The first time I heard of it was a few years ago when we were living in Pittsburgh. Wigel Whiskey was just a young pup of a business and they were having a labeling party. They were opening up their business to have volunteers come and help label whiskey bottles for their newest batch of aged whiskey. It’s something they still do to this day. And why wouldn’t they given all the perks?
Perks of a throwing a volunteer work party:
- Free labor.
- Fostering more committed customers. People feel more involved, more “in the know”, more connected to the business when they have a literal hand in making it happen.
- More transparency and all the benefits of it.
- Free marketing. People share what they do, especially if it's something interesting. There's a good chance they'll share their experience in social media, conversations with friends, etc. Your business will be associated with their fun time out.
- Serving your customers by giving them something interesting and impactful to do. Yes, you get free labor, marketing and a stronger customer base, but customers also get an interesting night spent in community with others who have a similar interest in your product.
Volunteer work parties can be a total a win-win for your business and for your customers. I think these parties work best under certain specific circumstances though.
Here they are:
- Small, locally-owned businesses. - No one likes the idea of working for free for the “big guy” whose CEO makes millions a year. No thank you.
- Unique, artisan-type products. - Especially if it is an item that has a following in and of itself (like whiskey, for example).
- Simple, manual batch-like tasks that need to be completed. - Wigel’s labeling party made sense because they would have a batch of whiskey age and then be bottled, but all the bottles would need to be labeled. Similar labor situations would work. What task you wouldn’t want to use for a party would be a task that is done on a regular, daily basis for your product.
Does this sound like a great idea for your business? Awesome.
But wait, there are a few things to keep in mind when having a volunteer work party:
- Make sure it’s really clear what the event is for and what it’s offering. Just as in all your communications, you want people to come with accurate expectations.
- Make sure you have everything set up for people to have a productive, enjoyable time at the event. How polished you are reflects on you and your business.
- Make sure you have the necessary insurance and legal protection (talk to your insurers, lawyer, etc.) for having people volunteer in your business.
- Make sure the task is something that requires no special knowledge or prior training and can be taught in a very short amount of time.
- Make the environment relaxed and fun. Whoever runs the event’s attitude is likely the most major factor in this.
- Make sure you serve your volunteers with added perks - maybe a sample of the product, free food, etc. Also, it may be a good chance to collaborate with another business by letting them know what you’re doing and seeing if they would offer a discount for food that you’d purchase for the event, etc.
Your time is valuable. It’s not weakness to admit you need help. People want to be involved and you may be actually serving them when providing an opportunity. Try a volunteer work party - the perks may be even greater than you imagine.
Have you ever done a volunteer work party? How do you feel about them?