What to do when people aren’t signing up to help

Every volunteer coordinator has experienced it –  poor response to calls for volunteers. When faced with this scenario, most simply send out more ‘Volunteers urgently needed’ emails. Rather than doing the same thing and expecting a different result, perhaps a changing things up might help, consider…

The Focus of Your Emails
Consider making the email focus be the beneficiaries of the volunteer work – the kids. Start with the ‘Subject line’ of your email. Before parents can sign up to your volunteer tasks, they first need to open your email. Virtually everyone looks at the subject line to determine whether it’s worth their time to open the email. Here are two subject line examples: “Jenny, Sam, other Grade 3’s looking for help with Fun Day” OR “Volunteers needed to help with Fun Day”. Which would you say has the greater emotional pull? Carry that emotional theme into the body of your email.

Go to Your ‘Go To’ Parents
Every school has them, the group of parents who selflessly volunteer dozens, even hundreds of hours of their time. Turn to these not to do more, but ask them to help with your recruiting. Your ‘go-to’ parents are the most passionate about volunteering, ask them to email other class parents to see if they can volunteer with them.

Smaller Commitments
Many times, parents balk at making volunteer commitments due to the time required. For example, volunteer tasks are whole day commitments, or tasks that are recurring over a period of weeks or months. Consider breaking volunteer tasks down into smaller tasks, reduce the commitment needed.

Classroom Parents
Consider going to your “Class parent”, the one who’s responsible for sending out weekly notices to the class. If you do this already, make sure to give them more information about your volunteer needs/tasks. When writing out this content, consider our first suggestion above – make the focus of your appeal be the kids.

Bulk emails? Personalize with an Email service
If you’re sending emails to a large group, perhaps the entire school parent base, consider using an email service like MailChimp, which allow you to personalize your emails. It’s a well-known fact that personalized emails lead to far greater response rates; non-personalized emails are almost always ignored.

The next time you are faced with a school activity or event needing volunteers and you aren’t getting the desired response, consider alternative actions to drive your volunteerism.

Happy volunteering!

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