Now, we understand that volunteers can be a complex group to pin down. They run the gamut from teenagers to seniors; some are looking for community involvement, some want a free parking spot. We like to think that most volunteers are passionate about the work they’re doing – if they care to give, odds are, they’re giving because they care. With that in mind, we’ve put together five easy steps you can take to hone your volunteer force into loyal, informed and enthusiastic advocates for your event.
Step 1: Train Your Volunteers
Make sure those volunteers know their moves.
A training session should include a step-by-step of their actual job duties. Bonus points if you can bring in returning volunteers to give newbies the real low-down on how things will work. Do they know where to check-in when they arrive? Do they know what to bring? Who to talk to if they get lost or confused? Introduce the volunteer coordinator; it’s always helpful to associate a face with the name of the person who’s choreographing the big dance.
Pro tip: a pre-event volunteer training session rarely has perfect attendance, but don’t sweat it. You just need a handful of informed volunteers to lead the rest of the pack.
Step 2: Let’s Get Digital
Welcome to 2015. Your volunteers will almost undoubtedly turn the volume up on your events – through Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, you-name-it. As representatives of your organization, be sure they understand the gravity and implications of what they post online.
Our best advice? If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Leverage social media to draw attention to your event. Create a hashtag you’d like your volunteers to use when they tweet about their experience. Share with them your Facebook page and encourage them to “Like” what you do online. Ask your volunteers to tag your event in their photos (you might even consider hosting a photo contest!). There’s nothing wrong with a little free publicity – just make sure it’s the right kind of publicity.
Step 3: Repeat After Me…
Your volunteers are the most visible representation of your organization on-site; make sure they know the lingo. All your volunteers should be able to speak intelligently about your event in case they find themselves on the recording end of a microphone by a media or news outlet.
Moreover, equip each volunteer with a map of the event grounds or venue where they’ll be working, and make sure they can locate information booths and bathrooms on a dime.
Step 4: Always Assess Risk
If you’re running a post-race beer garden or beverage tent, prep your volunteers on the signs of alcohol poisoning and where to find birthdates on IDs. Set up wrist-banding stations and coordinate with the local police force wherever possible.
If it rains, provide ponchos. If it’s starting to get late, put together a hospitality crew to distribute fresh fruit to your folks on the course. You’re the kind of coordinator who looks out for your volunteers – rain or shine. Keep them happy, hydrated and nourished throughout the day.
If there is the possibility of physical injury during your event, be sure to explain proper protocol to your volunteers and get those waivers signed. Liability less, volunteer more!
Step 5: Volunteer Appreciation
The last (and perhaps most important) step of this process is a simple “thank you.” Volunteers love a little kudos (don’t we all?), so make sure they know how much you appreciate their hard work. From a t-shirt to a candy bouquet, a handshake to a milkshake, there are myriad ways to show your gratitude. Try a little tenderness: it’s the key to happy volunteers.