We all hate asking for help. Here are some tips to make it a little easier.
I belong to a great RC club. Our flying site is owned and maintained by the city. It is great. There is a nice large paved runway, heli pads, tap water, even real restrooms. No port-a-potties for us!
Our monthly meetings are always interesting. They are well attended and we always have a full agenda. We almost always have a scheduled presentation and sometimes we even have two.
We put on five major flying events every year. This year we are running a pylon race, a heli meet, a scale meet, a family day for the community, and a fun fly. Some of these meets are the largest ones of their type in the entire state.
Why am I telling you all this? My point is just to make it clear that I belong to an active and vibrant club.
Based on the above, you would think that we have scores of volunteers willing and able to help out. Well, we do and we don’t.
Truth is, this article started out as a rant. I wanted to complain about all the problems at my club. Trust me, we have problems just like everybody else.
At the top of the list of problems I would put getting volunteers for our events. I think it is funny that I say that. If you attend one of our meets, there are always tons of people helping out. But behind the scenes, it takes a lot of work to make sure folks turn out to lend a hand.
As a club, I think we still have a lot to learn on this subject. Here are some lessons that I have personally learned. Do you have other tips for getting volunteers? Let me know in the comments below.
Let people know what needs to get done. It may sound obvious, but you would be very surprised at how often this one gets flubbed. For every open job, make sure potential volunteers know what the job is, when their help would be needed, for how long, approximate level of effort required, any special skills needed, and any other special requirements.
To stand in front of the room and say that you need help with the upcoming meet is simply not enough. It might be obvious to you what needs to get done, but I guarantee you that most of the club members do not know. It does not matter how many times they have participated in the event or others like it.
You Have To Ask
The best way to get me to help out is by asking me personally. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, it underscores the need. Given the opportunity, everybody likes being the hero. Second, it tells me that you think I am a good fit for the job. Third, it is not just the club asking. It is now a friend in need.
As before, be clear and to the point. Do not assume that the potential volunteer understands what is required. Make sure they have a chance to ask you any questions.
Also, make sure that they know that they would not be alone. The surest way to get me to turn you down is if I feel that the task is being dumped on me. If I see you running the other way, the warning bells go off and I run too.
Do Not Preach
Nobody likes to be talked down to. Resist the urge to lay on the guilt about not helping out. I think it is a reasonable assumption that every adult club member knows that running the meetings and flying meets takes a lot of work. We all have family and other obligations, too. Deep down, everybody wants to help. Your challenge is to make it as easy as possible for them to do so.
Do you really need to have a separate club officer’s mailing list? Do you really need to have separate business meetings for the club? It is like the old saying. Out of sight, out of mind.
Realize that you are all volunteers. There is a burden of responsibility that you took on by running for office and being elected a club officer. But that does not relieve the rest of the club members from pulling their weight. But do not blame them for not helping out if they do not even know everything that is getting done behind the scenes.
The Right Volunteer for the Right Job
Not everybody is cut out to be club president or to give a presentation on airbrushing techniques. You want the volunteers to be successful. The idea is to have people feel good about what they are doing. If they feel good and they are successful, they are much more likely to volunteer again in the future.
Some folks prefer to do the same job every year. For example, I love to keep score during competitions. Others like to do a different job every year. It is not too hard to spot these patterns. Fill the positions appropriately.
Sometimes all you need to do to find the leader in somebody is to empower them. People are always afraid of making mistakes. But if you encourage and support their decision making skills, much more often than not you will be pleasantly surprised.
Say Thank You
I was the contest director this past summer for the family day club event. After the event was over, I personally thanked every major volunteer. No, I am not talking about a group email thanking the “little people”. No, I am not even talking about an email.
What I did is that I walked up to every single person. I looked at them in the eye and said “thank you”. I reiterated what they had done, I said why they had done such a good job, and I told them why their contribution had been so important. Yes, I meant every single word I said. Do you think I am going to have trouble finding volunteers next year for this event?