Volunteers are vital to a thriving bicycle repair shop.
Keeping volunteers engaged is challenging for most volunteer-based organizations. Possible ways to meet this challenge are:
1. Provide volunteer training and bicycle maintenance 101 classes.
- Use "each one teach one" method.
- Not the most effective solution given the amount of work that goes into it and the low volunteer return.
2. Host potlucks and special events for volunteers.
3. Schedule "secret" time in the shop for volunteers.
- Volunteers may find that they never get a chance to work on their own bicycles. Volunteers may appreciate secret or volunteer-only time in the shop.
4. Host a special event/volunteer training combination.
5. Provide proactive volunteer management during shop time.
- Greet them as they arrive.
- Remember their names.
- Show appreciation.
- Give them souvenirs.
- Provide food.
6. Create volunteer schedule.
- Weekly schedules are easier to manage than monthly schedules, especially when volunteers are mainly students and people working in the service industry.
7. Call volunteers ahead of time to confirm scheduling commitment.
8. Provide prize incentives.
- Enter volunteers in a raffle to be drawn at the end of each month. Use donated prizes and gift certificates from local businesses.
- Find local businesses who will give volunteers special discounts or giveaways.
9. Use the greeter role as a way to get people who might at first be intimidated by bike repair volunteering for the space.
Most people have jobs during the day, but not everyone. An easy way to ensure a constant flow of volunteers from any one of these demographics is to partner with another agency. You may have to go to the agency to promote it at first, but once word gets out of how much fun it is to spent time at your organization as opposed to brainless activities -- word of mouth will take it from there.
Google "Aging Services" in your area. There are programs for re-introducing folks in their 40s or 50s into the work force. Thinking of it from their perspective, having a contemporary Point of Sale helps sell this.
Contact the local higher education institutions and ask for a list of their "service learning" programs.
Google "DWS" or "Department of Workforce Services" and request that your shop become a job training site. The only challenge is that if you don't have people to manage, train, and direct them during the day -- they will only be as useful as unmanaged, untrained, and undirected people can be.
Contact the local courts and ask to be put on a the "suggested list of non-profits" to volunteer for.
These suggestions were gathered from The Think Tank and the Community Bike mailing lists.