If you work with volunteers, you probably wrestle with how to keep their work fresh and exciting. Here’s an exercise you can use to overcome two different challenges you’re likely to face.
Introducing Two Challenges
I recently recommended this exercise to two of my coaching clients with much success. Here’s how it worked for each organization.
Group 1: Tired Volunteer Solicitors
Let’s call this group of volunteers, “Team Weary.” They are in the challenging period of their campaign. They’ve raised lots of money but still have a way to go before they get to their goal.
Team Weary’s campaign committee is feeling tired. It seems like a slog. People show up at meetings, but there’s not much energy in the room and only a couple of steadfast volunteers are still making solicitations.
Group 2: Spirited Volunteers About to Disband
The other group of volunteers—we’ll call them “Team Spirited”—is in the beginning of their campaign. They’ve just had three very successful campaign planning meetings with a lively group of the donors and leaders in their community. Team Spirited was designed to last for only three meetings and then to disband. The question was how to make sure these great people stay involved in the campaign.
A Simple Exercise Solves Both Challenges
In both of these cases, volunteers need to be redirected. And here’s one way to do that.
1. Get the Materials You Need
You’ll need to gather a few materials for this exercise:
- Flip Chart
- Post-it Notes
2. Put Your Heads Together and Make a List
Then, invite the participants in your group to brainstorm a list of activities that volunteers might help with in the campaign. You can start the list with activities you know you need and then invite the participants to add to it.
Your list might include things like this:
- Help thank donors
- Host a house party
- Make solicitation calls
- Help with the campaign kick-off (or celebration) design
- Serve on the XYZ committee
3. Review the Cycle of Fundraising
To think of other ways volunteers might be involved, review the cycle of fundraising that goes from identifying prospects to educating, cultivating and involving them, to asking for gifts to thanking and recognizing them to involving them more deeply after the gifts are made.
If you think about each stage, you will find opportunities for volunteers.
4. Decorate the Walls With Activities
Once your committee has developed a list of 10 or 15 ways they might help, using your flip chart, write one item on each page and post them all around the room.
Tell the group that you would like each of them to put his or her name on the activity sheets they feel best suit their interests and abilities.
5. Pass Out and Post the Post-Its
Then give each person a batch of post-it notes and ask them to write their name on several of the post-its and walk around the room putting them on the flip chart pages.
You might just give everyone a marker and ask them to write their names on the pages with the activities they choose, but the post-it note approach makes it easier for people to change their minds as they see where there are too many or too few people in one activity or another.
This simple process encourages each person to select what they’d like to do most.
How This Exercise Worked in Each Case
For Team Weary …
This exercise gave each person a chance to redirect their efforts into something that they were willing to do.
Rather than pretending the committee was working and dragging through the meetings, the chair addressed the problem head on. “I think we’re all a bit campaign weary”, he said. “And rather than just limping on, we’d like to reshape this group and give each of you the opportunity to do something that excites you more.” With that, he asked the group to review the list of volunteer opportunities and to self-select how they want to help.
Everyone left feeling good, including the staff. Committee members felt relieved that they weren’t stuck and could find another assignment. And the staff set to work recruiting a few new, energized volunteers to take on solicitation assignments.
For Team Spirited …
The exercise focused the committee members on the many tasks they might help with throughout the campaign. And the staff, rather than trying to assign roles to volunteers, could simply follow up with what each individual had indicated they would like to do.
Everyone left the room knowing that their campaign planning assignment had been completed successfully and that they would be called upon to continue to help with the campaign.
Self-Selection in a Group Setting Works
This simple activity lets people pick and choose what they’d like to do. And they do it as a part of a community.
Walking around the room and seeing who volunteers for what and then deciding what tasks they’d specifically prefer to do not only inspires everyone to participate, but it helps each participant make an early commitment to a later task.
The visible nature of people’s commitment increases the chances that they’ll actually stay involved. And that’s the real power of self-selection in a public group setting.
Give this exercise a shot! You’ll keep your volunteers happy and engaged.
This post has been reprinted with permission from the Capital Campaign Masters blog. Andrea Kihlstedt is one of the foremost writers and speakers on capital campaign fundraising. Her book Capital Campaigns, Strategies That Work, now in its fourth edition, is one of the primary texts in the field. Her firm, Capital Campaign Masters, helps organizations in the very early stages of planning capital campaigns through online materials and virtual coaching.