Category Archives: Volunteers

Make a Thank You Card That Gets Noticed

Thank You Card

Send a big thank-you note that gets noticed. See pen on left for a sense of scale. (Details blued out to maintain anonymity.)

The nearby thank you card arrived at work the other day expressing appreciation for my office staff’s charitable donations. You couldn’t miss it sitting there in the lunch room. As a result, it received much more attention than the typical note card or thank-you letter.

This format offers lessons for church ministries on how to show your appreciation in a way that gets noticed and paves the way for future donations.

  1. Make it big. Your thank you card won’t get lost with the junk mail and it has a better chance of being displayed where others can see it.
  2. Tap into your creative side. The personal touch reminds donors that real people are benefitting.
  3. Include everyone’s signatures. Show donors the extent of their reach.

Why should your ministry go through all this trouble? For starters, of course you need to show your appreciation. But if you’re receiving donations or in-kind contributions from a company, do a little extra to remind more people at that office how they are making a difference. You want your message seen by the entire office, not just the chief organizers, so that more people have the opportunity to become aware of your group. With that awareness comes a better chance to achieve even more participation next time.

It’s just one example of how to do it. What other effective thank-you’s have you seen in response to your church’s outreach?

Things Church Ushers and Waiters Should Never Do

via GarryKnight on Flickr

via GarryKnight on Flickr

Restaurateur-to-be Bruce Buschel put together a popular list of 100 things he thinks wait staff should never, ever do. Many of these lessons also apply to church ushers and greeters. Here are the ones (in the original order) worth sharing with your welcoming ministry.

Don’t Act Like a New York Waiter and Other Things Church Ushers Should Never Do

1. Do not let anyone enter the restaurant without a warm greeting.
(Substitute “church” for “restaurant” and the advice still holds up.)

2. Do not make a singleton feel bad. Do not say, “Are you waiting for someone?”

7. Do not announce your name. No jokes, no flirting, no cuteness.
WRONG! Wear a name tag by all means and introduce yourself if appropriate. Of course, skip the flirting; leave that to the young adults ministry.

8. Do not interrupt a conversation. For any reason. Especially not to recite specials. Wait for the right moment.
(A smile will do if your guests are already in conversation.)

9. Do not recite the specials too fast or robotically or dramatically. It is not a soliloquy. This is not an audition.
(Speak meaningfully.)

14. When you ask, “How’s everything?” or “How was the meal?” listen to the answer and fix whatever is not right.

15. Never say “I don’t know” to any question without following with, “I’ll find out.”

23. If someone likes a wine, steam the label off the bottle and give it to the guest with the bill. It has the year, the vintner, the importer, etc.
(The corollary for churches is to offer a bulletin or program up front.)

25. Make sure the glasses are clean. Inspect them before placing them on the table.
(Clean up the pews. Make sure the entrance area is neat.)

32. Never touch a customer. No excuses. Do not do it. Do not brush them, move them, wipe them or dust them.
WRONG! A helping hand or a handshake can be appropriate at times.

33. Do not bang into chairs or tables when passing by.
Duh.

34. Do not have a personal conversation with another server within earshot of customers.
WRONG! You can display some humanity, but take it easy.

35. Do not eat or drink in plain view of guests.
(Share the doughnuts after Mass.)

36. Never reek from perfume or cigarettes. People want to smell the food and beverage. Or the incense.

37. Do not drink alcohol on the job, even if invited by the guests. “Not when I’m on duty” will suffice.
(Again, not before Mass.)

38.Do not call a guy a “dude.” 39. Do not call a woman “lady.”
(Ushers probably can greet them without such terms.)

41. Saying, “No problem” is a problem. It has a tone of insincerity or sarcasm. “My pleasure” or “You’re welcome” will do.
(Mea culpa.)

42. Do not compliment a guest’s attire or hairdo or makeup. You are insulting someone else.
WRONG! It’s not insulting, but it is inappropriate. Don’t suggest that what’s on the outside is more important than the inside.

45. Do not curse, no matter how young or hip the guests.
(%$@*& good advice.)

46. Never acknowledge any one guest over and above any other. All guests are equal.
WRONG! Kids and seniors are exceptions.

47. Do not gossip about co-workers or guests within earshot of guests.
(Don’t gossip at all!)

49. Never mention the tip, unless asked.
Don’t ask for the donation on the way in.

50. Do not turn on the charm when it’s tip time. Be consistent throughout.
Be sincere.

That’s my take on the dos and don’ts for ushers from the original list. What are the best ushers at your church doing?

The Ministry Fair Alternative

We covered tips for a better ministry fair in part one of this series. But what if you’re ready to think bigger? Read on.

Imagine an event for prospective volunteers where they could participate in hands-on volunteering that very day. Wouldn’t that be better than handing out some info and hoping that a prospective volunteer you’ve barely connected with shows up at your next meeting? Perhaps this volune event could be tied to an entertainment event that’s already going on, like Oktoberfest or a carnival.

Attendees who are interested in volunteering could participate in activities immediately with this approach. Here are some sample activities:

  • Join an advocacy group by sitting down with current members to write letters to Congress and area newspapers; laptops, paper and stamps provided
  • Meet with the liturgy planners to craft a liturgy that takes place that very day at the end of the event
  • Brainstorm with educators on a lesson that will be given to children during the Mass at the end of the event
  • Rehearse with musicians who will perform at that day’s Mass
  • Assist the hospitality committee in preparing a meal that’s served after that day’s Mass
  • Meet with a bible study group to discuss the readings for the upcoming Sunday or that day’s liturgy
  • Help package up supplies that will be sent to one of our sister parishes before the day is over

Volunteers get involved, meet other people who are already part of a ministry, and are more likely to continue volunteering because they’ve already been welcomed and acquainted with the team. Those who were simply shopping for potential future opportunities can still see displays and pick up materials, while those who are ready to commit can immediately make a difference.

Could this type of event work at your church?

Should Your Ministry Fair Look Just Like Every Other One Out There?

Examples of Ministry Fairs

Examples of Ministry Fairs

Ministry Fair…to Middlin’: Can You Do Better?

In part I we take a look at typical ministries fairs. In part 2, we examine another approach.

Glancing at Flickr photos of ministries fairs and volunteer fairs, you quickly see some common elements that repeatedly pop up.

  • Science fair-type displays, including some that have been around for years
  • Tables spread out across the gym/cafeteria/multipurpose room/narthex
  • Balloons
  • Colored tablecloths for at least some of the tables and maybe some balloons
  • Pens, clipboards, sign-up sheets
  • The occasional TV or laptop showing a slideshow for a particular ministry
  • Handouts, flyers and fact sheets
  • Volunteers standing behind tables, desperately hoping for a prospect to approach them.
  • Event is one day only after church, usually in the fall. Don’t try to get involved on the other days.

Are these best practices or clichés? Essential elements or merely comfortable ones?

Having worked on several volunteer fair events over the years, here are some lessons learned if you’re taking a classic approach to such an event.

  • Select a date (not a long weekend) date for the fair at least a year in advance. Major, conflicting events can’t be scheduled at the same time.
  • Establish a ministry fair committee at least six months in advance that has a budget and members with some authority.
  • Pick a theme for the fair. It’s fun, it’s easy, and it makes the latest fair seem more special. Those groups that want to tie into the theme can do so to show their creativity. Consider a color scheme for the fair (for signs/decorations/flyers) and/or volunteers (like white shirts, dark bottoms).
  • Encourage ministries to schedule meetings or events within days following the fair to give prospective members a chance to connect right away.
  • Distribute a map – in person and online – showing where each ministry area will be as part of a fair brochure
  • Have greeters available at the entrance to the fair to welcome people and guide them. Greeters and signs should also direct parishioners from the church to the fair.
  • Ensure all volunteers have nametags, perhaps even with the fair’s colors and theme.
  • Make sure table workers reach out to newcomers and not just wait to be approached.
  • Find volunteer photographers to record the action after each Mass. The photos can be used online and in the following year’s program/flier. You can do the same with video as well.
  • Your fair brochure includes a list of “job openings”, perhaps cross-referenced by skill and amount of time required. As an incentive for ministry participation, those who participate in the planning by a certain date get to be included in the map/brochure and ballot.
  • People are increasingly unlikely to want to leave their contact information sitting around on a clipboard for all to see. Use a laptop or have a ballot box to protect the privacy of prospects’ contact information and keep it out of public view once it’s submitted.
  • Have a raffle for a fun prize. This can be tied to submitting a ballot for best booth at the fair, answering questions about a few different tables, or rating the overall fair.
  • Get some data. Note the number of sign-ups by hour. Follow up and see how many turn into active volunteers. Over time, you should be able to answer:
    • Are all prospective volunteers contacted?
    • What percentage of prospective volunteers turn into practicing volunteers?
    • Is your church getting better at attracting volunteers?
    • Does the success rate of turning around prospects differ by ministry? By Mass or time of service?
    • To track this information, require that ministries report this information regularly to the parish council.

How well does your church’s volunteer recruitment work? What lessons can you share?

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