We all know that it can be hard to recruit volunteers, which is why it pays to show them you appreciate their input. Ensuring volunteers have an enjoyable experience makes it more likely that they'll volunteer again, and should lead to a permanent boost in your manpower.
Say it with words
The easiest way to thank volunteers is to do a generic 'thank you' through your usual advertising channels. In many ways, this is the safest option as no one will be left out. Use emails, newsletters, social media, and even posters around school.
But personal thanks do have a lot more impact, and come across as more thoughtful, if you have the time to do them. Have the Chair write cards, or ask pupils to make thank you cards. They are, after all, the ones who will benefit from the volunteers' effort, and having a personal thank you from them goes a long way in retaining helpers.
You don't want any thank yous to be costly and cut into profits, but there are many ways you can show you appreciate volunteers, and encourage people to sign up, with little bonuses and incentives:
- Show that you value everyone's efforts by offering some 'perks', i.e. could their children have exclusive access to the bouncy castle before or after the fair? It won't impact on your profits but is a thoughtful way to reward volunteers.
- If you're holding an event like a disco, keep the music going for a bit longer at the end of the event and let the volunteers and their kids have an exclusive boogie.
- How about running a volunteer raffle as an incentive, where all volunteers names are entered into a prize draw? Use a donated prize to avoid cutting into profits.
- See if local restaurants or attractions are willing to offer discount vouchers or codes which you can hand out to all volunteers. In return, you could offer the company a discounted, or free, advert in your programme or on a stall.
- If you have a school production, nativity or pantomime, offer volunteers first dibs on the seating - a front-row seat is a great way to say thanks.
- Offer volunteers their first drink for free, or a free burger if they're volunteering at a long event to keep up morale.
- Consider offering discounted tickets for helpers at events. Many commercial events do this to get volunteers. It's a system that works and can apply to your PTA. If someone volunteers at the summer fair for an hour their ticket is half price; if they help for two hours, admission is free. They then have the remaining time to enjoy the fair.
Look after volunteers at events
- Make sure volunteers have time to go around the event with their kids by making sure people are relieved and helpers are switched when they should be, and according to the rota. To aid this, have a committee member floating around the fair who can be alerted in the case of any problems.
- Ensure people can have comfort breaks by providing volunteers to cover stalls if necessary. Sitting in the hot or cold, thirsty and bursting for a wee, won't encourage people to volunteer again!
- If people are volunteering for a long time, take round drinks. A warm cup of tea at a Christmas fair, or a cool glass of water at a summer fair, will be more than welcome and is not costly. Little touches like this show you care about your volunteers.
When thanking volunteers, try to provide details of how much profit the event made and how you intend to spend it - it makes a huge difference for them to know how their contribution will be of benefit.