#19 Using Volunteers

NEIBA Question of the Week #19

The NEIBA Board members are starting a Question of the Week on the NEIBA Group at Yahoo! Groups (our Listserv). The goal is to share everyone’s common knowledge about bookselling or anything related to independent bookstores.  It is our hope that after the Board has run through with their questions other members will continue the asking.

This week’s question is:

We’d like to explore the strange new world of using volunteers when we have large events that need a little extra help. We don’t need them often enough to justify hiring and training a part time person, and most of what we need doesn’t require a bookselling skill set, anyway. Some of the things we’d like volunteers to do include: writing names on Post-its for inscriptions at medium-to-large author signings, giving event attendees glitter tattoos while they’re waiting in line, help prepare the snacks when we host events with food, and for anything else that our regular staff might need a little extra support.

Does anybody here have a volunteer application that they use? We don’t really want to put it out to our general email list asking for volunteers, as there are some people we’d have to say “no” to.

If you do use volunteers, do you compensate them in any way?

Emily Crowe, The Odyssey Bookshop

Nancy, Broadside

We’ve only used volunteers once–at a very large off-site event. I asked people who I thought would be interested in the event itself and gave each of them a book as compensation. They help with the sales, bagging, etc. after a brief training and it went really well. They very much enjoyed their brief time as booksellers.

Vicky Titcomb, Titcomb’s Bookshop

We’ve also used volunteers on bigger events. We ask individuals or sometimes groups, such as the Key Club from our high school (they are great volunteers as long as someone is in charge of them).

We look on this as a volunteer job and do not compensate them since bigger events already have such big expenses. The compensation they really want is being on the “inside” of an event they are excited about. We also always try to get a special picture with the author and all the workers and volunteers as a momento.

I’ve thought for some time about having a staff person be our volunteer coordinator and inviting some of our customers who have offered to help, but I have never gotten around to that!! Maybe this year…. 🙂

I agree with you – I would never make an open request for volunteers.