How to get and keep volunteers

(Yes. That is our CEO Kimmy volunteering at her buying club while wearing her preschooler)

Unless you have a teeny buying club chances are you need help on a regular basis. Trying to do everything yourself will limit how many families you can have in your group and, even with a small group, will likely result in burnout.

Volunteers are essential to keep your group sustainable in the long run. However, recruiting and keeping volunteers can be challenging. Managing them can be time consuming as well. We have learned a few things that help this process go smoother. They fit into two categories- recruiting volunteers and keeping volunteers.

Recruiting volunteers:

  • Make your needs known
    • Whatever communication channel you use to share information use it to announce what tasks need to be done. If people don’t know you need something they can’t help! Try and post tasks as far in advance as possible so members can plan.
  • Set a regular schedule for volunteering
    • While some tasks will be one off, many tasks can be lumped together at specific times. Don’t try and sort each order as it arrives (as tempting as it may be!)  but rather set days and times that sorting will happen. That way you can have several members show up and spend time together! Also it can help reduce the amount of time you spend working on the buying club.
  • Make simple one sheets on how to do jobs
    • From time to time there may be tasks that need to be completed when you aren’t around. Or there may be a time when you have 80 other things to do and don’t have the time to walk someone through a specific task. Having sheets that clearly outline the way a particular job needs to be done can help reduce errors and streamline volunteering.

Keeping volunteers:

  • Be consistent
    • People do best when they know what to expect. As best as you can strive to make hours, tasks, and projects consistent. Communicate early and often about what needs to get done. Creating a pattern will help with awareness! If you need to change things communicate what the change is upfront so your volunteers know what to expect.
  • Offer incentives
    • It would be lovely to not have to bribe volunteers but offering incentives can and does help. Reward volunteers who put in a certain number of hours or have all volunteers track their hours and hold a drawing for a prizes! Snacks at volunteer events encourage a fun and light atmosphere (as do treats like say wine).
  • Surcharge
    • Many buying clubs have either an additional fee for those who don’t volunteer or discount the membership fee for volunteering. It is a very simple method that can encourage volunteers to show up on a regular basis.
  • Provide ownership
    • Volunteers who feel heard, valued, and that they make an impact are the most likely to stay around in the long run. Endeavor as best as you can to give competent volunteers latitude to make their small part of the buying club their own be it hours they keep the buying club open, or they are in charge or a particular sort, or they manage a relationship with a designated vendor. If they feel responsible they will be more consistent.

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