A well-organized event will minimize stress on volunteers at events, ensuring that they have a positive experience. Establishing a thorough, comprehensive volunteer program and corresponding policies helps to ensure focused, productive, happy volunteers.
Volunteers are, without a doubt, one of the most valuable resources a non-profit can gain access to. Volunteers can help your nonprofit save money, provide better support to beneficiaries, increase contact with the greater community, and make available better expertise
1. Get Your House in Order
Before you bring the volunteers on board, make sure you get your house in order. What does this mean? Work with your team and get clear on some key areas. Events vary in size and require different volunteer roles, determine these roles and numbers based on event size and type of event
Volunteer Job Description
This step is incredibly important – not only to make sure you get the job done by someone who has the right skills but also to increase the chances that volunteers will be satisfied in their roles. Include what is expected of the volunteer and what a volunteer is and is not authorized to do. A concise job description will likely help insulate your nonprofit from liability in the event that a volunteer goes beyond the scope of clearly defined duties and injures someone, or, if they are injured but were aware of/waived liability as to the risks. Some elements to include in a job description include:
- Training requirements
- Volunteer duties
- Specific time commitment requirements
- Create an Onboarding Process
Volunteer onboarding is the mechanism through which new volunteers acquire the necessary knowledge, skills, and behaviors to become effective volunteers at your next event. A Comprehensive training should be conducted for every event volunteer. Volunteers should receive written training materials. In addition to duty-specific training, training should include:
- Basic standards of conduct
- Guidelines to use when acting on your organization
- Confidentiality protocols
- Expectations of the volunteer
Allow your volunteers to have an appropriate level of autonomy where they can direct their own tasks and come up with strategies and techniques to achieve goals. When you provide volunteer training you ensure your volunteers are learning in their roles. Volunteers should feel like they’re making progress – like they’re “mastering” something.
Create a Volunteer Management Plan
Volunteers can be the main “face” of the event however they will require a staff member or lead volunteer to make decisions during the event or help troubleshoot problems. Create a volunteer management plan and escalation path to ensure all volunteers know who they report to.
2. Decide How You Want to Recruit
There are multiple methods you can use to recruit volunteers. In addition to taking into account the jobs you need volunteers to do, also consider who could do those jobs best and who might be interested in the first place. Depending on your mission/field of work – you might attract volunteers from different demographics (e.g. Baby Boomers or Millennials).
Decide how you want to promote the role(s): online portals, volunteer fairs, social media, radio. This will depend on your demographic.
3. Use Your Network
One of the best ways to recruit volunteers is to simply ask your current network if they or someone they know might want to volunteer. Consider asking your partners, donors, and alumni of your program to participate or share on social media. This tactic will help your reach grow exponentially. People are more likely to trust people they know than organizations.
A majority of volunteers search for opportunities to participate online. Volunteers will come to your website looking for ways to get involved, so don’t make them dig through your website to find them. Here are a few tried and true ways to help your events stand out:
- Incorporate a “Volunteer” heading in your website’s navigation menu, so visitors can quickly navigate your site.
- Showcase your marquee events on your homepage.
- Share volunteer opportunities on social media and link to the volunteer sign up form for followers to learn more.
- Add volunteer opportunities to your organization newsletter. Then, provide a link or button that leads directly to the event page.
4. Find Groups
In addition to using your social network to find volunteers, there are a plethora of other ways to recruit the right kind of support. Here are some places you can look for:
- Schools and Universities: Schools and universities are often filled with young and enthusiastic individuals who wish to get engaged in community service.
- Businesses: In Alaska, many businesses look for community involvement opportunities for their employees. Approach the community relations, community affairs, or corporate giving department within a company.
- Clubs and Community Groups: Reach out to social and professional clubs, membership groups, and community groups. All of these can be excellent volunteer resources.
5. Pre-Assign Jobs
Preparation is key to smooth sailing on event-day. When listing your opportunities, include the job you want them to do and a brief description. This allows event volunteers to match themselves to the right opportunities. When your volunteers arrive at the event, they’re ready to get started and will know exactly what their responsibilities are.
6. Send Reminders
After volunteers have registered for your event, follow up with an email to confirm registration and thank volunteers for their interest. Send a reminder several days before with the date and time of the event. Specify logistical information so that volunteers feel prepared. We recommend including the following information:
- Location details
- Day-of contact numbers
- What to bring
- A schedule for the day
Your organization’s preparedness demonstrates your dedication to the cause, inspiring commitment on behalf of volunteers.
7. Establish a Volunteer Check-In System
A check-in system at each event will help you keep track of volunteer attendance and provide on-site volunteer direction. As soon as volunteers arrive at the event location, have them go directly to a check-in point (and include clear signage so it’s easy to locate). Here they can pick up their volunteer badge, ask any questions, and get last minute direction for their volunteer role.
8. Make it Enjoyable
Fun is the secret ingredient to any volunteer experience. It’s important to create an environment in which volunteers will have fun and enjoy their experience. Design ice-breakers and organize informal social gatherings where volunteers can get to know each other. A sense of belonging and a community go a very long way in creating a positive and enjoyable atmosphere that volunteers will want to keep coming back to.
Provide a positive experience by creating thoughtful volunteer services. Be sure to provide volunteers with the following items to make it more enjoyable:
- A place to store their personal belongings
- Food during the night
- Affordable parking options
- We recommend setting up a volunteer-only room somewhere in your venue for volunteers to go and take a private break if they need it during the event
9. Show Gratitude
Wrap up each event by gathering your volunteers to thank them for their hard work. Follow up with a sincere thank-you email. Being appreciated feels good — volunteers might just want to help out again!
Thank every volunteer who helps in any way. Treat everyone with the same respect and make sure no effort goes unnoticed. In addition, make sure you recognize the most active volunteers in your non-profit. Publicly recognizing volunteers will make them feel proud of their own accomplishments.
There is a lot of work involved in really good volunteer recruitment and retention, but, like most things, it gets easier with practice. If you are feeling overwhelmed by what appears to be a huge amount of work just to get volunteers on board, stay calm and optimistic! Toast of the Town is here to help! We can help you build volunteer job descriptions, find the right volunteers and celebrate with them after an event!