Volunteer Relations

Volunteers are more than likely critical to your project’s functionality. Respecting volunteers and knowing each of their strengths and weaknesses saves time and frustration.

Know your needs. Make sure you know how many volunteers are needed, what will be expected of them, and how long their services will be requested for.   

There are several avenues for recruiting volunteers. Here are just a few of them:

  • Recruit at an event
  • Send a pressrelease to the media
  • Utilize social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter
  • Use volunteer-oriented websites such as VolunteerMatch
  • Ask volunteers/staff for referrals
  • Partner with other agencies
  • Host outreach events at local colleges, places of worship, branches of the military, and Boy & Girl Scout Troops Source
  • Source temporary groups of volunteers from local Conventions or your community’s Visitors Bureau
  • Establish a “Bring-A-Friend” event and ask your long-term volunteers to bring a helping hand

Motivation fuels volunteers’ eagerness to serve. Familiarizing yourself with what motivates your team can go a long way. Competition can be a very useful motivational tool. Tracking produce donations for yearly gleaning events fuels competition within groups to surpass previous accomplishments. For example, every Columbus Day, Openeye (a company based in Liberty Lake, WA) sends their employees to a family-run apple orchard in Spokane Valley. Their goal for the day is to harvest more than last year’s gleaning total. Second Harvest tracks the pounds from every glean, giving the volunteers an exact number as a goal.

Talk to your volunteers during the glean. Get to know them and find ways you can connect to them. They will be more willing to come back if you are interested in them as people. They are volunteering for a reason. Find out why, and capitalize on that reason. Get their cell phone numbers so you can be in touch with them on a more regular basis. So when you need a volunteer last minute, you can send out a personal text and see if they can join. Being personal can really make a volunteer feel comfortable and important.

Be sure to thank your volunteers often and in a sincere manner either by phone or email.

Volunteer Opportunities

Second Harvest offers a wide array of volunteer opportunities, most of which occur in our warehouse, but several gleaning events arise throughout the season as a way for volunteers to get involved off-site.

  1. Green Bluff Glean: Every year, Second Harvest collaborates with the local Rotary Club, Kiwanis, Lions Club, Thrivent, and Green Bluff Growers Association for a massive glean the first weekend in November. Hundreds of volunteers are sourced from the participating clubs to glean surplus fruit from several Green Bluff Orchards.
  2. Call-in harvests: Farms/orchards contact Second Harvest in regards to excess produce needing to be gleaned. Volunteers interested in gleaning are often given just a few days notice. This “on-call”-style can lead to an insufficient number of volunteers per event. Building a large volunteer pool is very advantageous for this reason.
  3. Familiarizing volunteers with job requirements: Setting a priority for contacts is critical to ensure adequate volunteers are available for all Second Harvest programs. Determining specific product for volunteers to sort is based on current needs, the time of the month, and the age of the product. To effectively manage the volunteer program, there are regular monthly reports or activities that need to be done by the volunteer coordinator or assistant.

Occasionally the volunteers have been asked to fill out a survey about programs and/or services to get their ideas and input about operations. You can always learn from volunteers and make improvements based upon their suggestions. Some of the regular volunteers are retired professionals and they have talents in organization and management that can be applicable to work for the food bank. It is always good to remind volunteers about the impact they have on providing food to those less fortunate.