A Privilege to Serve - Recruiting and Organizing Volunteers

“I must give to others not only something that is my own, but my very self; I must be personally present in my gift.” So wrote Pope Benedict XVI in his encyclical on charity, Deus Caritas Est. His statement reflects the core of the charitable work of the Knights of Columbus, the giving of ourselves through volunteer service.

Whether your council is conducting food drives, working with veterans with  disabilities, collecting clothing for needy families, or any other charitable activities, mobilizing volunteers, both among members of your council and their families and other groups and people in the community, is the key to success.

Here are some things to consider when recruiting volunteers and strategies to use when asking people to give their time.

  • Appoint a council volunteer coordinator to maintain a list of people willing to volunteer for activities and to work with the program chairmen in making sure each activity is sufficiently staffed with volunteers.

  • Start with your council members and their families when building a list of potential volunteers. Contact each member on the council’s roster (even those who might not have attended a meeting or an event for some time) and ask if he is interested in helping out at council activities throughout the year. Be sure to mention that this is not a commitment to volunteer at every event, but rather it is an opportunity to be included in the council’s pool of volunteers. It is up to the individual which events he chooses to participate in. Also, if the member is interested in being included in the database, ask him if any of his family members would also be interested in acting as volunteers and include their names on your list also.

  • Once you have a good foundation of Knights and their families for your volunteer pool, start looking at other groups of potential volunteers to add volume to your numbers. Remember, the most important aspect of recruiting volunteers is to ask them to become involved in a welcoming way. Some groups to consider are:

    • Parish members who are already familiar with your council’s members and what they do.

    • Council member friends and relatives.

    • Members of other groups in the parish (various guilds and other service groups).

    • The parents of children attending the parish school or nearby parochial school.

    • Members of other churches, synagogues and mosques in the community.

    • Students at both public and parochial high schools. (This might be a very productive group to contact because of their youthful energy as well as the point that many high schools now require an amount of volunteer hours by students as a requirement for graduation.)

    • College/University students (especially on campuses that have a Knights of Columbus college council) are also viable prospects.

  • To supplement your volunteer pool when needed, place a “Call for Volunteers” in your council, parish, and community publications at least a month prior to an event. Keep this announcement simple including the type of event (i.e. a food drive, a collection of used clothing, helping to paint a senior citizen’s house), the date, time, type of work that will be done, and any tool/materials that volunteers would need to bring. Also include a name and contact information (phone and/or e-mail)  for your volunteer coordinator or program chairman

  • When asking a prospect to be a part of your volunteer list, be sure to mention the commitment is as much as he/she wants it to be. A volunteer commitment can be as much as volunteering at two to three (or more) projects throughout the year, to simply purchasing an extra can of food once a week for the council’s food drives.

  • Set up a schedule of events your council will sponsor throughout the year, and begin recruiting people from your volunteer pool to work at these events. Set up an Excel file, a Word document, or a calendar in your newsletter or the parish bulletin to list the event, date, time, and the people scheduled to work at it. Send this information to your volunteer pool so they can keep track of their commitments. The week prior to an event, phone or e-mail the volunteers who will be working at it to confirm they will be able to attend.

  • Make sure that when you schedule someone to help at an event that they have a specific job to do. Nothing will turn off volunteers more than to show up and have nothing to do.

  • Always take time to say thanks to your dedicated volunteers. One way to do this is through having a frequent volunteer points system. Like frequent flyer mileage points, your council could offer volunteer points to volunteers for every hour (five hours, ten hours, whatever works for your council) of volunteer time given to the council. These points can be redeemable for items such as:

    • Tickets to council social functions

    • Council T-shirts, hats, etc.

    • Knights of Columbus materials bought from the Supreme Council Supply Department

    • Gift certificates to restaurants or stores

    • Anything else you can think of

  • Along with frequent volunteer points, be sure to recognize your best volunteers by listing their names in the council newsletter and awarding them with certificates obtainable from the Supreme Council office. See the Knights of Columbus Certificates flyer (#2640) for a listing of available certificates.