5 Impactful Ways to Engage Your School’s Volunteers
Most schools rely on volunteers to get things done—from PTA management to field trip chaperoning and more. These dedicated individuals are often the backbone of the institution, which is why it’s so essential to proactively engage your school’s volunteers in strategic and impactful ways.
At SchoolMoney, our top suggestions include:
- Communicate tasks and expectations well.
- Ask for and incorporate volunteer feedback.
- Promote volunteer grant availability.
- Thank individuals privately for their assistance.
- Recognize volunteers publicly as well!
Ensuring high levels of volunteer engagement begins with effective volunteer management—but it goes deeper than that, too.
Read on to explore these tried-and-true tips for driving engagement levels among some of your school’s most critical supporters.
1. Communicate tasks and expectations well.
When you’re thinking about ways to improve your school’s volunteer management (and thus, increase engagement), it often helps to put yourself in a volunteer’s shoes for a moment.
For example, have you ever been standing around at a volunteer event, twiddling your thumbs because you don’t know what to do? You feel awkward, you know there’s probably something you could do to help (but you haven’t been told what), and if you’re not needed there, you might as well have stayed home and relaxed.
This is exactly what you don’t want for your volunteers. And it’s why strategic communication and expectations are so important!
Therefore, here are a few things you should share with your volunteers before an event:
- How to register for volunteer opportunities (e.g., register to volunteer with our class pizza party online using our volunteer management system, and contact Brenda at 123-456-7890 should any issues arise.)
- Dates, times, and locations of events, including whether volunteers should arrive at an earlier time (e.g., the pizza party begins at 12:30 pm in the cafeteria on Thursday, June 2nd. Please arrive no later than 12:15 to help get set up.)
- Specific tasks and basic instructions on how to carry them out (e.g., serve one slice of pizza per student until all students have had a chance to eat.)
This way, each volunteer will know exactly what is expected of them, how to complete their tasks, and has all the information they need to prepare. Your volunteers will thank you (and be more willing and eager to volunteer again in the future), and they’ll be more productive helpers for the school.
2. Ask for and incorporate volunteer feedback.
You’re looking for better ways to engage with your school’s volunteers. Who better to ask for advice than your volunteers themselves?
Consider posing questions such as these to encourage volunteers to share their experiences and ideas:
- On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your experience as a volunteer at our school?
- Is there anything the school can be doing to better support you as a volunteer?
- If you could change one thing about our school’s volunteer program, what would it be?
One thing to keep in mind is that it’s just as important—or, often, even more so—to follow up on the feedback you receive as it is to collect the feedback in the first place. If a volunteer shares a poor experience working at a particular event, feeling unheard can be even worse than if you simply hadn’t asked.
3. Promote volunteer grant availability.
Thousands of companies offer generous volunteer grant programs for the organizations their employees serve. These companies essentially agree to contribute a predetermined grant amount to qualifying 501(c)(3) nonprofits—and many participating corporations count schools as eligible recipients.
So that’s a great funding opportunity for your school—but how exactly does this aid with volunteer engagement?
It’s simple: volunteers donate their time because they care about the potential your school has and want to see it thrive. Participating in their employers’ volunteer grant initiatives provides them with an additional motivator to increase their level of support!
Here’s how the process works:
- An individual volunteers with your school.
- The volunteer is encouraged to look into their eligibility for a volunteer (or dollars for doers) grant through their employer.
- If they qualify, the volunteer devotes the specified number of hours working with your school (some companies offer a certain grant amount per hour, while others require a certain threshold to be met in order to receive a lump sum).
- The volunteer completes the grant submission process outlined by their employer, which often asks for the name and tax ID number of the school the individual volunteered with, along with confirmation of volunteer hours.
- The company reviews the completed submission application and approves the volunteer grant request.
- The company (or a third-party management platform) disburses the funding to your school.
Unfortunately, most grant-eligible volunteers have never been informed about these programs—which is where your school can play a significant role. And one of the best ways to streamline the volunteer grant process is to enlist the assistance of corporate giving software (like Double the Donation).
This type of tool will automatically scan available volunteer employment data against a comprehensive database of top volunteer grant companies. The software informs your school and its volunteers about potential volunteer grant eligibility and even directs qualifying individuals to their companies’ submission request portals.
4. Thank individuals privately for their assistance.
Your volunteers play a vital role in your school’s overall success—whether that means fundraising assistance, event organization, extracurricular management, and more. In order to maintain high levels of engagement among your school’s dedicated volunteers, it’s important they know they’re appreciated.
That said, consider these ideas that many schools take to thank volunteers for their donated time and energy:
Everyone likes receiving good old-fashioned snail mail—as long as it’s not a bill! Therefore, thank your school’s volunteers by sending out a handwritten thank-you note soon after an event that relied on the efforts of dedicated volunteers. The note might even be something your volunteers will hold onto for a while, functioning as a positive reminder about their work with your school!
Here’s a quick tip (that can go for emails, too). Make sure to sign your thank-you messages from a single person within the school—such as a volunteer coordinator, PTA president, principal, etc.—rather than the school itself. It’s one last little personal element that can go a long way to leave a lasting impact.
If you have a ton of volunteers to thank, email acknowledgments can be automated (yet personalized). However, a detailed email is a nice touch to show each volunteer that you recognize their part in your school’s success. You can even start with a basic template, adding details that highlight each individual’s support and what it means for your team.
For example, you might include a note such as this: “Janet, when you stayed after the event to assist with clean-up without being asked, it helped us get packed up and ready very quickly! Thank you for all that you do for our school!”
Follow-up phone calls
This is often considered the most personal thank-you message (besides a face-to-face conversation) and can be a great way to follow up with stand-out volunteers. And because of the two-way communicative nature of a phone call, it can also be a great way to ask for feedback and see what the volunteer has to say about the event.
Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most time-consuming appreciation methods and often results in recorded voicemail messages and/or games of phone tag.
5. Recognize volunteers publicly as well!
Private gratitude is great—but some volunteers want to be publicly recognized as key supporters of your school, too. Not to mention, public-facing volunteer recognition can also be a great way to inspire more individuals to get involved!
Here are a few of our favorite examples:
- Include photos of volunteers in action within the school newsletter.
- Create social media posts highlighting various volunteers and what they’ve done to help.
- Host an exclusive and engaging volunteer appreciation event.
- Set up a volunteer hall of fame to honor individuals who play a big role in your school.
To know which approach to take, it helps to have a personal relationship with your volunteers so that you have a good understanding of the types of appreciation efforts (public or private, and even between specific ideas) they prefer. However, we recommend that you start with a combination of each for the best results.
Now that you know how to engage your school’s volunteers, it’s time to get started by putting these ideas into action. Begin with effective communication, seek feedback on a regular basis, highlight opportunities for volunteer grant participation, and continuously relay your appreciation for volunteers’ efforts.
And remember, if you’re unsure of the impact of your practices or what you can do to improve current strategies, you can always see what your volunteers have to say!
Find out how workplace giving has the potential to elevate your school’s fundraising and volunteer efforts at https://www.schoolmoney.org/workplace-giving-and-school-fundraising/.