The folk tale The Little Red Hen exemplifies the plight of many charities when it comes to finding willing helpers for nonprofit fundraising events.
In the book, the little red hen finds some grain on the ground and has the idea to plant said grain and eventually bake some bread. She asks for help from her fellow farmyard animals, but they all refuse to lend a hand.
At each stage of the job, she is forced to do all the labor herself, since no one would help. She alone harvests, threshes, mills the wheat into flour, and then bakes the bread.
At the end of the story, after she has produced a loaf of delicious baked bread, she asks again for help—to eat the bread. This time, all her farmyard companions are more than willing to help.
Nonprofit Fundraising Leaders Can Relate
Many nonprofit fundraising event organizers understand this story all too well. When work needs to be done, no one is around to chip in. However, everyone wants to reap the benefits of the hard work that was already put into an event or improvement.
The Little Red Hen illustrates the problems that arise with a lack of volunteers, but it doesn’t offer any solutions. Thankfully, some tried and true methods can help you increase the amount of volunteers you have at your disposal.
Ask for Help, and Be Specific
This might seem like a no-brainer, but it is surprising how many people you have in your organization right now who would help, but don’t know there is a need. In fact, according to some studies, the number one reason people give for not volunteering is that “no one asked.” So, ask.
This doesn’t mean putting a line in the newsletter saying “volunteers needed.” Instead, go up to a specific person and ask them to perform a certain job. Instead of saying, for example, “We need volunteers for our spring fundraiser,” say: “Donna, can you run the bounce house this Friday for two hours at our spring fundraiser?”
In addition to asking individuals, you can do mass invites for specific tasks. The important element is, again, to be specific. Don’t just say “We need volunteers.” Say instead, “We need five adults to volunteer to hand out water bottles during the 5K next Saturday.” By being specific, you allow people to volunteer for duties that fit their passions and abilities, which is more likely to draw in top notch help.
Follow Up When Someone Expresses Interest
Once someone says they will help, follow up and give them a job. Again, this might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s a pretty common problem. Nonprofit fundraising event organizers are so busy with planning and executing the event that they often simply neglect to follow up. Instead, they decide to just do the work themselves.
But if you want to grow your volunteer base, make sure you follow up with people who expressed an interest in helping. After they help out with one event, they will be more likely to volunteer for future events, too. Plus, you will avoid overworking yourself and the rest of your staff.
Make Their Jobs Easier
Volunteers are there to help you, of their own free will. They do not deserve to be treated poorly or talked down to. Don’t make unreasonable demands or offer harsh criticism. Understand they are doing all they can, and thank them for what they are able to accomplish. If you want to keep growing your group of helpers, treat them well and make sure they enjoy their time at your event.
If possible, find a way to make their jobs easier. Help them help you. For example, avoid making them keep detailed records of donor information. Instead, offer a mobile giving option, which leads to far less paperwork. Provide them with the tools they need to get the job done as painlessly as possible. They will thank you by signing up to volunteer for your next fundraiser.