“The power of the ask” refers to what happens when we ask people we know to help: They say yes. Research shows that 71% of people volunteer when asked, compared to 29% who volunteer on their own.
That’s the way Women’s Service Day began. In 2002, two Herman Miller employees received e-mails from Habitat for Humanity asking them to volunteer for a women’s build project in the Holland/Zeeland, Michigan, area. The e-mail also asked the recipients to find a dozen friends who would volunteer with them. They sent out a few e-mails. Fifty women responded—more than the Habitat women’s build could accommodate on the designated day. Rather than turn their big-hearted friends away, the women worked quickly to find service opportunities on the same day with other organizations.
The grassroots event has been annual since then, and while it started out with women at Herman Miller (which allows each employee sixteen paid volunteer hours each year), it has expanded to include women from all over the community. This year’s event, held October 1, had 100 volunteers working for 12 agencies, including Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity, Hospice of Holland, Holland Rescue Mission, and 70×7 Life Recovery. The women weeded, landscaped, cleaned, painted, organized, collated, and sorted, and through a silent auction of handmade items, the group raised $1,000, which it donated to the Holland Free Health Clinic.
With seven years under their belts, the organizing committee has a well-defined planning process, which they’re willing to share. If you’d like to use that process to launch an effort like this in your community, remember the power of the ask! Send your request for the process template to firstname.lastname@example.org.