How to Maximize your Volunteer Program’s Visibility at a Large Event

by Katie Klein

This year the Inauguration made MLK Day extra special, and Saturday January 19 was declared a National Day of Service. I work for ITNAmerica, a national nonprofit for senior transportation started in Maine. We were invited to host at booth at the volunteer fair on the National Mall. They expected several hundred thousand people to walk through the fair. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity!

Katie Klein of ITNAmerica (center) greets volunteers on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on January 19, 2013.

As one of about a hundred organizations with booths at the fair, we wanted our table to stand out. ITNAmerica doesn’t do a lot of volunteer fairs, so we don’t have big banners or a specially printed tablecloth. We didn’t want to spend a lot of money or lug a lot of supplies down to Washington. There are really just four things an organization needs when they attend a volunteer fair: a sign-up sheet to capture contacts, a sign with your organization’s name or logo, a takeaway so people can find out more about your organization later, and something to draw people to your table.

Visitors to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on the National Day of Service, January 19, 2013, learn more about volunteer opportunities with ITNAmerica.

We decided to hand out cards with our website and contact information. They don’t take up a lot of space – good for us coming from out of town, and they wouldn’t weigh down the volunteers. We were able to print them cheaply using a Groupon for an online printer and have them delivered straight to a friend in Washington.

ITNAmerica’s interactive map for visitors to the National Day of Service volunteer fair in Washington, D.C. to learn more about the services provided by and volunteer opportunities with their organization. We used two strategies to lure volunteers to the table – an interactive map and a drawing for a free Maine lobster dinner shipped to the winner. We mounted a U.S. map and asked people to put pins in where their grandparents live. The map brought people to the table and helped them to think about how senior transportation affects their own families. It was a wonderful conversation starter. The lobster drawing gave us another way to collect contact information, and the lobster was an in-kind donation by Harbor Fish Market.

During the day volunteers pledged to serve more than one million hours in the coming year, and some of those hours will go to support senior transportation through ITNAmerica. Success!

ITNAmerica’s interactive map for visitors to the National Day of Service volunteer fair in Washington, D.C. to learn more about the services provided by and volunteer opportunities with their organization.

More volunteer fair tips:
- Don’t spend all day sitting behind your table. Stand in front and approach people.
- It’s good to give away candy (unless your organization has a health focus).
- Have your elevator speech ready.
- Wear something identifying you with your organization. Look nice.
- Take a little time to network with other organizations.
- Know about open volunteer positions – requirements, time commitment, duties, etc.
- Contact everyone who signs-up within a week or two.
- Smile!

Katie Klein works at ITNAmerica, a nonprofit dedicated to assisting communities to meet the transportation needs of seniors. She’s an AmeriCorps Alum, most recently serving as a VISTA Leader with the Maine VISTA Project.

This entry was posted in Martin Luther King Day of Service, Recruitment, Strategies and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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