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Driving volunteerism to help during Hunger Action Month

How to keep your volunteer opportunities running smoothly this September and beyond

The importance of Hunger Action Month

Hunger is a prevalent issue in cities across the country and around the globe, an issue that has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Feeding America estimated that 42 million people, including 13 million children, struggled with food insecurity as a result of the pandemic. Now, more than ever, those suffering from food insecurity need help. With Hunger Action Month coming up in September, it is important to make sure your volunteers are ready to serve your community.

Safety first, then teamwork

Whether you are cooking meals for the hungry or operating a food pantry, the safety of your volunteers and guests should always come first. Surely, by now, we all know that masks help minimize the spread of COVID, however, they are also a good way to keep food sanitary when preparing meals. It may seem like an extra precaution, but it will give guests peace of mind knowing that your organization cared enough to take the extra step to ensure nothing was contaminated.

Additional considerations for working with volunteers in kitchens

hunger action month volunteering

Speaking of contamination, if you have volunteers working in the kitchen, be sure they follow food safety guidelines when preparing meals for your guests. These food safety tips from the USDA will keep your meals safe for consumption.

Checking the temperature of cooked foods isn’t the only temperature you should be checking. In an effort to ensure the safety of both your guests and volunteers, conduct a temperature check on your volunteers as they arrive. The last thing you want to do is make anyone sick and have to stop serving your community.

Four Considerations for Food Prep and Serving Meals

  1. Keep it clean. Wash your hands, surfaces, and utensils frequently, especially when handling raw meat.
  2. Give ‘em some space. Keep raw meat, seafood, and poultry separate to avoid cross-contamination.
  3. Temperature check. Make sure your food has reached its safe minimum internal temperature before removing the food from the heat. Not sure what the proper temperature should be? Follow this chart from the USDA.
  4. Chill out. Keeping food cold keeps bacteria from growing so be sure to refrigerate your food properly.

Make the most of your volunteer time and space

Efficiency is key when working with food. If you are serving meals, it’s important to get the food out quickly so the line keeps moving and everyone gets a hot meal. If you are stocking a food pantry, it is essential to maximize your shelf space. If you are holding a meal-packing event, keeping your event flowing smoothly is crucial. Time management and organization will be your best friends when planning your hunger relief events.

Make sure each volunteer has a role and that they understand it. Set up your kitchen, pantry, or meal-packing space in an assembly line fashion. This helps maximize both your event time and the space in which you have to conduct the event. To get the most out of your space you can also split your space into stations. In a kitchen, you can have separate stations for prepping, cooking, and serving food. At a food pantry, divide your space into sections: canned vegetables, pasta, cereal, etc. In doing so, you know exactly where items are when you need to restock the shelves. During a meal-packing event, you can create stations that all pack a meal and turn the event into a friendly competition.

If you have enough volunteers, create teams according to the section they are working in. Teams can choose their own names, or you can give them names based on the countries or communities you serve. There doesn’t need to be a prize, sometimes light-hearted competition adds a new level of fun to an event.

How to convert your volunteers to donors

Volunteers are more likely to become donors after serving with an organization. A study found that 67 percent of donors around the world volunteer as well. Following up with volunteers after an event seeking donations is becoming easier.

Let your volunteer management solution pull double duty for you. VOMO provides best-in-class volunteer management tools, as well as donation integrations. Set up automated post-event emails to trigger donation messaging to your volunteers. Our tools allow your volunteers to donate right through your Hub.

Another easy way to have volunteers donate is through purchasing merchandise. Add an amount you are comfortable with to what it cost to make the merch and there is your donation amount. Selling merchandise can also work two-fold for you. When people wear shirts with your logo or put a sticker with your name on it somewhere it helps to spread the word about your organization. This free word-of-mouth advertising can lead more volunteers, and donors, to your volunteer opportunities.

Get to know your volunteers better

Your events aren’t the only time you get to know your volunteers. Learn more about what they liked, or didn’t like, through post-event surveys. Some questions to include in your survey are:

  1. What was your favorite part of serving with us today?
  2. Which roles would you fill in the future?
  3. How could we improve your volunteer experience?

While you can have volunteers finish a survey on paper before they leave, there are some tools to make your life easier. Online survey tools collect the data for you. SurveyMonkey is a popular online survey software solution that allows you to customize and send surveys to your volunteers.

Tell your story

Celebrate all the hard work your volunteers and organization have accomplished. Email campaigns are a great way to spread the word about your latest event. You can send out a newsletter or include all of your information in the body of your email.

Turn to social media to reach even more people. Posting about your events on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and more reaches an audience beyond your current volunteer base. While you are at it, ensure more eyes see your content by tagging some volunteers. For instance, if you are posting pictures from events or celebrating a volunteer of the month, tagging whoever is featured ensures their friends or followers see the post.

Finally, make sure your website is up to date. Keep current volunteer opportunities available so that current and new volunteers can serve with you. Update your website with information about the impact your volunteers make as well. Posting pictures from recent volunteer events serves as a way to recognize volunteers for their hard work and helps to draw in new volunteers.

Learn how VOMO can help you keep your website up to date and your volunteer opportunities running smoothly when you talk to one of our experts today.