How to Use Holiday-Season Volunteering to Start a Long-Term Relationship

The holiday season is nothing without its traditions.

For many people, the holidays mean gathering together with family to consume meals, exchange gifts, watch football and take turkey-induced naps.

For others, when the holiday season begins this year on Thanksgiving, traditions include giving back to their community and volunteering for local nonprofits. Most of the time, this involves serving meals at a soup kitchen, working at a homeless shelter or ringing a bell outside a store.

You can position your nonprofit to incorporate the giving spirit of people in your community into your volunteer program. Here are some tips that your nonprofit can use to help engage people in holiday-season volunteering.

Find Simple One-Time Activities

Before you open your doors to all people to come and do work, you need to find projects for them to work on. Try to develop a list of activities that can be done on a one-time basis and that require little training/prep time.

Keep in mind that what many of these people want are a quick-hit of volunteering joy. They probably won’t want to go through mailing lists or cleaning cobwebs out of window sills. (But you never know!)

Get the Word Out

Once you have tasks, share them with the world! Traditionally, the soup kitchens, food pantries and homeless shelters get the most attention during Thanksgiving and the holiday season. If your nonprofit fits into that category, you can appeal to people’s desire to help out the less fortunate in what can be a season of excess.

For other nonprofits, people might not consider volunteering for your organization because they don’t know the opportunity exists. List your opportunity on VolunteerMatch or other similar websites. Often local news organizations compile lists of volunteering opportunities, so ask around and try to get included in those. Use a special holiday season appeal through your social media and your traditional advertising avenues. Focus your message on giving back to the community during the thankful/giving-centric holiday season.

Stay in Touch

After you’ve run a successful campaign to get people to volunteer at your nonprofit, don’t let them drift away. To start a tradition, you need to stay in touch with them throughout the year with other opportunities. Then before next holiday season, send a reminder to help out at your nonprofit.

For many nonprofits, the need for volunteers exists all year and not just in the holiday season. However, if you get people in the door during the holiday season you can start the relationship that can expand to more than once a year. Even if you don’t see them for 12 months between volunteering, you can start a long-lasting meaningful relationship with them this holiday season.


Lincoln Arneal

Lincoln Arneal was a Senior Editor at Nonprofit Hub who brought loads of real-world nonprofit experience to the team. He was the past executive director of a nonprofit that provided leadership development to junior high and high school students. He looked to bring the insights from his time forming, developing, and running a nonprofit to help others in their quest to do good. Lincoln also had a legal background and had written for various newspapers (covering high school sports) for the past 15 years. He could be followed on Twitter at @NPLNK.

November 11, 2015

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