Recruiting quality volunteers plays a major role in the success of your events. Finding volunteers who are dedicated to your organization and the mission of your event can be a challenge, but using the following tips will lead you towards recruiting and retaining excellent event volunteers.
Everyone longs to find the volunteers that best fit their event. The people who actually “get it” and will work hard to help your event succeed are out there, but where exactly should you look for that elusive “perfect” volunteer?
Start out by looking within your organization or the organization putting on the event. Oftentimes people who are directly connected to an organization or event are the most willing to help the event succeed.
Another method of recruiting is online postings. There are many different websites for volunteer postings that can be beneficial to your group. Try to find volunteer boards through local college websites or community groups. Many times these individuals are looking for volunteer opportunities that can provide event management, operations or customer service learning opportunities.
Large scale events, such as conferences and concerts, oftentimes recruit volunteers from within their attendee pool. This can be a mutually beneficial experience for both you as the planner and the attendee/volunteer. Providing a discounted event rate for your guests who are willing to volunteer, and you may have a line of people jumping to sign-up and help out. They will already be at the event, so if they can help with any projects before, during or after, don’t let these opportunities go to waste.
Set Proper Expectations
Setting expectations and providing volunteer details upfront builds your volunteer relationships early on and helps create more knowledgeable volunteers. Be sure to provide a list of what you expect from the volunteer and what the volunteer can expect from you.
Are there any rules or guidelines that your volunteers must agree to? Applications to complete? How much time should the volunteer expect to spend at your event? Any post-event requirements? All of these are examples of questions you may need to answer to clarify the expectations of your volunteers. If you properly prepare your volunteers in advance, they will be more active and productive at your event.
Creating volunteer position descriptions can be a very direct way to outline the expectations for each volunteer duty. Use a job description template and clearly outline each task and the requirements for success. The only real difference in a job description and a volunteer position description, is the person is not being paid for the work.
Some event managers allow volunteers to choose their own volunteer duty. This can go a long way in volunteer satisfaction and I encourage you to do this when possible. If you must assign volunteer positions (without giving them a choice), the volunteer position descriptions will at least help them to be prepared for the event day and know what they should expect to be doing.
Communication is Key
Communicating with your volunteers will help them to be in the loop and provide them with a more enjoyable experience. If they feel you are open and easy to approach, they will feel more comfortable and be more successful.
Hosting a volunteer training prior to your event is a great way to communicate all of your expectations and to build a relationship with your volunteers. This will also give them a chance to meet the other volunteers that they will be working with on event day.
Communication and clarity is also very important in your pre-event emails and recruiting messages. Having everyone on the same page is vital to an event’s success and this is only accomplished through proper communication.
Feel free to add some fun and humor into your communications, while also remaining professional. Perhaps you add some entertaining slides, memes, cat videos, etc. into your training presentation! You could also share some funny stories from past events, as we all know every event has them. While you want your volunteers to take the job seriously, you also want them to enjoy working with you and the event.
Follow Up and Feedback
After your event has wrapped up, you may be tempted to send volunteers on their way, without much more than a “thank you for your time” email. However, by doing this, you will be missing out on a wonderful opportunity.
Volunteers have a very unique perspective on your events and they can provide you with valuable feedback. Be sure to capture this feedback through a survey or focus group.
Showing your volunteers that you value their opinion, not only provides you with key information, but also helps you to retain volunteers for future events. Volunteer retention is vital to maintaining a knowledgeable and useful event staff.
Volunteers can be challenging to work with at times and we have all had both good and bad experiences. Be sure to take your time in setting your volunteers up for success, communicate clearly and provide a fun atmosphere to work. A bit of extra planning and preparation can leads to volunteer success for years to come!