There’s no doubt about it that without volunteers many events would, quite simply, not be able to function. Just look back to your last event and think about how many of your team consisted of volunteers and the role they played? A big one I’m sure...Ensuring your volunteers are engaged, informed and pumped for the event is crucial for making sure they show up, and for getting the most out of them on the day. Get this right, and as a force, they can be one of your most valuable assets.
To help you get started (as often that’s the hardest part) we’ve pulled together our “top tips for managing event volunteers”. Take ten minutes to read through them, and in no time you’ll be winning over a loyal tribe of people as passionate as you are about making your event a success.
TOP TIPS FOR MANAGING EVENT VOLUNTEERS
1. Recruit your volunteers early
2. Communicate before, during and after the event
3. Match their talents with responsibilities
4. Prepare for no-shows
5. Avoid "snooze worthy" briefs - get them pumped
6. Value them and their time
7. Share your success
#1 Recruit your volunteers early and win their loyalty
When planning your event, ensuring every element is covered can be a daunting task. And when you need to recruit a hundred or so people that you’re not paying to be there, you may just find yourself breathing deeply...but no fear, a little organization in advance can help you be way ahead of the game.
Recruiting your volunteers early is crucial. It’ll give you time to win their loyalty so they turn up on the day, ready to get involved, and do the job at hand - all with a smile!
Here’s how you can attract the kind of people you want to be your volunteers:
- Be the energy you want to attract in everything you post during the recruitment process. That way you’ll attract people that fit the mould.
- In your recruitment content, using testimonials from previous volunteers can be really powerful.
- Harness the power of Social media - spread your message through groups and pages that relate to what you’re about.
- Build a community for your volunteers through social channels. It will make them feel a big part of it the event. Plus it’s a great way to keep in touch with the tribe making recruitment a breeze next time.
- Encourage current volunteers to get their friends involved.
- Promote benefits from helping at your event. Whether that’s free tickets, some freebees or the chance to meet some famous faces.
#2 Communicate, communicate and communicate some more
Communication is key, and I’m not just talking about on the day. If you want to win your volunteers loyalty, you need to keep them informed before, during and after the event.
You’ll need to provide information prior to the event on the logistics, when and where to arrive etc. But don’t forget, these people have most likely chosen your event to volunteer for because they have a genuine interest in what it’s all about.
To get them really engaged, keep them up-to-date on how the planning is going, what the event’s going to look like and even things like how many sign-ups or attendees you have so far. The more they feel involved early on, the more they’ll feel a sense of responsibility for making the event a success.
Throughout the event, use Blerter as your direct communication channel between you and your volunteers. This will enable them to fulfil their role effectively and will also make your job a lot easier - it’s like having eyes and ears everywhere. Handy right?!
It’s super important you follow-up with your volunteers post-event. Thanking them for their time is a top priority, but make sure to include updates on what you’ve got coming up next. It’s a perfect way to keep them engaged with your organisation.
You’ve done all that amazing work to recruit them, make your life easier next time by keeping in touch so you can call on them again. They’re part of the tribe now - keep it that way!
#3 Give your volunteers responsibilities that match their talents
With all those volunteers you’ve got on board you’re going to have a seriously broad skillset at your disposal - make sure you use it.
Now you’ve got your awesome lines of communication set-up and an incredibly engaged group of people, you can collaborate directly with them to identify the right people for the right roles.
Some will be happy to be placed anywhere, but if there’s an opportunity to let people put themselves forward for specific roles, then do it. They’re human after all, and we’re all more likely to commit to something we actually want to do.
It's also key to ensure you define their roles and expectations early so they can be fully prepared for the event.
Try tools like Sign Up Genius to help assign roles and schedule volunteer slots.
#4 Prepare for no-shows
No matter how meticulously you organize and how coveted your volunteer slots, you have to face the fact you’re still going to end up with no-shows. People can be unreliable, and emergencies do crop up. There’s lots of things you can do to try and prevent this, particularly through your comms prior to the event. But you have to face the fact, no matter how diligent you are, there will be some missing faces on event day.
Plan for this in advance by booking in “floaters” – volunteers with good general skills who can fill any required role. We suggest a buffer of an additional 15% of your volunteer force. Even if every single volunteer shows up (one can dream) you’ll still be able to find jobs for those floaters.
#5 No ‘snooze worthy’ briefs allowed - get your info across AND get your volunteers pumped
Remember; your vibe attracts your tribe - you want energy, you want enthusiasm and you want switched-on volunteers to help you run your event. Get the important stuff across in your brief, but encourage them to have fun too.
The important bits might sound like this:
- The expectations of the day
- Any equipment required
- Get them to download Blerter where they can find the outline of the day and can communicate with you
- Answer any questions they may have
Get this stuff across as succinctly as possible, you don’t want to waste precious time or have your volunteers switching off before they’ve even began. But remember, your briefing time is also an opportunity to get your volunteers pumped up. They turned-up (high-five) so they’re ready to make it happen and muck-in where needed. The more energy they have, the more they’re going to put into it - harness that.#6 Value them and their time
We’ve already determined you couldn’t run your event without your volunteers, and they’re a lot more likely to keep giving you their time if they feel appreciated. For the little time it takes to say a “thank you” every now and again, you get a lot in return so make sure you do.
Keep in mind a few other things you can do to acknowledge you value them and their time:
- Be organized and communicate instructions clearly and succinctly
- Load them up with swag, freebies and event sponsor goodies
- Give them access to the event outside of their volunteer hours, so they can enjoy what they helped create
- Organize social events or a special volunteer-only workshop where volunteers can get behind-the-scenes, meet the stars, build rapport with each other, or learn new skills
- After the event, ask for their feedback - it shows you care about their experience too. Plus they’re an engaged bunch of people who saw every aspect of how your event was delivered (very useful for your post-event reviews)
#7 Share your success
You’ll be communicating with your volunteers post-event to send them your gratitude. This is also a great time and place to share with them the overall success of the event. Most of your volunteers will have a vested interest in what your event is all about so they’ll be keen to know how it went. Plus, they are a huge part of delivering it on the day and deserve to share in its success.
Share pictures, stories, stats about the day - and don’t forget to call-out your incredible tribe of volunteers, encouraging them to come back next time!
For more event planning tips check out The "need to Knows" when planning an event.