Set Yourself Apart

I like to volunteer, it’s important to me to give back. And as someone who has been on both sides of fundraising events, as both an organizer and a participant, I recognize that the competition for  volunteers is stiff. I’d like to share a storyof an organization that is doing things right, and a few reasons why I’m not only looking forward to participating in their event next year, but actively recruiting more volunteers for them.

In May I participated in the Gateway MS Society Mud Run. To be honest, the real reason I signed up was simply because it looked like fun. This is the first step – make your event something people actually want to do. I realize that most sane people wouldn’t be excited by the idea of army crawling through mud, but I never said I was sane. Also, there’s a fairly large contingent of runners in the St. Louis area and not many of these popular obstacle course type events.

I gathered a few of my running buddies and we signed up. There was a registration fee and a fundraising commitment, but neither seemed too steep and we were able to recruit two sponsors, thanks TomkoTek and Kolbeco! The MS Society provided us with a team webpage that was simple to customize and allowed for donations for our team as a whole or as individuals. They also provided us with email templates to use to solicit donations and Facebook images we could post on our own profiles. There’s the second step – make it is easy for people to be involved.

The event was a ton of fun and well-organized. They also had speakers who were living with MS and talked about the importance of events such as this one. These speakers cheered us on enthusiastically along the course. Third step – make your event impactful.

I had a great time at the event and our team was pretty successful, raising nearly $2,000. I would most likely participate again, but it was the follow up of the Gateway MS Society that has sealed the deal. Just a few weeks after the event I received a postcard with our team photo on it! I work in marketing – I realize this was probably a large undertaking that required both a lot of organization and detailed work on someone’s part. That postcard triggered a conversation with the team about how much fun we had participating.

Then just yesterday, six months after the event, someone from the Gateway MS Society stopped by my office to give me a gift and thank me for participating. The gift was simply a pen, but it was the personal touch and sincerity that have guaranteed I will participate again and continue to support the Gateway MS Society. And guess what the first thing I did was…I shared my experience on Facebook and Twitter. Here’s the final lesson – make your volunteers feel like they are valued and appreciated. They will spread the word for you.

While non-profits such as the MS Society have unique missions, this same lesson can be applied to any organization or situation. When you go above and beyond – even in simple ways, it sets you apart. Whether you’re working with volunteers or clients, make developing relationships a priority.

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