Confession: I’m already listening to Christmas music. I love the season. I even enjoy the snow and the cold in the months leading up to it and I’m one of those people who already has most of her shopping done.
Another Confession: Some of my best and worst volunteer experiences have happened around this season. Seriously, the stories I could tell you! Let’s focus on how to make sure your opportunities are the best around your busiest seasons.
Volunteers who try out our organizations for a special event or a seasonal opportunity are interesting beings. They might be the kind of person who likes to try it before they buy it, or they might be the kind of person who enjoys a wide variety of opportunities and like the change. Either way, it’s our opportunity to make a first impression and create a relationship with a volunteer who could become an advocate, spokesperson, future volunteer or donor for your organization.
Since relationships are key in successful volunteer involvement we really need to first manage ourselves. During event or holiday seasons we tend to be stressed and rushed, but that’s not the face we want to show to our volunteers. They deserve to feel welcome and wanted. Perhaps volunteers who have been coming to the event for years would like the invitation to be your deputy or leadership volunteer. They’ve been here and done this before and they love it. They come back year after year. Is there an opportunity to have them become part of the support team leading up to the event, helping to check others in and provide orientation and training? Creating a network of support assures that relationships can be built amongst your team and takes some of the pressure off.
Speaking of orientation and training, these things need to be appropriate for the role. I once volunteered for a three hour shift and spent one of those hours in an orientation session. Although I left knowing the organization well, I was frustrated that I couldn’t be of more use that day. Volunteers need to get to know us a bit to help build that relationship and to create an understanding of the common goals we are working towards, but there’s no need to use the same orientation we would use for longer-term positions in our organization. Likewise, training should be brief and specific to the role.
Lastly, share your success! I volunteered at Zoo Lights for several years. Every night before your shift starts you get to hear about the success of the event and it creates a positive momentum for the volunteers to know they are part of something meaningful when I know that my fellow Calgarians are out enjoying an evening because I’m there to build them a really, really, big fire! You can help volunteers feel involved by providing a summary of the amount of money raised or the number of participants or clients that will benefit from the event. Give some meaning to that “thank you”!
Things can get busy around our anniversaries, fundraisers, special events or holiday seasons. Don’t forget about posting your opportunities well in advance on our Volunteer Calgary Member’s Website. Just like getting your shopping done early, it’s best to prepare a strategy in advance to ease our stress and help us enjoy the busy times.