One of the most effective ways to reach new volunteers is marketing to older volunteers via word of mouth. The core volunteer group your organization may volunteers, because they believe that what they are doing is systematically going to solve the issue of hunger in their community. They may also take pride in what they do and some of the volunteers honestly just love the organization so much, they will volunteer for any project that has an opening.
In order to get this volunteer buy in, the volunteer descriptions need to be honest. When someone signs up to do something, they want to feel like they accomplished something. If the project is new and there may be some hiccups at the beginning, let that be known to the volunteer. The last thing anyone wants is to spend their free time going out to do something, and then there is nothing for them to do. People want to be put to work when they go to volunteer.
Once the volunteer description is complete, now it is time to advertise to the community. Creating flashy flyers and social media graphics helps get the point across. If the opportunity is picking apples, have a picture of an apple orchard on the flyer. Food for Others enjoys using Canva to create our flyers and graphics, because some of the graphics are free. It is also easy to write a simple slogan on top of the graphics.
Once the flyers and the social media graphics are created it is time to get the word out to the public. Many companies use volunteer opportunities as a team building exercise. This is a great way to get their employees out of the office and into an environment where they can chat without the constraints of what is happening in the office. Companies are great to engage for projects that need a lot of labor like gleaning and constructing something.
Many recently retired people want something to do to occupy a small amount of time once a week. These are the people who want to get involved in farm pickups or farmers market pickups. They are looking for something on the organizations website and they just want something that they can claim as their own project. For example, one of our volunteers picks up directly from a Fairfax County farm every Monday at 10 am. He even has gone so many times that he even has the farmer’s cellphone number so he can call them directly.
No matter what the volunteer opportunity is people like to feel like the non-profit organization they are donating their time and talent to is appreciative of the gesture. The most important way to make someone feel appreciated is learning the volunteer’s name. When the organization does not know someone’s name especially if this is not the first time volunteering, the volunteer will feel like they are not an asset to the organization, and therefore they will be less likely to return. In emails to the volunteers, the VISTA member at Food for Others also likes to put that she values the service of the volunteer
Food for Others officially began feeding the hungry from its Merrifield site in 1995. Today food supply, storage and distribution activities are made possible by a network of active volunteers, supporting churches and organizations, grocery stores, farms, gardens, farmers markets, and retail food contributor in addition to the receiving community centers, soup kitchens, and food pantries who together are dedicated to feeding the hungry of Northern Virginia. Nine staff members are employed full time to handle operations at our warehouse. All officers and directors are volunteers who work without compensation. Volunteers staff the office and are responsible for program administration and fund raising.
Food for Others provides free food to those in need throughout Northern Virginia. We distribute food in 4 ways, through our emergency warehouse distributions, through our 17 neighborhood sites across Northern Virginia that occur on weeknights, through our 14 community partners, and through our weekend food program for children at 29 Fairfax County Schools. Across all programs we serve an average of 1,800 families per week. Currently, we are focusing on providing healthier foods to our clients because we know that poor nutrition can have lasting detrimental effects on our community.