It seems that anyone who has ever had the pleasure of working with volunteers has encountered this situation once or twice. You are tasked with sharing critical information face to face, which poses a challenge to dedicated volunteers whose time is already pressed with family, work and other commitments.
Truth be told, people probably do want to meet. They have committed to your cause; they simply need a little encouragement to physically get them to the meeting. Here are five easy ways that you can drum up volunteer interest in order to gather together and get down to business.
Show your appreciation for those who show up. An early meeting? Some muffins and coffee go a long way. A late meeting? Same thing: pizza party, or cheese and crackers. Think small and heartfelt and any attempt you make won’t go unappreciated. Oftentimes, budgets are small and allow for few resources for meetings. Ask local coffee shops for a monthly donation, or a discount. In exchange, you can share at your meeting what a great partner they are and encourage attendees to frequent their shops.
This seems juvenile but it works. What kind of crowd are you dealing with? Would they appreciate a silly set of wine glass ornaments? A mug filled with M&M’s? You could make it a door prize or a small treat for every attendee. You could even mix things up with a short game of trivia or musical chairs. People feel engaged at these types of events. They are the meetings they remember and will (hopefully) keep coming back to.
Get creative with your venue. How cozy would it be to meet at a coffee shop? Is your meeting a brainstorm session? Try someone’s living room or a swanky wine bar. Libraries and museums have meeting rooms they donate to nonprofit groups. You’ll be surprised by the ideas you’ll come up with once you start thinking about it.
4. Insider Info
People are interested in your cause for a reason. Think about what insider information you can share that will keep volunteers interested and feel like they are part of something? Share a success story of a teacher or student or a successful initiative of a neighboring PTO or PTA. If you’re involved in an arts group, you can dig up juicy tidbits of how the latest show was installed. Volunteers love knowing the ins and outs of what they are volunteering for.
5. Time Change
This makes a lot of sense but doesn’t seem to happen very often. If volunteers aren’t showing up for the 8:00am meeting, try switching it to 8:00pm. Take an informal email survey asking when folks can attend then try switching to the most popular time. Letting a volunteer group know that you are flexible and willing to work with their schedules is a good start to improving rapport and attendance.
These are just a few simple tips and tricks to encourage volunteers to attend meetings. Hopefully, you can think of creative ways to customize these ideas to your mission and cause and begin to find your meetings full and fruitful.