Our agency continues to receive requests for group volunteer projects. They can be youth groups, school groups, church groups, corporate groups, and all assortment of combinations in-between.
Here is what the volunteers want from their volunteer project:
- They want their group volunteering activity to take from 2 to 4 hours.
- They want to be all together as much as possible, to socialize throughout the experience – they don’t want to be isolated from each other individually.
- They usually don’t want to have any obligation beyond that one-time volunteering experience.
- They want the experience to feel like they have fun, they make a difference, and then they leave.
Group size: The larger the group – the harder it is to find opportunities. Unfortunately, volunteering opportunities for large groups are very hard to find. Finding a group volunteering opportunity for 6 people is much easier than finding a one-day opportunity for 150 people. And, it’s okay to say NO if the needs of the group does not match your agency, the time-line is too short, the liability is too great, or you do not have enough staff to support the project.
Here are some suggestions for working with a group:
- Designate a group leader
- Walk through the project with the group leader at least a month to 2 weeks prior
- Make a list of supplies needed for project (rakes, shovels, gloves, paint, aprons, etc.)
- Agree (in writing) who will pay for any needed supply items
- Have all volunteers pre-register (it’s OK to not accept walk-in’s). Consider creating a free online volunteer registration form in a site like Sign-Up Genius.
- On the day of event have all volunteers sign a liability waiver
- Give written job descriptions for each assignment
- Have a short group presentation to explain what they are doing and the difference it will make
- Have refreshment (even if it’s bottled water)
- At the end of the project, include a short time for reflection with the group and talk about their volunteer experience
- Have a short post-event meeting with the group leader
- Thank everyone as they leave
- Send a thank-you note to each volunteer and tell them what a difference that their service has made to your agency.
Think ahead: Your agency may have a number of un-met needs that would be perfect for a group:
- Set up tables and chairs for an event
- Clean up after an event
- Cleaning the landscape in spring and fall
- Sorting boxes of records and items in your storage area
Here are some classic group activity stories from our agency:
- Last year we had a corporate group that requested a project for 70 people. The time line was 1 – 4 PM on Saturday, October 7th. (With two weeks’ notice) Outcome: we found 3 parks that needed clean up.
- Another group was doing a Youth Church Conference and they wanted a 2 hour project for 300 youth ages 14-16. The time line was a Sunday from 1-3 PM. Outcome: We declined.
- A group of (well-meaning) ladies wanted to rock new-born babies in a hospital nursery for two hours one Thursday a month. Outcome: Would not consider even asking a hospital!
- One dear lady and her friends wanted to bake birthday cakes, and deliver them, to children of prisoners housed in the local jail. Outcome: The jail Chaplains nixed the project.
- One talented gentleman wanted to build small houses (like on the TV shows) for homeless individuals. He wanted us to set up the classes and he would teach the volunteers. Outcome: We declined.
- A group of Air Force recruits wanted a 3 hour project that would require strength and hard work. They had just enlisted and thought that this would be something that they could do for the community before starting their service the next morning. Outcome: They lifted heavy tree branches and spread playground mulch at a city park.
My guess is that you have some great stories to tell too! Volunteer groups can be a blessing but they require patience and planning.