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The case for nonprofit volunteer and staff uniforms

Uniforms can go a long way towards giving your nonprofit more exposure so it might be worthwhile to look into equipping your volunteers with some uniforms. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Uniforms make people stand out. At an event, attendees will immediately know who’s working there. They’ll know who to go to with questions, donations, and feedback. Similarly, if your uniform ends up becoming widely known it might draw people to approach volunteers even if you aren’t running a centralized fundraiser.
  • A cause always seems more legitimate if there’s a sense of professionalism about it, and custom clothing with your organization’s logo and tagline are definitely a big step towards that.
  • Uniforms foster a sense of unity. The people at your event belong to a special group, and uniforms ensure that they’ll know it. Clothes have a psychological effect not just on the people who see them, but the people who wear them. With a feeling of community, volunteers will not only work harder, but they’ll also work better – they’ll care more about your cause.
  • Uniforms can be used as a reward to volunteers for their hard work. If you can afford it, let volunteers take their uniforms home with them. It’ll serve as a sort of commemoration of their hard work, and make them far likelier to volunteer again.

Let’s move on to a bit of advice on how you should handle ordering and designing your uniforms if you decide to go that route. The most important advice for you here is to keep it simple.

Look at every major charitable organization out there whose volunteers have a uniform. Nearly all of them are single-color shirts with the nonprofit’s logo on the front. That’s really all you need. Make things too garish, and you could actually end up driving volunteers away.

It might also be worthwhile to update your shirt designs every now and then. UNICEF – one of the best-known charitable organizations in the world – does so regularly.

Now, there are a few situations where uniforms aren’t entirely necessary. If your charity is hosted entirely online, for example, buying matching shirts for every single participant might be too great an expense. Similarly, if you’re running a tournament of some kind, ID cards will probably suffice for identification of volunteers. Again, it’s up to each nonprofit to decide whether uniforms make sense for the organization, but as you can see, there can be significant benefits.

This post was written by Brad Wayland, Chief Strategy Officer at BlueCotton, which makes easy-to-design custom clothing (we use them for our own team hoodies :-))

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