In their book, Simply Strategic Volunteers, Tony Morgan and Tim Stevens tell of a frigid day when their church paid for and received four truckloads of food for their city food bank.
One hundred thousand pounds of food.
The food bank taking delivery would supply forklifts and people to unload it.
But the church, understanding the power of the volunteer experience, did something counter-intuitive.
They purposely parked the delivery trucks quite a distance away from the building. Leaving the forklifts parked, they formed a line long enough for four hundred people to serve.
Making the job harder, they purposely created an opportunity for their folks to be involved.
It was a party! In ten-degree weather, hundreds of volunteers unloaded the trucks. Parents brought their children. They saw the results of their giving. They looked into the eyes of those receiving the food. Everyone touched the boxes from the trucks to the building as they passed hand to hand. The volunteers invested their hearts in the soul of the mission. There were tears and laughter...All three local television stations showed up to report…And the celebration didn’t stop that day. All year long, people talked about the excitement of that frigid January day. One year later, even more people wanted to help. [The next year] Over one thousand showed up…to unload nine truckloads of food… (Simply Strategic Volunteers)
What would you do next week if one hundred people showed up at your mission inspired, eager, and ready to volunteer?
Would you have a job for them?
Would you have a strategy for helping them find out where they serve best?
Are your involvement opportunities clearly articulated? Would the volunteers understand how their service maximizes your mission? Is someone in charge of welcoming and training each inspired and eager volunteer? How would this amazing bunch be recognized, honored, and affirmed?
Amazing nonprofits maximize opportunities for people to serve.
Instead of telling people what you need, LET THEM KNOW ABOUT OPPORTUNITIES TO GIVE THEMSELVES AWAY.
Talk about the honor of your mission. Talk about the world that could exist if you succeed (see Why Your Nonprofit MUST be able to Describe a World Where it is NOT Needed).
Let your volunteers, donors, and constituents tell their stories about their serving in your newsletter. (see Stories: the Currency Nonprofits Collect to Pay Their Donors.
BE INTENTIONAL ABOUT INVOLVING PEOPLE.
If you walk into the nonprofit led by my friend Becky Deas, one of the first things that will catch your eye is “Volunteers Matter.” She has a professionally done card prominently stationed, inviting you to join her team. She has over a dozen well-thought-out opportunities listed and the promise of training.
Becky has done the hard work of having a strategy to get people involved.
ENGAGED DONORS, VOLUNTEERS, BOARDS, AND CONSTITUENTS DON’T HAPPEN ACCIDENTALLY.
In Managing the Nonprofit Organization, management guru Peter Drucker says, “We can no longer hope to get more money from the donor, they have to become contributors.”
Fundraisers often forget that volunteers are donors: THEY GIVE THEIR TIME AND TALENT!
Involvement creates investment. Investment leads to gifts or larger gifts. - Andrea Kihlstedt, Capital Campaigns