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A Harvest of Volunteers

from Energize

5 Ideas to Plant the Seeds of Enthusiasm
and Reap the Rewards

This is the season in which many people stop to give thanks for all the things they have, and many feel the urge to give something of themselves in return. This is your chance to "harvest" new volunteers-and to watch current volunteers grow. According to Susan J. Ellis, co-author of the best-selling book, The (Help!) I-Don't-Have-Enough-Time Guide to Volunteer Management: "Recruitment is a process of sowing seeds, nurturing relationships, and sensing when the time is right to gather together!"

Here are five simple ideas to reap the biggest volunteer harvest at this time of year:

  • Thanksgiving is a family-centered holiday. Develop an intergenerational project that families can do together. Invite current volunteers to bring along their children, parents, or any extended family members for a day of service. Approach faith communities located in your neighborhood to publicize this "Family Day" as a way to express thanks while helping others (your organization).

  • Everyone eats too much during the holidays. Why not capitalize on this with a "Work Off the Holiday Calories" event the week after? This is a chance to get that recreation room painted, those bookshelves built, or the garden raked and tidied. Again, offer this to volunteers already active with you or go to a nearby place of business and post some timely--and humorous--recruitment flyers. After these newcomers have enjoyed their day of physical labor, make sure they learn about other ways they can share their skills as volunteers throughout the year.

  • Give every current volunteer 5 postcards decorated with seasonal graphics. The pre-printed message could read: "A Time to Share--I really enjoy the time I spend volunteering with XYZ agency, especially knowing that I am helping others. Thanksgiving is a holiday of abundance. Would you like to learn more about how you can share your talent and skills? My next volunteer shift is on: ________________, at ________. Come with me and see if you fit in, too." Volunteers then personalize the card and mail it to 5 friends or colleagues, or post it on their work bulletin board.

  • Send an e-mail to all volunteers (or put up a poster where volunteers will see it) to encourage more involvement. Head it with something like: "We gather together ... on the Monday after Thanksgiving!" Explain: "Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to say how much we appreciate every one of you. We also know that each of you has abundant talent, with skills that we want to harvest. Any time on the Monday after Thanksgiving, we welcome you to join us in the Volunteer Office (bring your leftovers and have lunch with us) to talk and to add to our Idea Wall. Share your answers to these two questions: What else might volunteers do that we have not yet considered? What skill do YOU have that we have not yet tapped to help our agency?"

  • The Friday after Thanksgiving is a day many people take as an extra holiday. Often they do lots of shopping. Print up bookmarks (make them look nice) with to-the-point recruitment information and give every volunteer a handful. Ask them to distribute the bookmarks around town. Some ideas: take some to the library; ask a favorite restaurant or bookstore if a small pile could be placed near the cash register; ask merchants if they can be inserted into shopping bags; give them to friends as a bookmark "gift," just to remind them about your agency.

When you are finally done with all those leftovers, and are ready for more information on volunteerism, call for a FREE catalog of Energize materials: (800)395-9800 [in Philadelphia (215) 438-8342], or fax (215) 428-0434. Or write to Energize at: 5450 Wissahickon Ave, Box C-13, Philadelphia, PA 19144. Please visit our Web site, a cornucopia of over 1000 pages of information especially for leaders of volunteers.

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About the Author:

This article is reprinted with permission of:

Energize, Inc.,
5450 Wissahickon Ave.
Philadlephia, PA 19144
(215) 438-8342

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