How to Handle "Big Ideas" from Volunteers

Sometimes it may feel like committee members are sitting at home deliberately thinking up the craziest things imaginable for you to do for your event.  I assure you they are not.  I have found that the committee members who come up with what seems like the craziest ideas are typically the ones most dedicated to your cause.  Most likely, they are trying to come up with ways to set you apart from what they see their friends doing with other non-profit organizations. 

As an employee, it is easy to get caught up in the bubble that is your organization, therefore it is important to consider these suggestions before dismissing them.  Just because you have never done it that way, does not mean that it is wrong or not possible.  It is also very important to not dismiss an idea because it sounds like hard work.  If the idea is feasible and can improve your event or create more revenue for your organization, then try it.  If the suggestion does not work, it can be addressed at the debriefing meeting after the event and if it succeeds, everybody wins.

In the instances where the volunteer’s idea is not feasible, I would encourage you to remove the word “no” from your vocabulary.  Nobody wants to be told “no” about anything.  Instead, come up with a compromise.  You may not be able to afford to purchase a custom banner for every sponsor, but maybe one for the title sponsor and offer recognition in the program for the rest.  By working with your volunteers on their ideas, it helps them feel valued.  If you shoot down every idea they have with “no” and no explanation, they will give up on you. 

This does not mean that you should let your volunteer committee members walk all over you.  They can sometimes forget that resources are limited in non-profits.  If you do not possess the human resources to pull off an idea, tell them that.  Should you not want to put up $1,000 for plane tickets to accompany the trip in your silent auction, do not do it, but explain why you are unable or unwilling to provide the cash.  You are ultimately responsible for your organization, and while volunteer committee members are invaluable, you cannot let them dictate your course of action to you.


Kristen Abreu is a Consultant at FQHC Germane, a health care consulting firm specializing in the needs of established, new and potential Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs).

Read more about Kristen here.

To contact Kristen, email her at KAbreu@fqhc.org.