Volunteers are the lifeline of a youth sports organization (including yours).
Here are 25 ways to get and keep them!
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1. If you don’t ask, the answer is already“No!”
Studies show the #1 reason people say they don’t volunteer is because... "no one asked”. No need to post a Craigslist Ad, instead be sure of what you need help with, and be specific when approaching who you had in mind. Ex. “Samantha, we need a greeter to help out at the front gate for the game. Can you spare an hour to help?” If they do say “no”, don’t be intimidated or defeated, just ask someone else!
2. Assess their skills and interests BEFORE assigning them to a role
Sometimes people agree to helping before they know what it is that they need to do. So instead of saying that they would rather flip burgers on the grill at the concession station than to work on the chain gang; they adopt the “whatever it takes” mentality to helping because they don’t want to hurt your feelings.
While that’s an awesome person to have on your team, it’s not always efficient.
By assessing their skills and interests first, you can not only save yourself and them some frustration down the line, you can also be sure to have a successful partnership with a volunteer who feels respected and appreciated. You can do this by providing them with a list of tasks and simply asking which they would rather prefer.
3. Hold a raffle for Volunteers ONLY!
Everybody likes to win. Add a little interest in your volunteer pool by offering the chance to win something, by raffle. It doesn’t have to be a big gift either. A $10 gift card at Target goes a LOOONG way these days! (This one is my personal favorite).
4. Everybody needs to eat
As old as this tactic is, it still works! You can do something simple yet effective like offering each volunteer a free hotdog and drink from the concession stand – or even allow for rainchecks with a coupon that you created. If you happen to have local restaurants as sponsors or business partners; schedule a day to host a thank you lunch or dinner.
5. Ask them their opinion + Listen for their response
I touched on this a bit earlier, but involving volunteers in the planning of an event by asking them their opinion is always a smart move! It’s arguably one of the most effective tactics, because let’s face it, people like to offer up their opinion.
However, if you are going to ask, you owe it to listen. Draft a response only after you’ve allowed them to give theirs. Believe me, they’ll notice!
6. Remind Them that You Need Them
Not everybody can multitask like the best of us! Take my husband Mike for example. I love him to the ends of this Earth, but the dude WILL NOT remember that he said he was going to help, even though he just told you this morning! Haha
Do them a quick favor and send a reminder email/text that includes the ability to add the event to their calendar. Just about everybody has a Gmail account (Because Google runs the world and all)... and putting it on their calendar is a sure fire way to at least get them to see it.
Make sure to be specific and include exactly what you need them for, what the likely time commitment is, and any other pertinent information like location.
7. Bring Your Friends
Similar to BYOB except there is no alcohol involved! Haha Seriously though, people are much more likely to participate in a group volunteer activity if they know someone who is going. Use this tidbit to your advantage and allow them to invite their friends. The more the merrier!
8. Show + Tell
I learned this lesson early on in my educational career. There’s a reason why we all had Show + Tell in school as kids. Just because you tell someone how to do something doesn’t make them a Pro! Instead either have a more experienced volunteer demonstrate the how-to or do it yourself. Either way the new volunteer will most likely learn quicker and feel more comfortable than if you just threw them in the pit for on-the-job training. (This is particularly important with newer volunteers.)
9. Provide Resources
Being the organization freak that I am I get super stoked about all things binders and planners!! So, when I realized the opportunity to present volunteers with a binder containing all the information they would need to complete the most common activities, I couldn’t help but to gush with excitement! I’m working on putting together a sample binder for you.
For now, don’t forget to include a list of resources, tips, tools, and key steps that they may need.
10. Virtual Volunteering
Make virtual volunteering an option and I guarantee you will be taken up on it! Most people who are new to volunteering may think that every job you have for them need to be done on site, within a specific time frame.
But that couldn’t be further from the truth!
Make a list of “work at home” jobs to attract those people whose schedules don’t fit inside your box.
11. Expectations + Accountability
I can be such a stickler for setting expectations and accountability from the beginning because it really does make everything transparent for all parties involved.
This doesn’t mean you need to be super formal and have extended contracts drafted for each volunteer! But it does mean that you need to be clear if you expect things like:
- A Positive Attitude
- Maintaining Confidentiality
This way, if things do go awry, they can’t say they didn’t know. And if there is cause for removal the process can be as clean as possible.
12. Share the Vision + The Love
Sometimes we ask people to volunteer in positions that don’t get to see the end of the tunnel. So, it’s imperative to help your volunteer understand how their role is helping to achieve the overall mission.
By doing this, you will be sure to keep your volunteers highly motivated and inclusive.
13. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you
I believe you just can’t say thank you enough for somebody using their valuable time to help you. There’s no shame in my game! I thank my volunteers endlessly, whether they donated an hour, or 10 minutes. The point is they could have been anywhere in the world, but they were there with you! Be appreciative!
14. Time’s Up
There is nothing better than being able to thank a volunteer while telling them their time is up! Not because I want to see them go, but because I know how valuable time is; and I’d hate to take advantage of it.
As a matter of fact, newer volunteers are almost unanimously anxious about their time commitment being abused. Impress them by reminding them when their time is up!
15. How Was It?
There is no law against checking-in with your volunteers to make sure their needs are being met and your project is being completed. Don’t be afraid to ask:
- “How did that go?”
- “Did you have any issues?”
Contacting them personally reassures them that you care, and it allows them to present any potential issues before them manifest into something bigger. Don’t forget to ask in what ways it could have been better!
16. Done + Done
There’s nothing better than reaching the finish line! And nothing worse than to be the last one to find out! When you’ve reached your goal don’t be afraid to shout it out from the rooftops. Personally visit each volunteer or announce it in a group so no one is left in the dark and you can all celebrate together!
17. Social Recognition
We live in a social society. Just about everybody and their mama is on social media in some way, shape, or form! So why not use it to your advantage and recognize your volunteers externally using social media. This is an excellent type of motivation strategy that will keep your volunteers names at the top of the contact list!
Here’s an example of a script that works wonders for recognition and it’s Twitter approved!
Don’t forget to include photos depicting volunteers in action!
18. Two heads are better than one
Secure your volunteer’s buy-in. Step in and set up next to them on the front line. Serve food, stamp tickets, collect money; be ready and willing to do all the things you ask of others and watch your volunteer contact list multiply!
Showing them that their job is so important that you are willing to do it yourself says a lot about your trust in them.
19. Provide a variety of tasks
Some people actually like to drive and don’t mind traffic (they say it allows them to think!) (Believe me, I’m not one of them!)haha
But the point is, volunteering doesn’t have to mean that they show up one place and stay there until the job is done. If you need someone to pick up supplies from the store, or another volunteer for that matter, let it be known.
Keep an ongoing list for times like these.
20. Don’t be afraid to reach beyond the everyday faces
While most of your volunteers will probably consist of athlete’s parents, don’t feel obligated to stop there. Recruiting grandparents, friends, cousins and neighbors to volunteer can prove to be just as successful; especially if you ask for their help specifically.
This can be done by holding a Friends + Family Day event where they can learn more about your organization, meet the coaches and fraternize with the team. You can even do this during one of these events.
21. Learning Benefits Everybody
Year-round fundraising efforts (link to fundraising post) allows for the creation of professional development budgets for volunteers. Why not invest back into the people who have allowed your organization to succeed?
Create or look for classes or conferences to help your volunteers perform more effectively and efficiently in their roles. They will appreciate it and it will help your events run more smoothly.
22. Simple Gifts
It seriously is the thought that counts! Simple gifts like these express your appreciation and gratitude for a job well done:
- Post card
- Favorite snacks
- Personalized Tags to put on a variety of items (lotions, candles, etc.)
23. Make It Personal
Instead of telling them why you need them; describe what’s in it for them. People are generally already motivated because they know you need them, so follow-up by confirming what they will also get out of it and you’ll have yourself a deal! (Ex. This will give you the opportunity to get to know other parents or learn various skills).
24. Have A Plan
It truly does take time and planning to develop a solid team of volunteers. Just by understanding that gaining volunteers is a process you’ll be starting off on the right foot! Next, craft a plan that addresses unique interests, talents, time commitments, and skills and before long you’ll have a list of engaged volunteers who are ready and willing to support you beyond a single assignment.
25. Get Organized
In order to best leverage your resources and volunteers, you absolutely must plan your volunteer assignments. Too many times team moms ask for help at the last minute, limiting the size of the volunteer pool and inundating themselves with stress.
An organized volunteer schedule is critical to the success of your organization.
Advanced planning allows for the designing of specific tasks, skills, instructions, and amounts. It also allows for a reasonable timeline to be created, which is essential for estimating how and when the work will be complete.
So, I know that was a lot, but hey, it was intended to be!
Volunteers are the lifeline of your organization.
You’re a volunteer aren’t you?!? Get my point!!
Make sure to do at least some of these things and you’ll never have a problem keeping them on your roster!
By the way, if you are a brand new team mom and you're just starting out getting your sideline in order, check out this blog post and make sure you start off on the right mark!
Also, if you wanna discuss these a bit further, dribble, sprint, or (fill in the blank with your sport adjective right here) on over to #SidelineHackers: The Society, our private FB group where we are discussing all kinds of fun ways to keep the sideline dripping with the sweat of success!
sideline toolkit of useful links:
- Blog Post: 3 Reasons Why You Don't Have Volunteers (And 25 Ways to Fix It!)
- Our Private FB Group: #SidelineHackers: The Society
Until next time... Keep Tackling That Sideline,