If your PTA decided to run a new fundraising campaign tomorrow, would you be able to recruit a team of committed volunteers? This can be a challenging task as school families always seem to have a million to-do’s piling up.
To compete with your school community’s hectic schedules, you need a strategic volunteer recruitment plan that motivates potential recruits to take the leap and sign up. In this guide, we’ll review the key tips you can practice to build your volunteer dream team. Here’s an overview:
- Identify volunteer needs
- Take a personalized approach
- Simplify the application process
- Use management tools
- Futureproof your strategy
Whether you’re running an elementary, middle, or high school fundraiser, it’s important to be flexible with volunteer schedules. Offer several different ways for volunteers to help out, so they can choose a level of commitment that makes sense for them.
For instance, if a parent can’t commit to a school volunteer schedule, you could recommend they help out with event day set-up and clean-up. Emphasize the value of their time and be flexible. That said, let’s dive in!
Identify volunteer needs
Assess your fundraising needs before beginning your recruitment so that you can effectively delegate tasks and communicate your open roles effectively. This is also essential to ensure you don’t over- or under-staff your team.
Create your volunteer “job descriptions” based on your predefined fundraising needs. Getting Attention’s volunteer recruitment guide suggests fleshing out the following points to clarify your volunteer objectives:
- Job title. Keep this simple and straightforward such as a “Silent Auction Item Procurement Lead” or “Event Sign-in Coordinator”.
- Reports to. Assign a leader to each associated fundraising team (do not create too many), then list their first line of contact.
- Time commitment. How long will this volunteer task take? If it requires work prior to or following event day, be specific. Reference previous fundraising data to offer an informed estimate.
- Duties and responsibilities. Thoroughly list out the expectations related to each role. For example, a “Community Outreach Manager” might be expected to engage with local businesses and inquire about sponsorship opportunities. This would entail conducting research, making phone calls and/or meeting in person, and completing follow-up communications.
Answer common questions related to each role to anticipate volunteer hesitations. Returning to our recent Community Outreach Manager example, a volunteer might not know where to start when contacting businesses. Suggest they reference a pre-made list of previous sponsors as a starting point.
Having these job descriptions available before recruitment will help you answer volunteer questions and better align volunteer skills and interests with open positions. Your community will then be more likely to sign up once they know you’ve thought through your volunteer needs.
Take a personalized approach
Instead of simply posting volunteer flyers or only announcing your volunteer positions during PTA meetings, consider taking a more personal approach.
School volunteering is all about cultivating relationships, so your PTA should give school parents a chance to get to know your committee before making the ask. This means it’s best to remain personable by:
- Prioritizing face-to-face communication. Set up one-on-one casual meetings with potential volunteers to discuss roles and responsibilities and why you think they’d be a good fit.
- Offering informational sessions. Especially for new parents, give them an opportunity to get to know your cause before diving in. Cover essential questions related to fundraising importance, time commitment, and skill set.
- Not downplaying responsibilities. Be honest and upfront with what you’re asking volunteers to commit to. For roles with larger responsibilities, consider recruiting a small team to divide the load.
Alongside your word-of-mouth marketing, create a digital marketing strategy to inform your school body. This can include sending out email newsletters, updating your school’s Facebook page, or using SMS text outreach to send messages to your school’s PTA.
Simplify the application process
Encourage potential volunteers to join by making the sign-up process as simple as possible, so they won’t get frustrated or distracted and abandon mid-process. You can avoid this pitfall by following these best practices:
- Create a user-friendly application page. Make your online application page as straightforward as possible by only requiring essential fields and enabling functions like auto-fill and confirmation receipts to guide your volunteers through the process.
- Add simplified instructions. Keep your language concise and use a logical flow when requesting volunteer information, starting with names and ending with preferred roles. Clearly mark required fields.
- Ensure mobile compatibility. Optimize your application form for mobile users so that they can sign up easily on the go.
Follow these steps to make your application more accessible and appealing to potential volunteers. Then, you can easily link to it in recruitment announcements and retain interested participants.
Use management tools
Aside from your online application form, there are other volunteer tools you should keep in your recruitment toolbox. They can not only assist in finding volunteers but also help you manage and retain them. Consider investing in the following options for an optimal volunteer experience:
- Volunteer handbook. Condense all volunteer essential information into a handbook for volunteers to reference. Be sure to include contact information, volunteer roles, and fundraising information.
- Project management software. Calendars, spreadsheets, and other volunteer management features can help you establish a workflow and keep communication consistent.
- Event management software. Depending on your chosen fundraising event, management software can take the burden off of volunteers' shoulders by simplifying the event day.
When researching event management software, be sure to look for a solution that aligns with your school’s size and fundraising needs. Research top provider lists such as SchoolAuction.net’s roundup of auction software for a full view of options.
Futureproof your strategy
Because school fundraisers are planned on an annual or biannual basis, previous volunteers are often the first to be recruited. Their experience shapes the perspective of your school’s fundraisers and their word-of-mouth marketing can determine your volunteer outcomes.
Therefore, it’s wise to evaluate your volunteer management basics and find new ways to engage your supporters to avoid negative outcomes like compassion fatigue and burnout. Consider how you can delegate workloads, honor their preferences, and play to their strengths to protect against these pitfalls.
Implement feedback strategies such as surveys to see how you can improve your recruitment, management, and fundraising execution for future events. Then you can make meaningful changes that draw volunteers back, making recruitment easier year after year.
Your school’s volunteer dream team takes careful planning to assemble. Refer to the strategies outlined above to see how you can best prepare to recruit and lead a team of passionate school volunteers. Happy fundraising!
Roger Devine is a co-founder of Northworld, the developer and distributor of the award-winning SchoolAuction.net auction-management software. Before starting the company, Roger worked for many years in software, website development, and publishing. He's chaired at least 30 auctions over the past 20 years (one loses count after a while), has served terms on the boards of several area non-profits, loves all dogs on the planet, and lives in Portland, OR.