The amazing thing about All Souls is how diverse our community is and how broad our interests and passions are. From spiritual practices to covenant groups, to religious education for our youth and for our adults, to music and worship, to social justice and congregational care, there is a broad spectrum of interests, needs, and activities. Much of the congregation’s work is done by lay leaders who have stepped up and made a commitment to see it happen.
But you know that, it’s probably why you’re reading this article. As a lay leader, you know what the work is, and you’ve identified an area that needs another person, or several, to help. Hopefully, you’ve taken the time to identify all the needs for your current project, action, event, etc. and determined how many people you need, in what capacity, what a schedule and time commitment would look like, and written a job description for it based on what gifts you’d like your future volunteers to bring to the table. (See the article How Do We Transition Away from Volunteer Recruitment to Centering in Gifts?)
The next step is relationship building to fill volunteer roles. Notice, I didn’t say recruitment. One of the tenants of All Souls has been to Build the Beloved Community, and this has in large part been accomplished through relationship building. Our congregation joined this spiritual community for a variety of reasons, and most often we hear about their need for community.
As a lay leader looking to fill volunteer positions, you have the opportunity to extend another point of access into the All Souls community. It’s important for you to build relationships with potential volunteers as it ties you into the community while engaging them in the same community. It’s a reciprocal relationship that benefits all! Get to know what drives others in your community – what are their passions, their gifts? What makes them unique? Is there a way to incorporate that into your ministry that would benefit the person, as well as the ministry? Talk to them about your efforts, why it’s important to you, how it helps others, and how it might benefit future volunteers. If it seems like a good fit, invite them to participate. People appreciate the personal ask. If they are uninterested or unable to volunteer at this time, that’s okay. You started a relationship, even if it didn’t end in a new volunteer, and that relationship helps sustain our community. And perhaps down the road, might lead to that person volunteering in a different role at a later time.
This is a large community, and you may not be able to personally ask everyone. In these pandemic times, not everyone comes to church in-person, but they might be available and hungry for volunteer opportunities and the community connections they bring.
If you have opportunities available, it may be worthwhile to reach out using other mediums to connect to possible volunteers. Call people, mail cards to those you know are at home, who might be able and willing to fill a need – particularly if it is an opportunity they may perform from home. Phone banking, letter writing, outreach activities, administrative activities, grant writing, and more. Try to give this traditional outreach a personal touch and continue building those relationships! We have the opportunity to engage our congregation at a distance and help bring them more thoroughly into our Beloved Community. This may be time consuming, but it could also be entirely worth the extra effort.
You also have wider reach options available – social media, the e-newsletter, the church website, and other digital means. Relationship building should always be a big part of your focus when filling open needs, but you should also take advantage of the digital network at your fingertips. There might be new faces in the congregation that are looking for an entry into the community, or those at a distance looking for ways to stay home but be connected, or those who just unaware of what’s available and where to start!
First, get your opportunity listed on the church’s volunteer opportunity page online by completing the form here. Please only one opportunity per form submission! You may submit as many as you need.
In that form there is an additional info section – if you would like it placed in the newsletter or on the church’s social media accounts, let us know there. If you have ideas for a social media campaign, please reach out to the church’s communications manager (Rose Eaton) with your ideas! There are so many ways to reach people digitally that it will be its own article – so keep an eye out for that one.
Sometimes, the ministry staff is able to add an announcement from the pulpit on Sundays. This depends on how many other critical announcements and pastoral care items there are on any Sunday. They are not always able to fit everything in.
We can also add slides to the pre-worship slideshow, just let the communications manager know!
Reach out to the staff – we have more connections than you might realize. Don’t feel like you have to go it alone. The church has a large, well-connected staff who are happy to help you with your ministry work! There may be opportunities for intersectional work that you haven’t realized that the staff may be able to connect you with. Several have large ministry areas with their own mailing list or outreach methods that might be able to connect you with new faces, eager for volunteer opportunities.
Is the opportunity one that could be open to the wider DC community? If your opportunity has wider implications, would it benefit from external volunteers? Consider the impact of your ministry’s work on the wider community. If there are other nonprofit organizations, schools, or other churches that might also do similar work you could reach out to them to share your opportunity. Beloved Community can extend beyond our doors! Try to relationship build with these other potential partners and see what doors open and build bridges.
You’ve done the outreach, and you have potential volunteers interested, what next? Be sure to follow up. The fastest way to lose volunteers is by not following up quickly enough. It’s recommended that you engage within three days. Be organized, have your next steps ready.
If there’s training needed, be sure you have the training scheduled and pass that information along to your new volunteer.
If background checks, waivers, or other paperwork is required, have the packet ready to send to the volunteer. Set a timeline for getting completed items back.
If the opportunity is for an event, be sure to have your timeline set so you can schedule volunteers.
If you’re not ready for volunteers and you were gathering interested people while you’re getting ready, add them to a mailing list and send periodic updates (biweekly is recommended – not too often if the opportunity is very far out, and not too far out that they lose interest). It could be a quick update with how things are going, or a fun fact about the work, info about community partners, etc. Be sure to do this work in order to keep excitement about the opportunity high and the memory of their upcoming service fresh.
This article is by no means the only ways to gather in new volunteers, if you have other ideas – use them! See what works and what doesn’t. Make a list of best practices that have worked for you around your ministry. Save them to share with future leaders and share them with church staff and other ministries as part of your relationship building – you might make their efforts a little easier, and they might have tips for you!