Details – One of the easiest ways to reduce time-consuming, back-and-forth communication with parent volunteers.

Details, Details, Details – One of the easiest ways to reduce time-consuming, back-and-forth communication with parent volunteers.

Volunteer administrators and coordinators are constantly looking for ways to help with the organizing and managing of school parent volunteers. Volunteer team leaders most often look  to simply getting more parents to help with all the jobs and tasks. Yes, having more parents does help, but recruiting more volunteers actually serves to exacerbate the already time-intensive task of communication.

It’s easy enough to send out an email blast asking parents to help with volunteer tasks. This, of course, takes very little time. Instead, what takes up time – typically dozens and dozens of hours, is the back-and-forth communication with parents, the countless emails, texts and phone calls. But this is just a result of having to deal with more volunteers, and there’s really no way to reduce it, right? Actually, there is. And one options is really easy. Try this: provide as many details as possible in your communication to potential as well as initially signed up volunteers.

First, in the recruiting communications that the school sends out to parents, provide details about the importance of volunteers in making the school activities and events successful as well who benefits, i.e. who you’re doing it for, why you’re doing it, etc.

Next, in your first communications to parents who have signed up for tasks, provide as many details as possible about what they have signed up for. For example:

  • Where to show up
  • Who to report to when they arrive
  • What to wear (e.g. wear the appropriate clothing based on the task)
  • What to bring
  • What exactly they’ll be doing, for how long
  • Whether beverages and/or food will be provided (for tasks that take longer than a few hours)
  • What ‘task complete’ looks like

These are only starting points, make an exhaustive list of details to provide parents for the activity or event. Just think of what you’d like to know if you are the one volunteering.

When you provide parents with details about their volunteer tasks ahead of time, you’re actually just providing answers to their questions, but before they ask. If you take the time to write out and send comprehensive details – just one time, to a group of 10 parents about one volunteer task, you’ll save time from having to deal with multiple, back-and-forth emails, texts and phone calls from those same 10 people. Now multiply those time savings with the dozens of tasks, with hundreds of parents typically involved in a school volunteer program. You’re now looking at saving dozens and dozens of hours.

So, for your next recruiting and initial volunteer communications, consider adding more details. It’s easy and takes so little time, but the time you save later will be huge.

Happy volunteering!


Planning impacts volunteerism in future events and activities

As with most, if not all events and activities, achieving organizational success is largely dependent on planning. Whilst this is generally common knowledge, many people who coordinate events and activities don’t seem to put in the needed time. Think of an event or activity that involved volunteers, one of that you’ve recently attended or even volunteered at, did you encounter volunteers seemingly not knowing what to do? How about an event or activity where everything seemed to go perfectly? It all stems from planning, and how well the organizers created their plan.

For many organizers of events and activities which make use of volunteers, there’s often a general acceptance of a certain level of dis-organization. The notion seems to be “well, we’re dealing with volunteers”, and that somehow makes dis-organization ok. For organizers of one-time events and activities, it’s relatively a non-issue. However, for organizations, particularly schools, that need to turn to the same group of volunteers on an ongoing basis, dis-organization can have a very negative impact on maintaining a high level of parent volunteerism.

When parent volunteers contribute their valuable time, they have a certain level of expectation that organizers will effectively make use of volunteers’ contribution.  So, when a lack of planning leads to dis-organization, it’s easy for parents to feel frustration and even feel disillusioned with the notion of volunteering. Conversely, when parents feel their time has effectively been utilized by event organizers, parents feel a sense of gratification from their contribution, that they’ve made a difference at the school. This is one of the keys to maintaining a high level of volunteerism.

So, if you get the opportunity to help with the organization of an event or activity at your school, look to building a solid plan, one that addresses some if not all of the following questions…

– what are all the tasks and jobs that need to be done?
– is there a clear idea of what’s involved for each task or job?
– are there any expectations of level of work involved with each task?
– do any of the tasks require any special skill or knowledge?
– are there any time contingencies with any of the tasks?
– do you have enough people for each task? do you have the right people for specific tasks?
– what is the communication plan to inform people of their assigned task?
– what is the plan to make sure volunteers understand their task assignments?

Taking into account the above and putting together a comprehensive plan will go a long way to ensuring your school event or activity will be a success and that parents will continue to help in the future.

Happy Volunteering!