February 10, 2012
How much artwork?
What would I do without our volunteers?
I wouldn’t be able to do much because there just aren’t enough hours in the day. So I get help from volunteers.
Having volunteers in your classroom is one of the best opportunities in the world for you to get organized, gain support and allow others to help you. It was taught to me years ago by a veteran teacher and it is a skill I put to use each and every year.
Working till it is all done.
Each year in our school, we put together a huge gala celebrating the multicultural approach to arts education. This evening is called “Arts Night” and features over 5,000 pieces of art work (which have to be mounted, labeled and hung), 250 student performers (who need to practice and have costumes), 6 performances (which need music, choreography and sets), multicultural food (which needs to be donated or cooked), a glow hall and a family art project (which needs to be organized and run). We also have a Security Team to make sure the 1500 visitors to Arts Night are having a wonderful time.
Community members are terrific volunteers!
Several teachers in our district direct the traffic and work with the kids, but the actual WORK of Arts Night is all done by over 200 volunteers from the staff, families, community and alumni.
This has happened for the last 21 years. For real.
So how do you get 200 volunteers to help you?
It’s that simple. People want to help. Here are some tried and true tips to getting those volunteers into your world.
- Give them OPTIONS
- Be prepared
- Be welcoming
- FEED THEM
- FOLLOW UP
- THANK THEM
How do I ask someone to give up their time for me? I don’t even like to ask my husband to go to the Post Office for me!
IMPORTANT: YOU ARE NOT inconveniencing VOLUNTEERS! If they didn’t want to be there, they wouldn’t come in. I have found so often as a parent, a teacher and the president of our local PTA that people WANT to volunteer. By offering it to them, you are helping them as much as they are helping you. Maybe they really want to be involved in their kid’s life at school, or maybe they lost their job and need something to do, or maybe they have a great job, but want to help out because that’s the kind of person they are, or maybe they want the company. Anyway you cut it, volunteers are VOLUNTEERING.
So to ask-just ask.
Cultural food prepared and seerved by volunteers.
- I invite people to help.
- I ask the members of our school family to volunteer.
- I send home notes explaining what I need with a place for them to fill in their pertinent information. Then I ask them to send it back to me.
- I post it on my webpage and give them a place to contact me.
- I put it on the local news channel that flashes important info about the community.
- I put it in the local newspaper.
- I reach out to senior organizations (Grandparents LOVE to help!).
- I reach out to teen organizations that need volunteer hours.
- I reach out to community organizations like the VFW, ELKS, American Legion, local churches.
Lifers (people who volunteer even after their kids move on)
When asking, make sure to give options. Not every mom is home when the kids get off the bus. Not every dad has the opportunity to help out after school. So give them choices.
Come in and photocopy when you can, bake the food for the event, shop for the event, donate an item for the event, build something for the event, work at home for the event, come at night to the school to prepare for the event, come during the school day, do the photographing, be the person who writes the news article for the event, sew the costumes for the event, make calls to get volunteers in for the event, be the Facebook liaison for the event, coordinate an area of the event…
It’s all about options. Somewhere, somehow, if you give them enough options, they will show up. I promise.
Have you ever volunteered for something and then when you got there, the person in charge didn’t have something for you to do? Or worse yet, says, “Just help.” AAAUUUGGGHHH! I just got a babysitter for that?!
Even the kids want to help!
YOU NEED TO BE PREPARED with INSTRUCTIONS. I admit; there have been times when I have had so many volunteers, I have run out of things for them to do. But I always, always try to have something for them to do when they come-even if it is something I don’t actually need done at the moment.
One time when I volunteered for one of my kids’ activities, the organizer of the event was rather snippy and short. Now being an organizer of many events, I completely understand why the organizer might be short or snippy, but it still hurt my feelings a little when they were short with me. MAKE SURE TO ALWAYS HAVE A SMILE ON YOUR FACE WHEN THEY ARRIVE. Make the place you are working together a family environment.
*Tip: Speaking of families, if mom or dad doesn’t have to get a babysitter and can bring their kids, you will get more volunteers. Ask one of the local teenagers who need volunteer hours for school or church to watch the kids in the room with you while the parents work together.
Feed them; they will come.
If you feed them, they will come. Really.
Do you need to put on a feast? NO! It’s not their last meal! But even having coffee and brownies helps. I serve family dinners when we have Arts Night set up night meetings. I do a fundraiser earlier in the year (we’ll talk about that in another post-RAISING MONEY FOR YOUR EVENT) and apply it to getting pizza, powdered iced tea and paper products for my meetings. Usually someone is kind enough to bring a snack and we eat together while we work. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to share a meal with people who are working together for a greater cause-it is really neat.
A chance to work together on a project.
FOLLOW UP: OK-I admit-this is the tough part. If a parent agrees to help you and sends in a form, or gives you their email address, or phone number, it is important to touch base with them to confirm when you need them. Arts Night has gotten so big that I actually have a parent call person who starts calling the volunteers for me around mid-March. This does two things-it shows that I want their help and it makes them realize I am counting on them. It really works. I recently have been trying to move into a more technological format of confirming volunteering-I’ll let you know how it works out. Bottom line, when someone calls to confirm, you feel like you have a plan.
Dads love to help too!
THANK THEM! THANK THEM! THANK THEM! No matter how you do it, say THANK YOU! For Arts Night, part of our fundraising goes to getting a small token of my appreciation towards my volunteers every year. Last year it was Hot Sauce with the Arts Night logo on it because we were studying Mexico, one year it was fortune cookies with a note inside about thanking them for helping at Arts Night, sometimes it’s a t-shirt, sometimes, it’s just a thank you note or call.
Volunteers-they work (literally and figuratively).
Try it-you will be amazed.
See the page above called “Arts Night” for more information.
By the way, a huge amount of my volunteers are people who no longer have kids in the school. Their kids have moved on, but they haven’t. They like the sense of doing something good for someone else and they like the sense of family. They enjoy working together for a greater good.
Till next time~
It is all great fun.
p.s. There is a rumor around my school that the only way to get out of being an Arts Night volunteer is to move out of the state. That’s not entirely true…