Last updated August 11, 2016
Over the years I have had countless conversations with people who are happy to help out, but don’t have the time or energy to commit to the traditional models of volunteering. They don’t want to be on a committee, they don’t want to have a title; they just want responsibility for a single task that they can do in their own time, at their own place.
Given the huge list of tasks on any organisation’s to-do list, you’d think these volunteers would be snapped up as soon as they raised their hand, but unfortunately it’s not the case. Instead they’re told there are no roles available for just a couple of hours per month, and they’re put on a database should something come up.
Guess what? Nothing ever does.
These kind of volunteers can provide enormous resource for your organisation, but in order to make the most of them, you need to be prepared to re-think the way you look at volunteering. Instead of focusing on regular volunteer roles, consider breaking every role into smaller bite-sized tasks that you can share amongst willing contributors. As a person gets involved at a bite-sized level, you have the opportunity to grow the relationship and you never know what they may commit to next.
Next time a volunteer says they only have a couple of hours to spare each month, talk to them about the types of things they might enjoy doing. (They may be able to contribute in a way you haven’t even thought of yet.) If they’re stuck for ideas, share some of these tasks to get them thinking:
Photographs help bring your organisation to life and are a great way to capture the attention of a potential supporter. By taking photographs of your programmes in action once or twice a month, you’ll ensure a good pool of up-to-date images to use in your newsletter, website, presentations and other marketing material.
Update your Facebook Cover
Facebook has cemented itself as a must-have communication tool for non-profit organisations, and your Facebook Cover is an opportunity to showcase your organisation and its key messages. By having your Facebook Cover reviewed and updated every month, you’ll ensure that you’re always telling the most relevant story, in the best possible way. There are lots of online tools available to help create good looking Cover Photos, so if your volunteer needs some help to get started, try checking out www.smilebox.com or www.fotor.com .
Write a Press Release
There’s no denying that online media has become the number 1 way to engage supporters, but traditional media like newspaper and radio still have their place. The key to getting good coverage is to engage with local media on a regular basis and focus on building strong relationships with the relevant reporters. By having someone send a press release once or twice a month, you can keep your organisation at the forefront of the media’s mind, and you’re more likely to get the coverage you need. Just make sure you have a well-written Media Policy before engaging a volunteer in this task.
Review Your Website
With so many things to think about when running an organisation, websites are often forgotten about and only reviewed when a website visitor points out a mistake. As a way to keep your website up-to-date and fully functional, ask a volunteer to go through your entire website once a month. They can check links are working, update photo galleries, delete past events and add anything new or relevant. Your website is the online window to your organisation, so it’s important that it truly reflects what’s going on.
Join the Phone Tree
In a member-based organisation keeping members in the loop can be a time consuming job. Email, Facebook and Text Messaging has helped make things easier, but when it’s an important message that deserves one-on-one contact, a phone-tree is a good way to help share the load.
When there is a message to be passed on one person phones 5-6 people, those people then each phone 5-6 people, and so on and so forth. Being part of a phone tree is a small time commitment that makes a big difference to the way your organisation runs.
Update Your Database
A database is only useful if it is up-to-date, and keeping it that way needs to be an ongoing process. By having a volunteer work on the database a little bit each month, you’ll ensure that your database stays accurate and remains a valuable asset for your organisation.
Mow the Lawns or Clean the Windows
Time-poor volunteers know that their options for contributing may be limited, so many are happy to help in whatever way they can; even if the jobs aren’t very exciting. Instead of trying to find one volunteer to do all your cleaning, gardening and maintenance, think about how you can break it up into smaller commitments. That way you can get it all done one task at a time.
Do Some Research
Regardless of what organisation you are in, there are countless things that would be useful to know, if only you had the time to find out. It could be as simple as investigating options for receiving online donations, or researching different brands of the equipment you’re looking to buy. Give your volunteer a list of things you want them to cover in their investigation, and if necessary, a framework for them to present their findings. For the research-junkies amongst us, this kind of monthly task will feel like Christmas.
Stock Up Brochures
So many organisations enthusiastically distribute brochures to libraries, medical centres, and public places, but they never get back to refresh the stocks or check the brochures are still up-to-date. Having a volunteer routinely check your stocks will ensure that you’re always topped-up and that accurate information is being shared.
Do a Display
Raising your profile in the community takes an ongoing commitment, and you need to be constantly looking for ways to make yourself known. Window displays in shop fronts or public places (think library, information centre) are an easy way to draw attention to your cause, but of course it all takes time. Asking a creative volunteer to do a window display each month is great way to get your message out and about.
Depending on your organisation you will have plenty of other tasks to add to the list; the key is to think about things in bite-sized pieces. Each time you start a new task, ask yourself ‘is this something that someone else could do?’ If the answer is yes, don’t be afraid to hand over the reins, and add it to the list of potential volunteer tasks. Sure, it might take some time to train your volunteer for the job, but if you do it well and treat them right, you’ll have one job ticked off your list on a consistent basis.
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