Are volunteers of any support to an organisation? This question is often raised when talking about volunteering in third world countries. But it’s all a question of perspective and locating opportunities.
Sanjeeva, the founder of SERVE, shared his view on volunteers on our first day in Sri Lanka. Volunteers can give an organisation new perspectives on projects and related problems. Every volunteer has a different background and qualifications providing a variety of perspectives. Volunteers can also be a stream of income, this is no secret. Typing “Volunteer Sri Lanka” into google gives a good impression of the size the volunteer market has.
Focussing on opportunities
As with many things in life, the decisions taken in a non-profit organisation alsways offer risks and opportunities. Sanjeeva knew that hosting us was a risk that he was prepared to take as he saw an opportunity. In business it might be called an investment, as we do not pay anything towards our accommodation and (delicious) food SERVE provided for us.
A typical volunteer will cover her costs what reduces the risk. But from emails and Skype calls it is difficult to project problems that might occur. There have been some volunteers that have taken advantage of SERVE for an affordable holiday – but this is the exception.
Making a difference
Let’s be honest, the majority of volunteers do not create lasting change by helping children with their homework over a couple of weeks. But this is not only what volunteering is about. Hosting someone from a far country, growing up with different challenges, set with a fresh mind and good ideas can offer opportunities. Every volunteer will recognise the importance of SERVE’s work and be willing to contribute towards supporting the poor communities. This is where we have located the potential to help volunteers contribute towards a lasting difference.
Volunteers that care
Finding volunteers is not as easy as one might assume. There are hundreds of agencies and organisations offering volunteering opportunities all over the world. Creating a new, fresh look on the website that can be found with search engines is an important first step.
Providing information that appeals to the volunteers SERVE is looking for, helps in the selection process. Agencies try to sell volunteering as a party holiday that parents will agree to. We want to attract volunteers that make a difference beyond their official working hours. Luisa and Patrick from a well-known branding agency in Hamburg helped us to redesign SERVE’s logo to give a new, modern look. The new website with the logo offering volunteer opportunities will be online soon!
Make Volunteers Fundraisers
Some organisations try to attract people to come and work in the office to support fundraising activities. But rarely volunteers that have finished their schooling or take a break from work want to return to an office environment. But what if we could ask each volunteer to identify a problem within the project they are working in? We have seen preschools without enough toys, community centres with leaking roofs and children living in prisons in desperate need of any kind of support. If every volunteer identified their personal project to fund the deprived people would benefit instead of agencies.
Friends and Family as Crowd
We have run our crowdfunding campaign and know that it’s not that easy. A successful crowdfunding campaign needs a few things. On the one hand videos, photos and text describing the organisation that is receiving the money. But you also need your family and good friends to take you towards your target amount. Volunteers bring their network of family and friends that will be eager to learn about the experiences of volunteering in Sri Lanka.
We provided SERVE with videos, photos, text and a detailed description of the steps towards running a successful campaign to hand over to every volunteer. With our materials and descriptions everyone who is determined to solve problem will be a fundraiser for SERVE.
Our work will help the volunteers run their crowdfunding campaigns. But it needs someone from SERVE to remind volunteers, transform ideas into good projects and answer any questions regarding crowdfunding. In workshops with staff members we have explained the concept and identified potential problems that might occur. But we are convinced that volunteers will quickly understand the importance of SERVE’s work for the deprived. This will be the motivation that is the main ingredient to be a successful fundraiser!