Everyone Appreciates a Toned A.S.S.: Adventures In Volunteer Recruitment
Of course I’ve recruited while buck naked, why haven’t you? I’m often perplexed when other volunteer recruiters struggle to find qualified volunteers. Volunteers are like clean air, they are all around us but we don’t appreciate it until somebody farts.I spot prospective volunteers when I’m at the grocery store, picking up my daughter from school, changing in the locker room or getting tipsy at an event. I am always on the look out for new talent and open to finding volunteers at any given moment. As volunteer coordinator at Shelburne Museum I employ the acronym A.S.S. which stands for Attract,Search, Sell. No one can resist a good A.S.S. I am always working on my A.S.S. because cultivating good volunteers is like taking on a lover and I am never satisfied so the more the merrier.
In this day and age I shouldn’t have to tell you, if you want to attract, it’s all about the A.S.S. Create a program that is attractive to potential volunteers. It should be engaging, fun and make volunteers feel valued. No one wants to waste their time. No one wants to be bored. And despite how altruistic they may pretend to be, all volunteers want a pat on the back and an open bar at the Annual Appreciation Dinner. If you feel really good about your program then your elevator pitch to potential volunteers will really dazzle. A wise man once said, “To Look good is to feel good,” and if you feel good about how your program is looking than your sales pitch should be “mahvelous.”
Always be on the lookout in search of volunteers. I’ll share one of my best success stories to illustrate this point. Every year we host a huge Halloween event that draws close to 3,000 visitors annually and sucks up more money than we bring in. Last year we suddenly put a halt to this and realized we better curb our champagne taste ’cause we got a beer budget (watered down bottles of malt liquor too not no fancy hipster beers). So I was assigned to find businesses or sponsors who would send us volunteers, with their own costumes, who could potentially lead games or activities for free and would help us promote this event as well. Tall order but I love a challenge and have no shame in my game when it comes to asking for things for free. One blistering hot Saturday in July my husband and I took our daughter and her friend to the Renaissance Fair in Stowe, Vermont. We were there to do what everyone does at a Renaissance Fair: drink lots of mead, mock the geeks who get waaay to into character, eat large quantities of meat and play with weapons. Two mugs of mead in I noticed a booth set up to promote the upcoming Vermont Comic-con. The light bulb over my head went off , there it was a built in network of people who enjoy dressing up and interacting with the public and have their own events to promote. As it always does liquid courage served me well, in less than 60 seconds I had a sponsor who provided volunteers, props, workshops and a life-size T.A.R.D.I.S. in exchange for cross promotion. Last year, thanks in part to Vermont Comic-con, we attracted over 4,000 visitors and actually made money. And all because I am always in search mode when it comes to volunteers.
The last piece of A.S.S. is the most important because you will never get to close a deal unless you have a great elevator speech. I cannot cheat on my husband but one way I get my natural inclination to flirt out is by selling people on volunteering. I get passionate about where I work, I cannot stop smiling and hair flipping as I wax poetic about meeting wonderful people or our collection of trivets. It’s true though because a excitement is contagious and I strongly feel that the tone of any organization is set by the person at the top. Among our community of volunteers I want people who are fun, upbeat, and inquisitive. So when I am selling I project those qualities, after all, you catch more flies with honey ( or manure, either way I shovel a ton of it in a short time frame). If you believe it so will the consumer so closing should be a cinch. A good sales pitch will get any volunteer to drink your kool aid. A good environment that lives up to the hype will keep them coming back for more.
Always keep your A.S.S. toned and ready to move. The next great volunteer could be right around the corner and you don’t want to be caught off guard not feeling “mahvelous darling.”