Chorus leaders - do me a favor. Think about the things you do for your donors to keep them happy.
Do you give them "thank you" cards? Do you throw donor receptions/parties? Do you wine and dine them? Do you know them so well that you casually bring up their pet names in conversation? Do you essentially bend over backward for them?
Now, I'd like you to think about what you do to keep your volunteers happy. Go ahead. I'll wait...
Do you do the same things that you do for your donors? If I had to wager a guess, I'd bet that you probably don't. (If you do, feel free to stop reading - you're a volunteer managing pro - yay, you!)
But here's the thing... you need to stop thinking about your volunteers and donors separately. Your volunteers are, in fact, in-kind donors. And, surprise(!), many of them may actually be your major donors.
Three Reasons to Treat Chorus Volunteers Like the Major Donors They Are
1. Donated Time = Donated Money
At the end of the day, if you didn't have volunteers doing the work, you'd have to pay someone to do it. Consider all donated time as saved money for the chorus! Quick math (estimated) can show you just how much a chorus volunteer's time can be worth:
- Social Media Manager (experienced): 1 hr/wk * $24/hr * 52 weeks in year = $1,248
- Board Chair/President: 10 hrs/wk * $30/hr * 52 weeks in year = $15,600/yr
- Web Developer working on web redesign: 300 hours * $100/hr = $30,000
Still think your volunteers aren't your major donors?
2. Volunteers are More Invested and More Likely to Donate Than Non-Volunteers
According to this study, two-thirds of volunteers also donate money to the organizations for which they volunteer. On average, volunteers donate ten times more than non-volunteers AND are more likely to increase their donations the following year than non-volunteers. Erm... tell me again why we aren't bending over backwards for these peeps^? Excuse me, volunteer... you're donating time AND money? Let me kiss your feet.
3. You Would Be Nothing Without Your Volunteers
You would be nothing (NOTHING I tell you!) without your volunteers. Think about the actual requirements of running your chorus. Hands down, every nonprofit chorus needs people to manage their finances, legals, marketing, operations/infrastructure, concert operations, development, and technology. For many choruses, these responsibilities are supplemented or fully covered by volunteers. If you didn't have these responsibilities covered, your organization would simply not be able to function. You need your volunteers.
Have I convinced you yet? I hope so! Now, here's what you can do to keep your chorus volunteers happy:
How to Treat Your Volunteers
- Treat your volunteers as well as you treat your donors. Value them. Appreciate them. Thank them.
- Ensure that every volunteer is fitted to a position that matches their skillset and also a position that they will enjoy.
- Check-in with them on a regular basis to ensure they are enjoying their position and offer to be a resource if needed.
- Be understanding and flexible to volunteers' needs and time limits. Not every volunteer will be able to commit 100% of the time.
- Purchase the necessary equipment for volunteers to do their job effectively.
- Respond quickly and enthusiastically to all volunteer ideas and help make their wonderful ideas come to fruition.
Specific Ideas for Volunteer Appreciation and Recognition
- Hand-write "thank you" letters to your volunteers a few times a year.
- Throw a party for your volunteers at the end of the season.
- Thank volunteers in your program.
- Thank volunteers on your website.
- Give out volunteer awards, such as "volunteer of the month," and provide a gift of recognition.
- Create a volunteer loyalty program by offering special partner discounts with local businesses.
- Thank them at every meeting for both attending and contributing their ideas. Bonus - include food for them at every meeting!
- Feature volunteers on your blog and social media.
How to Be Successful at Volunteer Management
One of the best ways to be successful at volunteer management, is to create a position or team specifically focused on volunteer recruitment, management, recognition, and engagement. Learn more at our 10 volunteer committees blog. Volunteer management software can also help you build a sense of community with your volunteers and make managing schedules a breeze.
And, if you're a volunteer yourself, don't forget to acknowledge the work you are doing! Give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back. Take time to breathe once in awhile. Realize that what you do matters and you are making a difference. And from the bottom of my heart, thank YOU for your contribution to the choral arts! We need more people in this world like you.
Tori Cook is the former Director of Sales & Marketing at Chorus Connection. She sings with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus and is a board member of the Greater Boston Choral Consortium. In a past life, she was the Music Director of the Harborlight Show Chorus and President of Chorus pro Musica in Boston. When not making music, she daydreams about adopting a golden retriever puppy and scuba diving to exotic locations around the world.