How to Get People to Give Time Instead of Money

Money, as they say, makes the world go around, but unless you have people willing to take the time to make that money do its work, it won't do you any good.

Your organization's success depends on money to finance its activities and mission, but it is fueled by a volunteer force. You need people to give their time. Today, that's not always an easy task. Busy lifestyles just make it easier sometimes to just write a check.

Corporate Leverage

One way to get volunteers to donate their time is to use large area employers as leverage. Companies of course, want to look good. They may donate money to your cause, but when you approach them for time, you have to take another approach.

Good companies with an eye towards public relations will realize the benefit here, and will be willing to coordinate with you to recruit their employees to donate time.

You have to provide the PR benefit. When you make an announcement about a particular program you are running, instead of just saying that “volunteers from around the community” are all pitching in, your announcement will say that “volunteers from XYZ Corporation are out in force today” to contribute to your program.

When you use this corporate tactic, you will also get double the PR effort as well. The company's own public relations department will latch onto the news and create their own press releases.

Don't Overuse Volunteers

Everybody in fundraising has met at least one volunteer who overdoes it. They spend countless hours with the organization, taking on anything and everything, throwing themselves into every task. Inevitably, they crash and burn.

People are often reluctant to volunteer, because they believe that they don't have the time to devote to a cause. Manage your volunteer staff carefully, and make sure the workload is distributed evenly, so no one person gets overburdened.

And as part of your recruiting pitch, make it clear that the volunteer is free to decide on their own schedule and amount of hours they contribute. Make it clear that even a couple hours a week would be valued.

It's often hard to commit a day, or even a full afternoon, but it you present it as “all we need is a couple hours a week of your time”, it becomes a lot more attractive.

Know Where to Look

Part of your job of getting people to give time is just knowing where to look. If your own social circle is made up of workaholics who put in 80 hours a week at the office, you're not going to get a lot of luck looking there. Those folks may be very useful to your group in terms of writing large checks, but you won't get them out to help fold newsletters on a Saturday afternoon.

Pinpoint people by demographic category, people who you believe would have more spare time. College students are often eager to volunteer for causes they believe in, and they have more time (and energy) than the rest of us for these sorts of activities. College campuses are great places to get energetic and dedicated volunteers.

Make it Social

Many people are hungry for social opportunities. They want to meet people, have fun, and go out on the town. Volunteering can be one way to achieve this. If you make your volunteer activities social, word will get around.

Do you have volunteers come to the office, and sit around stapling together newsletters and licking address labels all night? And then when the work is done, do you just send everybody home? That's a recipe for disaster, and you won't keep volunteers for very long.

First of all, make sure that activities, regardless of what they are, are done in groups. Provide refreshments for the group, and make sure that each group takes a break or two, just to keep themselves refreshed.

And most importantly, incorporate plenty of social activities into your volunteer army. After the work is done, figure out something social and fun for them to do. If your budget doesn't allow for hosting a dinner, you can still suggest that everybody go out to a local restaurant together after the work is done.

And beyond that, arrange for an event for your volunteers that has nothing at all to do with work getting done. Occasional “volunteer appreciation nights” are welcome, and they are what adds fuel to your volunteer machine. It's what keeps them coming back, and bringing their friends with them.

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