Building out a volunteer team is a little like filling a football roster.
A common mistake rookie volunteer coordinators often make is to put themselves in the role of quarterback instead of coach. The last place you should be at the beginning of your event is on the field with a bunch of players rushing you.
An effective volunteer coordinator should be able to direct from the sidelines and have a big-picture view of the event. That degree of distance only feels comfortable when you know you have the right people plugged into different positions. Recruit trusted volunteers whose natural strengths or talents give them a leg-up for the most critical positions:
Volunteer Captain: Look for someone with a customer service oriented spirit. Inevitably, you will have a few volunteers who arrive to check in awkwardly early, when you’re still in the midst of a few last-minute tasks. Training a friendly and organized volunteer captain or two a few days before the event will free you up from fielding volunteer questions so you can be available to troubleshoot other issues that might arise. Just remember to plan for a frenzy of volunteer activity at every shift change and keep volunteer support especially strong during those periods.
Vendor Greeter: The caterer, the florist, the balloon guy, the sound engineer, the exhibitors – they all seem to arrive in unison and have complex setup questions. If you have a confident friend who knows her way around an event map and can help exhibitors get situated in the right spot, you might not need to clone yourself. If food safety and storage are a concern, it would be wise to secure a capable volunteer familiar with regulations tasked with overseeing that area.
Social Media Maven: If there is an event hashtag but no one to populate it, what’s the point? Don’t expect you’ll have time to snap candids and come up with creative captions when you’re running an event. Hand over the digital keys to your event’s account for the day to someone on the marketing committee. Bonus points if they already have an Instagram with a loyal following and are willing to cross-post a few pics on their personal account.
Signage scout: Get the right volunteers on your event setup squad and you’ll save time and energy down the line. Don’t underestimate the power of fresh eyes on signage. You might know the venue like the back of your hand, but if there’s any question about where to find the bathrooms or how to map the event flow, it’s great to get a volunteer who can offer a critical eye and make things easier for your attendees.
The key to being able to comfortably delegate is to know each volunteer is playing to his or her strengths. Think through these more specialized types of jobs in advance and actively recruit people with the most helpful personalities for these positions. Don’t forget a pre-event huddle so everyone knows everyone else’s roles, too! Having a printed contact list with leaders’ cell phone numbers, or walkie-talkies tuned to the same channel also lets your critical volunteers connect. Setting up these connections will lead to smoother transitions before and during your event.