MALF sponsored several workshops across Minnesota and I attended the workshop at the Wentworth Library in Dakota County on September 16, 2016. There were many great ideas discussed about increasing both membership rosters and your pool of volunteers.

What do today’s volunteers want?

  • Concise communications
  • To use their skills
  • No meetings!
  • Short term well defined tasks
  • To know it makes a difference!

So how do we get them involved?

  • The ask must include how it will benefit the library – Can you help set up tables Thursday for the book sale, so we can raise money to bring in more children’s programs to the library.
  • Make specific requests for help – serve coffee for an hour, work the book sale cash register for an hour on one day of the sale, bring a dozen cookies for an event, create a flyer, clean up after an event or set up for an event
  • When asking a repeat volunteer, always start with thanking them for past volunteering
  • Ask if they know someone else who would be interested in partnering with them on the project.

This is a big change that will require lots of phone calls, so we must change our attitude that it is easier to do it ourselves rather than make all the calls or eventually there will be no Friends Groups.
Other tips to increase the number of volunteers and funds:

  • Create a detailed database with volunteers and their contact information, past volunteer activities, and their interests and skills because active volunteers become active advocates!
  • Divide up projects into small tasks, then go through your database to match volunteer skills and interests to the tasks required
  • Acknowledge volunteers with written thank you notes
  • Friends groups should have information tables at other community events to raise awareness of library and how the Friends partner to raise money and sponsor other library events.
  • Consider changing membership “fees” to “sponsorships” have rates from as low as $1 so anyone can be a sponsor
  • Donation jars – get creative! Jars are boring and very common make your container unique and eye catching
  • Work with other sponsors for library programming and fundraising efforts

MALF also announced that they are working with the Red Cross to develop a process for library Friends groups to work with local Red Cross offices to get tubs of books included in emergency supply kits that are used to set up shelters during evacuations. A great idea to provide families something to do while they wait for conditions to become safe enough to return to their homes after fires, floods, or other disasters.

Chris Magnusson
Friends of the Hibbing Public Library