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Brown Bag Lunches Can Help with your Volunteer Program

Brown Bag

Each year your VP of Volunteer Management has the same conversation with her committee heads. It goes something along the lines of “We keep losing volunteers. How can we get and keep more good ones?”

Here’s an idea you may not have thought of to get the word out:  brown bag lunches.

These relaxed, open forums allow for easy interactions between your volunteers and your general member base while giving you the chance to talk easily about the different chapter volunteer opportunities and drum up more interest in your programs.

Want to hold a Brown Bag Lunch? Here are a few things to think about.

When you hold a brown bag session for members, you have a captive audience. Everyone in the room is most likely considering becoming more active in your chapter. They’re there to find the right match for their interests, and your volunteers need to be prepared, ready to share their experiences and answer questions.

  • Timing:  Hold them as often as you can. Consider having at least one during the summer, to increase interest and awareness and bring additional volunteers on board before your chapter season starts in full.
  • Format:  Keep it conversational and relaxed, with plenty of time for questions. Have a board member in the room but have the majority of the session delivered by members who are in, or have been in, these roles.
  • Advertise: Get the word out like you would any other chapter meeting or event. Post it on your website, send it out in email, and mention it in meetings. Have multiple touch points, so that more members will hear about it. Mention that members will have learn the specifics of volunteer roles in your chapter, like responsibilities, time requirements, etc., and they’ll get their questions answered. And, be sure to allow members to register on your website. You’ll not only have an idea of who’s coming but you’ll also have a good list for following up on items and interests brought up by specific members.
  • Content:  Will you discuss all your committees or just one? Whichever direction you choose, have your volunteers cover everything they wish they’d known coming into the roles. Be transparent and engaging and you’ll be more successful. Members will learn how volunteers are critical to your chapter’s success as well as to the success of the entire association.

Brown bag means that attendees bring their own food, so you’re not putting up a lot of money. If you can supply supply drinks or coffee or dessert, and you mention that in your advertising, you’ll  bring in more attendees. (Who doesn’t like free food?)

An added benefit of brown bag lunches

Not only do these lunches provide the chance to get your members more interested in volunteering, but they give you an informal atmosphere that’s great for discussing ideas, asking for feedback, making new contacts, and some general socializing.

Whatever you call them --“coffee & conversation,” “lunch & learn” or even just a “brown bag series,” -- you’ll find the method and rhythm that works best for your organization. The most important thing to remember is that proactively bringing this information to your members rather than waiting for them to approach you will help your chapter do a better job engaging with potential volunteers, build a stronger volunteer community, and get members into the right roles, roles they’ll want to stay in.


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