By: Melissa Lagowski
President, Founder and Queen Bee, Big Buzz Idea Group
After months of planning for your upcoming annual event, you find that there’s very little time available to work on the volunteer component of staffing the operations. Without volunteers, the event comes to a screeching halt.
How are you going to find hundreds of volunteers to fill the schedule? And when are you going to find the TIME to reach out and find these volunteers? It takes hundreds of hours of outreach, communications, sign-up, tracking, scheduling and follow-up while, at the same time, you are juggling all the other tasks of planning for the event launch.
The solution is radically simple: you can outsource it. With a budget, a few phone calls and a bit of creativity, the magic will happen – freeing up time to focus on your other tasks.
While you might consider outsourcing to a staffing agency, their fees would probably destroy the budget. A better option would be to align your nonprofit with other nonprofits by providing a grant payment to them in exchange for labor. It’s a win-win: they help to staff your event while you help with their fundraising goals!
Nonprofits team up all the time in various ways because collaboration creates win-win situations. In this situation, you benefit from their rich resource (their audience of staff, supporters, members, students, etc.) in exchange for a cash grant payment.
As an example, imagine that your 6-hour annual event requires two 3-hour shifts of 60 volunteers each to operate efficiently, meaning you need 120 total volunteers for the day. You have a total budget of $2,500 allocated toward staffing, so you could afford $20 per volunteer. The volunteer doesn’t earn any cash for their three hours of service—they’re volunteering for your event on behalf of their nonprofit, helping the nonprofit organization (NPO) fundraise via the grant. But it’s a win-win for the volunteer, too: they’ve aligned with TWO nonprofits by generously agreeing to donate their time to one organization and help raise funds for the other!
Simply contact a few local nonprofits (schools and booster clubs are a good start) and inform them of your need for volunteers. If they are able to provide a group of volunteers for the event, you will compensate each NPO with a grant towards their fundraising efforts. The onus is now on each organization to coordinate and recruit 30 volunteers from their pool of students, parents, siblings, neighbors, etc. As long as the NPO can sign up 30 people, they’ll earn the grant. (And we have even been known to pro-rate the grants when NPOs fall slightly shy of their target.)
It’s not difficult to understand the benefits here. Your nonprofit no longer needs to spend hours hunting down 120 volunteers for your event, which means those hours can be dedicated to fine-tuning the details of your fundraiser – following up with sponsors, selling more tickets, confirming suppliers, etc. During that time, the partner nonprofit(s) will do the heavy lifting of soliciting and recruiting volunteers on your behalf. As long as their volunteers sign up and show up for the event to provide a few hours of service, the partner NPO will receive the cash grant.
This also provides your NPO with a fantastic public relations opportunity: you’ve partnered your cause/event with other local nonprofits in an effort to assist THEIR fundraising efforts! And those grant partners can also use the PR opportunity to promote THEIR organization in helping your event! Twice the promotion for your cause. (Yet another win-win opportunity is created.)
Definitely use this opportunity to promote your cause/event and the partner organization(s) via a check presentation, photo op and a press release than you can share with your local media and your distribution lists, while your partners do the same. As wider audiences learn of your event and alliance with other nonprofits, it’ll be easier to find volunteers next year. Not only will your partners sign up again, there will likely be other local nonprofits calling YOU about your grant program!