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
- 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?