Get Your Volunteers to Embrace the Dirty Work

dirty work

I hear over and over from large not-for-profits and small, the volunteers just want to do the fun stuff. It’s hard to find people to do the hard, unglamorous, dirty work.

Having an event? Volunteers want to be part of the event, but don’t want to help with set up or tear down.

Run a soup kitchen?  Ten people volunteer to serve the clients, only one volunteers to do the dishes.

Sound familiar?

Whether it’s doing the filing or cleaning kennels, the “grunt work” is low on most volunteers’ list of things they want to help with.

So how do you get that dirty work done and still keep your volunteers happy and engaged?

Here are some tips.

1. Find people for whom this is actually the more attractive task.

Take the soup kitchen scenario.

Not everyone is enthused about being in large groups of people, but they still want to help.

Doing dishes allows them to make a tangible difference, without forcing them to be out interacting with people.

Tapping into the introvert population for “behind the scenes” work can provide you with a pool of talent for those hard-to-fill jobs.

2. Mix and match jobs.

Say you have a shelter for stray dogs. Volunteers come by the dozen to socialize and walk the dogs, but you find yourself cleaning all the kennels.

Combine the two.

A volunteer wants to take a dog for a walk? The procedure is:  the volunteer cleans its kennel, takes it for its walk, and provides it with fresh water when they return.

As the volunteer is only doing one kennel at a time, it doesn’t seem as big a task, and it has the “reward” of spending time with the dog.

Once that is set as regular procedure, volunteers won’t even question it.  All you will need to do is ensure that it’s done up to standard.

3. Tap into corporate volunteers.

This is especially useful for events or large one-time projects.

Contact a local business and see if they would be willing to have a group of their employees help out in exchange for a tax-receipt. (It would be considered an “in-kind” donation.)

Many companies like to be seen as helping in their communities, and sending a block of their staff to help a not-for-profit can be a useful public relations tool for them.

As they are doing this for work, the volunteers are less likely to be picky about what tasks they do.

Thus, they would be just as happy cleaning up after a big event as they would be helping out during the event. Win-Win!

These are just a few of the options that you can use to get those less-popular tasks done.

There are others; just do a bit of brainstorming and you’ll come up with ones that match your situation.

Need help?  Book on my calendar here to set up a time to talk with me and we can look deeper into your particular challenges.

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