Prepping for the Worst – Anything Can Happen

Whether you are planning an entire event yourself or you’re the volunteer coordinator within a group of planners, at the end of the day, something still might go wrong. It may be out of your control – an unexpected change in the weather or human error – but you’d best be prepared for anything.


There are many common pitfalls volunteer coordinators try to avoid when planning an event. Problems can come up due to gaps in communication or unmet expectations. Making assumptions is never good (come on, we’ve all heard the saying about when you “ass-u-me”) and then there’s whatever is falling from the sky, literally.


Here are the top ways to prepare for the worst as a volunteer coordinator:


Communicate effectively

Maybe you send emails or texts or meet with your volunteers regularly. Whatever form your communication may come in, there’s always a chance it could get misunderstood. The biggest thing to remember when it comes to communication is that there are two sides to it and you need to both share and listen. Ask volunteers if there’s something they need from you or if there is a message that is unclear. Connect with volunteers so they know the line of communication is open. When some sort of dispute comes up, listen to the feedback of people to get a read on the situation. Sometimes people just need to be heard. So, listen, share, and reset as much as possible.  


Have a back-up plan in mind

Especially when it comes to outdoor events, everyone wants a day of perfect weather. Sometimes that happens and sometimes it just doesn’t. No one can control the weather, but you can rent a tent. The point is, know what your back-up plan is in case something doesn’t go quite as planned. Perhaps that means calling a rental company for a quote or even making a reservation beforehand. Make a list of people to call “just in case” that is easily accessible on the day of the event.


Redefine success

Think about that epic everything-went-perfectly event and what that looks like. It’s great to aim high! But then, also create your bottom line of what success looks like. For instance, I will host an event on this day and engage with volunteers. Or, We will raise awareness as an organization, even if that means 10 new people attend.  If all else fails, know what your key mission is for the event and count the success as it happens. Some years are building years–they may not meet the high standards you hope for, but they allow you to build up to that for the next time around. Of course, it is important to debrief and assess for areas needing improvement, but make sure to also acknowledge and celebrate the wins that do happen.



Samantha Gratton

Samantha is a staff writer at VolunteerLocal. She has experience coordinating events and loves chocolate.