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Seven Steps for Organizing Volunteers

Seven Tips for Organizing Volunteers

By Lee Garverick for PTA

If you’ve signed up to organize a major PTA event, get a jump start by reviewing these seven key tips. By organizing a large group of people, you are sharpening a valuable life skill!

1. Above all else, your top job is to recruit enough people to help
As chair of an event, your first inclination may be to jump in and start taking care of the details. But remember, your role is to keep an eye on the big picture and support the many others who help make the event a success. Put most of your energy into recruiting volunteers starting day one and throughout the planning cycle. Create a list of potential candidates for each committee chair position and tick through it. If someone declines, quickly move on to the next, and so on, until you get a “yes”. Continue your focus on recruiting until you have found all of your key leaders. For your teams of volunteers, put out signup sheets at every opportunity – the office, bulletin boards, take-home flyers, and if possible, online.

2. Be clear about the job description, talents and time needed, then hand over the reins
While you want lots of people on board, you also need people with the time and talent to get the job done. As you begin to recruit, resist the temptation to downplay the effort required. When a volunteer indicates interest in a certain role, send an e-mail that states the goals, expected results, time and skills needed. No need to tell them how to do the job, but do be clear about expected results and outcomes. Make sure they reply with any questions or to tell you clearly that they are ready to go. Finally, give them the freedom to do their jobs in the way they feel most comfortable.

3. Manage inter-dependencies
Work with your committee chairs to create a timeline showing all of your planning activities, and identify areas where one committee needs things that will be produced by another. Make sure everyone is aware of these important timing needs. Check in occasionally to verify that everyone is still in sync.

4. Leverage technology
There are endless options for using the Internet to cut your workload as you organize volunteers. Take advantage of them! If you plan to run much of your event online, you’ll need helpers with strong technical aptitude – again, it’s important to delegate - but your whole group comes out ahead as a result. Working together, sort out whether you’d like to use online tools that allow you to:

  • communicate with committees and subcommittees of volunteers,
  • invite volunteers and have them select the roles and time slots of interest all at once,
  • sell event tickets and collect payments,
  • set up a blog or web page for publicity,
  • or even all of the above.

5. Don't reinvent the wheel
Most major school events involve a number of flyers, forms, and instruction sheets. Start by looking online for the best examples. Then as you create your own versions, keep an ongoing file to pass on to next year’s event chair, so he or she doesn’t have to start from scratch.

6. Have a pinch hitter team
As co-chair of my school walkathon, on the day before the big event I found myself with four huge cases of oranges and no one to slice them. I resorted to putting them in my trunk and wandering the school parking lot at pickup time, using all my charm and wits to solicit help!

Even with the best of planning, you'll find a few things falling through the cracks during the busiest days before your event. Put together a pinch hitter team well ahead of time so they will be ready to catch these unexpected details.

7. Celebrate success at every step
During the planning process, event day(s), and afterwords, how and what will you celebrate? Be sure to point out great jobs done by your planning team all along the way, and send lots of thank you notes. After the event, a slide show or party may be in order. A celebration adds enthusiasm for next year's event, and everyone deserves the fun of recognizing a job well done.

The Walkathon Guide is an essential tool for anyone planning a walkathon or jogathon. Valued at over $40, it is offered at an introductory price of $9.95. Copies can be ordered from the website.