are people. They have other jobs, family, passions, hobbies–all sorts of interesting things about them.

So start by getting to know them. Maybe it’s taking them out to coffee to hear their story or learn about how they got connected with your organization. Maybe it’s sending out a silly questionnaire including questions such as “What’s your spirit animal and why?” or “Where and how do you spend most of your free time?” You might learn about special talents that could be used or their unique quirks. Make sure to jot these notes down so you can keep them in mind for the future.

Building a relationship with volunteers is beneficial for both you and the volunteer. Not only do you get to know them better, but they get to know and trust you. Trust is an invaluable trait to have if and when some sort of issue comes up during an event.

 

Keep the communication clear and open

 

You’ve probably been on both the giving and receiving side of communication, and you know it’s vital to keep all communication clear and easy to understand. Of course you have countless things on your to-do list, but don’t let communication fall to the bottom of the list. Communication can come in all forms–emails, texts, phone calls, trainings, and even one-on-one meetings in person. Keeping volunteers in the know leads to more personal investment from them, better interactions with them, and a higher likelihood they will continue volunteering in the future. You are their primary point of contact with the organization, and they rely on you to learn what they need to know in order to do their job successfully. Make sure this line of communication is open on both sides by being available for questions or comments from them along the way.

 

Follow-up

 

Keep the momentum going–and follow-up! After an event there’s a lot to sort out, but make sure you reach out to volunteers soon afterwards. Thank them for their time, and ask for their thoughts about how it went and what can be improved next time. Host a debrief and thank you celebration night with ice cream for volunteers or send a personal thank you card in the mail. If you can’t manage that, send a thoughtful email with a survey to capture feedback for future events. Use the information you collected at the beginning and send a birthday card when the time comes or reach out with a friendly email when you find out they got a promotion at work, bought a new house, or rocked it at open mic night. Anything you can do to show volunteers how much you care about them goes a long way.

 

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