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Event leadership | 4 September 2015

10 Easy Steps To Find Event Volunteers

Sydney Dawes

Let’s face it: No successful event is a one-man show. Sometimes, you need a lot of help to accomplish everything time for your fundraiser or conference. In this post, we’ll discuss how you can find the perfect event staff for you.

Depending on your corporation, your budget may be too small to hire freelancers. Why not turn to volunteers for the help you need? Finding unpaid help can be hard nowadays. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of tips to help you find and manage volunteers for your next event.

1. Set up one-on-one meetings with potential event volunteers

If possible, avoid relying only on announcements to find event volunteers. It’s very easy to ignore or say no to an email or newsletter sitting in your inbox.

In “Tips for Recruiting and Retaining Volunteers,” IEEE suggests that to achieve optimal results, ask people in person.

Start off by trying to recruit coworkers. You can compliment them on something they excel in, and then point out volunteers with that skill set are needed for your event.

Describe what their responsibilities would be, while also mentioning the benefits of being an event volunteer.

In your follow up email, letter, or phone call, provide a more detailed job description of the volunteer role, along with details on your event.

Want to stay on the cutting edge of event planning? Download a free copy of notes on event technology here!

2. Utilize volunteer databases

Although one-on-one meetings are more personal, sometimes gathering volunteer commitments from people you know is just out of the question.

If that’s the case, you can try finding event volunteers through software platforms like Volgistics, VolunteerSpotan or VolunteerHubonline. These platforms provide users with information on thousands of skilled volunteers, as well as resources such as application forms, and schedules

3. Find the motives of your volunteers, and provide incentives to match

Even the most generous of people, as ConceptLink highlights in “5 Ways to Manage Volunteers Effectively,” rarely volunteer altruistically; there’s always a feature of volunteering that benefits them in some way.

For instance, many college-aged people will volunteer to build their resumes. Other people may volunteer to explore a new industry. Still others will wish to learn new skills and form new connections.

If a volunteer is dissatisfied with his or her work, he or she will not be likely to volunteer another time. It’s up to you to find what your volunteers are hoping to accomplish. IEEE recommends giving potential volunteers a survey and asking them what they are hoping to get out of their volunteer experience.

Once you understand what volunteers are hoping to gain, be sure to highlight what they will learn, who they will meet, and what they will get to do.

Then offer them an incentive for giving you their time: for example, in many cases, you might be able to provide them a letter of recommendation in the future or be a reference for them. In other scenarios, free food may also be more than enough.

Be ready for the many challenges of managing volunteers.

4. Communicate clearly

Your event will run much more smoothly if all your volunteers are on the same page; therefore, it is crucial to have a set form of communication.

Talk to your volunteers to find their preferences. Will they prefer an email or phone call? With larger groups, texts or group chat apps, such as GroupMe or Facebook Messenger, or Slack may be ideal.

Many companies are also embracing Trello, a project management tool that allows users to organize tasks by chopping them down into simpler steps.

Bonus: with Trello, you can track your volunteers’ progress as well.

As long as you have a way of communicating schedule changes or addressing issues, your volunteers can work effectively and help you achieve a spot-on event.

5. Define your expectations

Citizens Information Board sites a major problem corporations are facing when it comes to volunteer retention: in many cases, volunteers are lost because their expectations are not being met. In other words, many have a “This isn’t what I signed up for” mentality.

To avoid this misunderstanding, clearly define the responsibilities, goals, and objectives your event volunteers will face.

Another way to ensure your volunteers are on the same page is by sending them an email or thank-you note after they make a commitment to helping with your conference. You should include a detailed job description within your thank you message to avoid confusion on what tasks they’ll be doing.

6. Set clear and reasonable deadlines

This point goes hand-in-hand with giving a detailed job description: people want to know not only what they’ll be accomplishing, but also how much time they’ll be putting into their tasks and when they need to complete them.

Consider how long it takes you to do finish certain projects, either when you’re working with a team or solo. Depending on your volunteer group, it may take them longer to complete these tasks. Use this knowledge to create reasonable deadlines for your event volunteers.

7. Give your volunteers all they need to succeed

After creating a thorough job description and setting clear deadlines, consider all the skills necessary for the job. What knowledge will they need to have to painlessly carry out your conference? What resources will event volunteers need access to in order to be needed to ensure your event runs smoothly?

Before event day, create a resource for event volunteers that outlines who they should talk to for various common questions, and where they can find various pieces of equipment.

As described earlier, a group chat could also help when volunteers have questions about their projects.

8. Provide your volunteers with feedback

Many corporations who work with volunteers tend to shy away from critiquing their work because they don’t want to appear ungrateful.

Keep in mind that like any working professional, volunteers want to know how they are performing.

Charity Village highlights that feedback is a key step to achieving effective volunteer support. Take the time to let your volunteers know where they are excelling and where they need to improve.

As stated earlier, many people volunteer in hopes of developing or enhancing skills. You’ll be helping them as they’re helping you as long as you provide them with constructive criticism.

9. Thank event volunteers for their efforts

A show of gratitude will make a lasting impact on your volunteers, and it may be what convinces them to enlist their help again in the future. 

Consider mailing volunteers a hand-written thank you card and be sure to thank them during closing remarks.

This recognition should not just be given at the end of their volunteer experience, says Charity Village. Let them know they’re appreciated throughout the process of preparing for the event, as well! During meetings, highlight the work of certain volunteers, or point out the success of a certain project that event volunteers contributed to.

10. Follow up with your event volunteers

To improve your future volunteer opportunities, it’s important to ask your past volunteers about their experiences while working with you. 

Find out what was productive and what could be improved. Was communication effective and clear? Were tasks reasonable? Did they feel as if they had the resources and knowledge to perform their assigned projects? 

Gaining this knowledge will help you to make the tweaks you need to gather and retain volunteers for your projects and events to come.

By effectively reaching out to potential volunteers, clearly defining responsibilities, providing excellent training and easy access to information, communicating deadlines and giving feedback to your group members, your conference will run smoothly and you’ll have much less to do.

Who knows? The same volunteers may step in to help you with your next event too! (Referring to a volunteer appreciation guide is one way to make sure that they have a great experience.)

Want more event planning best practices? Download our free set of notes from the event planning industry’s most influential conference. Click the button below to grab a set:

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