5 Great Ways to Engage Holiday Volunteers

‘Tis the season to volunteer. With schools on break, vacations taken over the holidays and family arriving from out of town, people are always looking to put some of their time to use in service to others. It is also a season full of volunteer opportunities.

Everything gift wrapping and decorating, to picking up donations, there is a volunteer opportunity for everyone; however, these are short-term volunteers who are offering their time for only a day or two. It is not as easy to keep short-term volunteers engaged with your organization, but if you do, you may have a volunteer for years to come. Short term volunteers can be testing the waters. When volunteers have a great experience, they are more likely to come back to volunteer for your next short-term opportunity.

To help you engage, and possibly retain, your holiday volunteers Propellus has compiled a short list of ways to keep your short term volunteers coming back.

Engage the Whole Family
With school being out for weeks at a time and college or university students home for the holidays, people are looking for ways to spend a rewarding day as a family. What better way than to volunteer?

Not all organizations can offer volunteer opportunities that involve children, but if you can find a way to get the children, teens, or college aged children involved, volunteers will flock to you in droves.

Everyone Loves… Food
No one likes to be hungry, especially over the holidays when eating is practically a sport. Offering your volunteers a meal or some snacks will go a long way to promoting goodwill among your busy holiday volunteers. If time permits, try to create the space for an actual meal that brings staff and volunteers together, which will allow them to form bonds with each other while commiserating over the events of the day. Building a community among volunteers is a great way to keep people coming back together.

Front and Centre 
If you can, have your volunteers front and centre with the population you are serving. Let them see first-hand the difference they are making. Holiday volunteers are looking to gift their time to serve their community, one of the best ways to reward them is to show the impact their time has made. Not all volunteer opportunities are conducive to this, so a follow-up email with a story about the impact of their volunteering is appreciated – plus, staying connected after they have volunteered shows your appreciation.

Spread the Cheer 
Spare time isn’t the only reason that people come out and volunteer over the holidays – the giving spirit is one of the reasons why people like to holiday volunteer. Keep the spirit of the season alive if you can. Christmas carols, decorations, and allowing volunteers to wear their holiday gear will help to keep them in the festive, giving spirit.

Recognize Serendipity
Serendipity is the aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident. Remember that sometimes the best things happen by accident. Make the time to chat with your volunteers, find out their skills and interests. A conversation with volunteers can lead to understanding their skills and discovering opportunities for future involvement.  Taking the time to get to know a volunteer may result in learning they have expertise in graphic design, and you have an upcoming project for a graphic design volunteer. Pay attention to these things, if your volunteer has had a good experience with your organization, you may be able to recruit them as skilled volunteers.

Engaging your holiday volunteers can also be as simple as a heartfelt “thank you” or a quick reference for those younger volunteers looking to beef up their resume. Who knows, in engaging your holiday volunteers, you may have found your organization a volunteer (or two) for years to come.

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