20 Tips for Your Nonprofit to Maximize Christmas Volunteering
Volunteering is a popular way for people to tangibly give back during the holiday season. As a nonprofit, this gift of man/womanpower can make a huge difference for your operation. Use these 20 tips for your nonprofit to maximize volunteers when they are eager and willing to give their time.
- Develop a Game Plan - Starting in late October or early November, think about which projects need completed during the next two months. Prioritize projects that can be easily explained and delegated to someone who might not know all the ins and outs of your nonprofit.
- Get Timing Right - Consider the length of time needed to complete each project. Timing could be different for something that a group might be able to do in a day — for example, mailing or packing boxes or making food — versus something an individual can do, such as sorting mail or making phone calls.
- Delegate Jobs - Choose one person to schedule and coordinate volunteers and another person to oversee their work assignments. This will lessen the burden on employees, so that their normal workload isn’t overrun with extra projects. Also, consider if you want to delegate a lead volunteer or assign an employee to oversee an event. Genius Tip: Online sign ups help you to delegate by assigning multiple administrators to oversee events.
- Organize Individuals vs. Groups - Divide projects between those that need individuals and projects that need group involvement. Both the nature of your nonprofit and the size and scope of your projects will help to determine this. Plan to have food and coffee available to help volunteers feel welcome and appreciated. If you have a large group coming, factor in “social time” to how long the project will take to complete.
- Optimize the Benefits of Groups - Volunteers who come in a group are usually more comfortable and confident in the company of their peers and therefore tend to engage in the process and mission more. One caution: If there are not specific jobs ready for each member of the group, it can sometimes take longer than expected to complete the project.
- Optimize the Benefits of Individuals - There is a greater potential for individual volunteers to become more consistent and more invested into the nonprofit over time. They often grow from the opportunity of serving the community, and your nonprofit will benefit also. Genius Tip: If you see an individual who really loves your nonprofit and has a valuable skillset, this could be a future employee!
Coordinate Angel Tree family donations with a sign up. SAMPLE
- Solicit the General Public - Depending on the size of your nonprofit, you can advertise on social media that you are seeking volunteers from late November through early December and will set schedules on a first-come, first-serve basis. Genius Tip: Nonprofits of any size can use a sign up sheet to coordinate volunteer times.
- Reach Out to Churches and Businesses - Churches and businesses are often the best source of volunteers for events. There is an increased interest from both groups around the holidays. Some offices and churches even volunteer monthly or quarterly — consider recruiting them for future volunteer needs.
- Touch Base with Donors - Invite your donors to come participate in end-of-year projects. The Chronicle of Philanthropy found that, “Individuals who volunteer give more money than those who do not volunteer, making it all the more important to look at how people give their time as carefully as how we look at how they give their money.” Proactively reach out to past donors and ask them to give the “gift of time” this Christmas by signing up for one of the projects that advances your mission.
- Ask Your Board - Invite your board of directors to participate. This gives them the opportunity to serve alongside donors, the community and staff, which benefits everyone. Volunteers and staff see that the board members believe in the mission, and the board has the opportunity to interact with volunteers, staff and donors. Genius Tip: Consider offering a family-friendly activity, so adults can bring their kids. It is a great teaching opportunity for children, and they might even become future volunteers or donors.
- Recruit Retirees - Reach out to a local assisted living or retirement community to recruit senior citizens to help. They have the time and often want to help. You could even bring a volunteer project to them if it makes sense!
Education and Project Ideas
- Share Your Mission 101 - Take 10 minutes before your volunteers begin serving to tell them about your nonprofit and how they are helping you fulfill the nonprofit’s mission by giving their time. Share an inspirational story of someone recently impacted by your organization. This connects their service — be it large or small — to the bigger picture of your nonprofit.
- Priceless Service - Allot a monetary value to a group’s time served and the project they completed. Tell them that their service allowed your nonprofit to save $X amount that can now be freed up to advance the mission.
- Mail Stuffing - For small nonprofits, mailers and end-of-year “thank yous” are key to send early — before end-of-year giving. Utilize volunteers to help with mailers and any other stuffing projects.
- Organize Items - Organizational projects such as sorting and organizing food pantries or other centers that receive donations are good ways to use volunteers and free up employees for other tasks.
- Establish Systems - If you have a great volunteer process written out, you can use it for future opportunities around other holidays or busy times without having to recreate it each time. This is a huge time saver for busy nonprofits. If you do not have a system, create one! Then you can replicate it or tweak it for other projects in the future.
- Organize Before the Holidays - If you are organized going into the holiday and volunteer season, you will make the experience more pleasant for both volunteers and staff. When volunteers have a positive experience, you can retain them for the future and give individual volunteers opportunities to grow and to lead other volunteers in the future. Genius Tip: Try these ideas to improve volunteer support and retention.
Organize rescue shelter donations and volunteers with a sign up. SAMPLE
- Communicate Often - This is vital to recruiting and keeping volunteers. Communicate multiple times before any event or volunteer session to give volunteers all the necessary details of where to go and when. Send a reminder a week before and a day before to maximize turnout. Genius Tip: Schedule automatic reminders or customize group messages using SignUpGenius.
- Feedback - Consider providing a short survey at the end of the volunteers’ time so you can get feedback. This will help you retain more volunteers and tailor your holiday volunteer program next year to the right people.
- Thank Volunteers for their Time - This can be a handwritten note or email — or consider using social media to recognize groups. Take pictures of volunteers in action and post on your social media and tag the groups with a message of thanks.
The Christmas season provides an opportunity for people to step back and examine how they can serve and give back to their community at the end of the year and the year to come. With these tips, you can maximize the kindness of others to help your organization make the biggest impact.
Andrea Johnson is a native Texan now living in Charlotte, N.C., with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys running, photography and good chocolate.