Those dirty, thankless, difficult-to-fill volunteer jobs are sometimes the most critical to your event’s success.
The volunteers who take them on probably deserve more than an oversized event T-shirt, but let’s face it – there isn’t a budget for much else. From the pre-dawn setup crew to the teardown team, here are five simple ways to inspire volunteers to tackle the worst jobs, all with a smile.
Let them know why it matters. That late night cleanup shift is certainly not as glamorous as the early evening gig checking VIP wristbands. But if leaving a venue in ship-shape after the last attendee has departed is essential to the festival getting its permits renewed, it’s totally clutch. Let your volunteers know how they’re key to keeping an amazing event viable.
Recruit volunteers who want to develop a specialized skill. Working a marathon’s finish line might not be a good fit for someone who’s squeamish about a runner possibly puking on his shoes or passing out in her arms as she slips on medals and hands out thermal blankets. But it could be a great fit for students in a pre-med club or nursing school who can swiftly help seek medical attention.
Institute a “Mike Rowe” award. It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s gotta do it. Turn a crappy assignment into a competition by asking one of your most outgoing leaders to captain the team. Create a sense of camaraderie by gamifying trash collection or doing a post-cleanup catwalk in which the most mud-splattered volunteer takes home an epic swag bag.
Name the job something creative. Don’t be misleading, but take inspiration from the goofy titles that startup companies give their employees. Apple’s “genius” is another company’s service technician. Which job sounds more impressive? Do you want a volunteer who begrudgingly signs up to be a trash collector, or who’ll be proud to wear a name badge with the title “Ambassador of Clean”? Be sure to add a description to the job, though, so volunteers are clear on the expectations.
Pitch in. Great leadership involves showing that you wouldn’t ask someone to do (for free!) what you’re not willing to do yourself. Shouting encouragement from the sidelines isn’t the same as tackling trash duty with your volunteer troops.
Show a little extra appreciation with a personalized thank you and odds are, next time you have a dirty, difficult or downright boring job that just has to be done, you’ll have volunteers ready to roll up their sleeves.