Parents are the bedrock of American society. Not only are they raising tomorrow’s leaders, but more often than not, they’re stable, hard-working, and community minded. All these qualities make them ideal volunteers. Of course, the average parent is also a very busy person. So how do you inspire these good people to lend their time and talents to your organization? For that matter, how do you inspire their children to pitch in as well? Here are some helpful tips.

Start by Giving Them What They Want

You might think that private businesses already know how to motivate their employees. After all, isn’t money why people show up for work in the first place? Not entirely, according to the human resources experts at Inc. Here are some other incentives that get people moving:

  • Recognition. All of us want to stand out in a positive way, so recognize the people that help you out. You can post their pictures on your website, throw them an annual volunteer banquet, or simply say, “Thanks for your help. We appreciate it more than you can know.” There’s no better way to build lasting loyalty.
  • Communication. Simply throwing out a call for volunteers is less effective than recruiting people for specific tasks. For example, rather than saying, “We could use your help at the animal shelter,” you might say, “We need someone to walk the dogs and change bedding for three or four hours on Friday mornings.” People are sometimes intimidated unless they know exactly what they’re getting into, so fill them in.
  • Fulfillment. Play up the positive differences your organization makes. For example, you might say, “Last year we found homes for more than 1,000 stray cats and dogs.” People are more likely to volunteer when they can visualize the results of their efforts, and realize that they’ll change and even save lives. This method is especially effective for recruiting young people, who are often more idealistic than older persons.
  • Life lessons. Every decent parent wants her child to develop qualities like compassion and public spiritedness, so explain how volunteer work is a great way to nurture these traits in her child’s character. While you’re at it, you might mention that the best way to teach is by example, so mom and dad should pitch in from time to time as well.

Sending Out the Call

Knowing how to approach parents and families is one thing. Knowing where to find them is another. Here are some effective ways to make your volunteer opportunities known:

  • Use the internet. Word spreads faster in cyberspace than anywhere else. This is why your organization needs not only a good website but a strong social media presence.
  • Advertise. Does your organization have a newsletter or mailing list? Use these resources as a platform to spread the word. People can’t respond unless they know a need exists.
  • Ask your existing volunteers if they know anyone who would be interested in helping out. People tend to associate with others who share their values and priorities.

Once You’ve Got Them, Keep Them

Bringing people on board will do you little good unless they stick around. Here’s how to keep their interest strong:

  • Build a community. Encourage your volunteers to get to know each other. This will not only foster team spirit, but it can provide a valuable social outlet for people looking to connect with others.
  • Respect their limits. If someone tells you they can only spare an hour a week, then never pressure them to stay longer.
  • Give your most devoted people a tangible sign of your appreciation. A framed certificate or ribbon costs almost nothing to create, yet can mean the world to a devoted volunteer.

Making the world a better place requires not only good intentions but a dose of people skills as well. Let the tips in this post help you put together your own personal dream team. You’ll find that a tiny investment of time and effort can reap huge results.

Thank you to contributing author Amanda Henderson from Safe Children. To request more information about Safe Children, click here.