by Brian Bierenga
First of all, let’s change the lingo. We’ll call it “inviting volunteers” into ministry. That is what we’re doing after all. Here are a few things I’ve picked up along the way:
• Use email. This way your potential volunteers can process your information and consider your request at time that’s convenient for them. It also feels less confrontational. Facebook messages work similarly, but are harder to organize and track.
• Use templates. In my “volunteerism” folder on my computer I keep several email templates. They have names like “initial contact – new members” or “initial contact – long time members” or “follow up with short ministry descriptions.” These are all typed into Word docs. When I’m doing inviting emails I simply cut and paste the body of the email from my templates. Make sure you thoroughly spell check your templates and be careful about personalizing your templates. It does make your inviting email more effective when you use the recipient’s first name, say, halfway through the email, but you’ll then have to be very careful to keep adjusting the correct name in the middle of your template with each new email.
• Track smarter. So now you’ve sent out 50 “initial contact” emails and you have 10 people who have replied that they are willing to discuss volunteering. It would be a shame to loose track of any of those 10 people simply because their name is only scribbled on a spiral notebook and forgotten at the bottom of a pile on your desk. I use a web-based contact relationship management (CRM) software called Salesforce (www.salesforce.com). OK, you’re not selling a product, but a sales cycle and a volunteer inviting cycle are extremely similar. This software let’s you store all your contact information, track all of your conversations, and, most importantly, schedule all of your future interactions with prospective volunteers. You’ll never “drop” a prospective volunteer because the next email, meeting, or phone call is always scheduled in your electronic calendar. And when the time comes to make that phone call your CRM software shows you all the previous conversations you’ve had with this person so you can have a productive conversation. It gets better: this software also allows for multiple users, meaning that you and your team can all see who is talking to whom, what was decided, and who is responsible for making the next contact with a potential volunteer. Need to remember to get their screening forms back later? Track that as well.
In case you were wondering, Salesforce costs around $12 per month. However, if you contact them and explain that you are a non-profit with 501(c)(3) status, you can apply to their foundation to receive the software and 10 user licenses for free. As for training, if you have any sales people in your church right now, chances are they are using this software at work and would be happy to train you on it.