Finding volunteers for an event is an undertaking that only goes smoothly if you have the correct marketing. Finding a person to offer to do something freely is not always easy, but it can be simple if you have the correct networking and communication skills. A person who freely offers to take part in an enterprise is usually easy to get along with, but it can be tricky to hire a team of volunteers.
Volunteer’s skills vary. Many of the largest and successful events truly depend upon event volunteers. Fundraising events need volunteers, as well as events that raise awareness in a community or entity. You may find college students looking to forward their education or retirees who have worked in the field you are entertaining. Either way, a large part of volunteering is giving, and finding a crew that has a diverse skill level is a good way to fit positions needed and to create happy volunteers. They may choose their positions depending on their skills.
Recruit event volunteers who are passionate about your organization. To begin the volunteer recruitment process, and get volunteers for an event, most of the time individuals that are directly within the organization are willing to help volunteer for your event. With the ease and accessibility of the Internet, it helps to put your event online. Often when you recruit volunteers, they are willing to help for the experience gained, much like a collegiate intern.
Expectations should be clearly set with volunteers. When you provide the details of the work the volunteer will be doing, they will feel more secure, and knowledgeable. The key is to have a successful event, and communication is key. Proper planning will offer a productive volunteer. If your volunteer does not know what they are expected to do, they will not enjoy volunteering. They also will not be an effective volunteer. Provide a job description for each volunteer and a training session. Volunteers that don’t know what is expected of them are likely to be disappointed, confused, and embarrassed. This will show on their face and body language at your event. You need to prepare your volunteer as you would any employee. They are volunteering for a reason. Volunteers want to be needed, and if they feel as if they are not doing anything, you and the volunteer will be disappointed. Make each job description template and let every volunteer know what their position will be.
Utilize Volunteer Databases
Utilize volunteer databases from within your organization. Sometimes the organization planning the event may have an online board or registration form as well. No one knows more about your event or the details of the organization than the individuals that work for that organization. Make sure that all your employees have the opportunity to volunteer. Many employees will want to feel like they are a part of the event.
Find the Motives of your Volunteers and Provide Incentives to Match
You may find that the volunteer is eager to learn about the organization and they are looking to gain experience by volunteering. Much like a college internship, some individuals volunteer to move ahead in their career, or into the door of the organization you are planning the event for. Some volunteer’s motives could be that they have a strong passion for the event organization. There is always a motive that the volunteer has to be at the event. It may be a college student looking to gain experience and career knowledge, or an elderly man or woman that would like to get out into the community and have some social interaction. The motives of a volunteer are usually honorable. It is a great way to network, meet new people, and learn about the organization. Figuring out what a volunteer is there for helps you to gain insight on incentives to provide for your volunteers. You may ask why they want to volunteer for your event in an interview, or in an open platform setting where they are trained pre-event.
Communicate clearly what your expectations are and what the work will be. This will lead to the success of your event. It may not seem plausible, or you may not think about training your volunteers, but if you have the time, they will appreciate the clarity of their jobs and the expectations that are required of them. This gives volunteers the opportunity to engage in communication with each other which is wonderful for your event. Cohesion and clarity create a fun and successful event. You do not want a volunteer that has no clue what is expected of them or what their job duties are because that will show in their body language. Successful events are ones in which both volunteers and attendees are happy.
Set Clear & Reasonable Deadlines
The difference between a volunteer and an employee is that the person is not being paid for their services. Be sure to provide job description templates for your volunteers, as you would for an employee. If possible allow the volunteer to choose the position they are interested in. This goes for a much more smoothly event day, as well as a happy volunteer.
Give your Volunteers The Tools to Succeed
Provide volunteers with solid job requirements, and a training class before the event. If you hold a training session, they will have confidence and be able to communicate amongst themselves as well as with you. Allow questions, and make sure that no one is confused about what they will be doing and where he or she will be on the day of the event. You truly want to have an enthusiastic crew of volunteers to make for a successful event. Let them feel that they have done a wonderful job, and that will shine through at your event.
Provide your Volunteers with Feedback
Volunteers can provide some of the most valuable feedback following your event. The biggest mistake you can make is to let someone go that has volunteered for you. You want to be able to have volunteers come back, and you want volunteers to come back. Provide a survey with a thank you letter. You now have a staff of volunteers that you want to retain. Make them feel useful while gaining quality information about the event that you may use for future events.
If you plan for success and provide a clear and concise plan for your volunteers, your event will go off without a hitch. Take your time, be patient and kind, and remember that volunteers are mainly good-hearted individuals who are working for free. Provide incentives and have fun with your event. That is what the event is for.
This post is written by Chris Bouchard, a regular contributor to the GEVME blog. Chris is a consultant for non-profits and social entrepreneurs.