How To Recruit Volunteers For Booster Club Fundraisers And Events

by Jim Connelly, founder of BoosterSpark

Booster clubs and PTO's can never have enough volunteers. After all, the more volunteers you have, the greater the success of your events and fundraisers!

But it always seems to be a challenge to get volunteers, right? Sometimes I shake my head when I realize we have hundreds if not thousands of parents in our school system and only a very small fraction step up to volunteer. Then I remember how busy people are: they work, they take care of their household, they have a family, they chauffeur and attend extracurricular activities like plays, sports, and concert. That doesn't leave much time left to do volunteer work.

Thankfully, there are tactics you can implement that can increase the number of volunteers at your next event.

Tactic #1: Focus on the Benefit
Begin by defining the value of the volunteer's contribution. Every volunteer opportunity creates a valuable benefit for your students, your teachers, your school, and the community. Make sure you point out what that benefit is! Examples: "In just one hour, you can generate $1,000 to fund student opportunities when you work the register at the school store." "Show our teachers/coaches your gratitude by serving food at this year's Appreciation Luncheon."

Tactic #2: Persuade, Don't Beg
The typical way that booster clubs and PTO's ask for help from volunteers goes something like this: "We need your donation! Please support us!!" That is begging. There's no benefit to the reader. And even more important, it's too vague.

Tactic #3: Be Concise
Make every word matter. More words = less chance they will be read. The person you are asking to volunteer is also being asked questions constantly by their family, their employer, their friends, their neighbors, businesses they shop at, and advertisers. When you write a volunteer solicitation email, re-read it 24 hours later (and before you send it). Remove as many words as possible without changing the message. You'll be surprised how concise your request can be.

Tactic #4: Ask What They Do
Once upon a time, I met a board member from our booster club. I asked him "what kind of help you need?" His answer was genius: "What do you do?" When I told him I build websites, he nearly fell over. He was so excited. "We need a website! You could build one for us!" And that's how I got roped in. I expected him to say things like "we always need help, just give us your email address and we'll let you know when a need comes up." But instead, he asked what my interest was, what my skills were, and then he found a way to utilize my expertise to help the club. You can do the same thing the next time you talk to potential volunteers. Ask them what they do. You'll be pleasantly surprised to see the wide range of experience you could tap into in your hometown. But only if you ask.

Tactic #5: Make It Easy
Make sure your website makes it as easy as possible for people to volunteer. Have a prominent link on every page of your site that says "volunteer!" When you send an email asking people to volunteer for an event, include a simple, clickable link in the email to the sign-up form on your website. Something like myboosterclub.com/volunteer. Avoid using complicated, long links that are overloaded with gibberish characters and numbers.

Tactic #5: Show Gratitude
Your events simply would not happen without volunteers. You need those volunteers. The fastest way to lose a volunteer is to let them think you don't appreciate them. The size of their donation is irrelevant. Whether they donated a napkin, their time, or $10,000, every donor appreciates being thanked. Be sure you send a personalized "thank you" after each donation is received.

Tactic #6: Social Proof
Social proof is a psychology term. It means "when I see other people doing something, I tend to think I should be doing it too." You can establish social proof by acknowledging your volunteers on your website. Future potential volunteers will see past names and subconsciously think "oh, I guess this is something I should be doing, so I'll volunteer" especially if they see names they recognize and respect.

Example of a Benefit-Oriented, Persuasive, Concise, Easy, Grateful Volunteer Solicitation Email
Here's an example of an effective volunteer solicitation email. I sent this to all parents when we coordinated a staff appreciation breakfast. We sent this email out to all parents, and we made sure to spell out how their donation would benefit teachers. The sign-up form asked parents to donate all of the food, drinks, paper products, and labor to feed 150 people. This email successfully attracted all of the donations we needed:

Want to show gratitude for everything INSERT_SCHOOL_NAME staff does to help our kids grow into successful, happy adults?

During Staff Appreciation Week, parents and INSERT_BOOSTER_CLUB_NAME will provide breakfast for INSERT_SCHOOL_NAME faculty on INSERT_DAY_AND_DATE.

We need your help. Could you:

  • Donate food?
  • Cook food?
  • Serve food?
  • Help set up?
  • Help clean up?

Please let us know by clicking the following link. Thank you!

Who Wrote This? Jim Connelly, founder and lead developer of BoosterSpark, is past president of a booster club in the Chicago suburbs that donated over $40,000 to his children's high school annually. The Illinois State Board of Education presented Jim with the Those Who Excel Award of Meritorious Service in 2017 recognizing his extensive booster club service. During his tenure, he created and coordinated an annual 5K fundraiser, managed an engraved brick fundraising campaign, created a sponsorship program, enhanced an existing membership program, increased sales of spirit wear, initiated new volunteer recruitment programs, guided the volunteer team that won the $5,000 Buffalo Wild Wings Spirit Challenge two consecutive years, launched an informative club website, ensured the club was properly insured, researched 501(c)(3) compliance, and increased annual club revenue. Professionally, Jim has been a business consultant trusted by companies in over 100 industries since 1996.
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