How to Properly Research for Your Event

Have you ever been to a race and wondered if the organizers have even seen the route?


Whether you’re starting a new event or re-envisioning a classic, doing the research to make sure your event is the best it can be is important. As a coordinator, it’s important to do the work on the back end so your event runs smoothly.


We suggest beginning with prioritizing what’s most important for your event. This will depend greatly on the type of event you are hosting. Maybe the food and beverage vendors are at the top of the list for your music festival, but the number one consideration for your charity race is where the finish line will be.


Whatever your considerations, here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your research.

  •  Start early. Anyone who’s planned truly anything knows that popular venues fill up before their calendar is event posted. There’s nothing worse than finding the perfect location only to be told it was booked 6 months ago.


  • Ask around. You may turn to online search engines first, but asking around within your network is a great way to save time and get feedback from people you trust.


  • Don’t be afraid to try things again. Maybe your first attempt at team t-shirts was a disaster, but this year you have a better design idea and know who to go to for printing. We’re firm believers in “there’s always next year.” Keep building your event on the lessons of the previous year.


  • Have a clear goal for your event. Each event you coordinate will have different goals. Getting vendors who fall in line with your eco-friendly mission might be different than the ones who match up with your budget. Figure out your goals and make a plan to meet them.


  • See it in person. This goes for just about everything at your event. If food is the main draw, make sure to try it before you book it. If the location needs to be a particular size or type go see it – just in case. Day-of is always crazy enough on its own, so minimize the amount of surprises.


When beginning or continuing research for your event everything seems like the most important part.  Make sure to prioritize your to-do items and have a clear idea of what you want the event to accomplish. With those two things in your tool belt, you can tackle researching anything for your event.




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Keeping Longtime Volunteers In Your Corner


In many cases, longtime volunteers don’t just help tell your organization’s story – they ARE the story.

If you have volunteers who’ve been connected since your organization’s founding, they can help frame the problem your org set out to solve and outline how successfully initiatives have fulfilled the mission over the years. Like strong finances, volunteer retention can help paint a picture about the health of an organization.


Effectively managing and motivating volunteers means you’ll save time and effort with recruitment and training. But don’t simply count the years of service and print them on a certificate to present at your annual recognition event. Leverage that knowledge to ‘promote’ volunteers to take on a leadership role.


United Way of Central Iowa does just that with seasoned volunteers in their VITA tax preparation program. Of nearly 200 certified volunteers, about 20 are tapped to serve as site leaders.


“We look for long-timers and people who are natural-born leaders,” says Holly Sagar, who manages the program. “We have a former head of the county health department and a CFO. People who have stepped up their entire lives.”


These site leaders go through extra training, but Sagar says that in her 10 years of volunteer management experience, relationship-building and engagement is what converts casual volunteers into dedicated team leaders.


“We put a white board in the break-room where we ask ‘What do you see?’ and ‘What do we need to change?’ – and then we try to make it happen, Sagar says. She thinks this attitude is what gives their program an 86% retention rate.


Having a deep bench of seasoned volunteers provides many advantages – but it’s helpful to be aware of some potential drawbacks, too.


There are huge benefits to having the institutional knowledge that comes from volunteer longevity, but it also means new initiatives might be met with resistance. Identify longtime volunteers who can serve as advisers and champions of change if, say, your mentoring program wants to institute annual background checks or other best practices that haven’t been traditionally used. Ask them how they think the new policies and procedures impact their fellow volunteers, and test messaging with them to make sure your communication hits the right mark.


Relationships are key to fundraising, and longtime volunteers might have stronger community ties than a new executive director. Perhaps this means they can open doors for development staff, or fill in gaps about past communications with donors.



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How to Incorporate Sustainability Into Your Volunteer Coordination

Climate change is perhaps the most pressing issue of our time, and it’s important that organizational practices – especially in nonprofits – emphasize decreasing our individual and collective footprints. Considering that disposable items are frequently used as thank-you gifts for volunteers, and that food items must be pre-packaged at many events, it’s difficult to organize events that won’t add to our ozone and our landfills – but we have to try!


Let’s say you’re the volunteer manager for a breast cancer research organization, and your biggest event of the year – a 5k – is taking place this fall. You have a few all-star volunteers who you can trust with running teams, and a few dozen volunteers signed up for the day of.


How can you make your race as green as possible while keeping the focus on your organization’s mission?


Provide incentives.

One way to encourage your participants to lower their footprint is to offer special packages or deals for people who consume less before and during the race. For example, you could offer a “Green” package that’s slightly cheaper than the other signup options: in exchange for the discount, participants have to bike or carpool to the race, bring their own water bottles & supplies for eating, or other location and theme-specific behaviors.


Only offer “green” products.

Engage your all-star volunteers to come up with creative ways to provide sustainable products at the race. You can set up water stations instead of providing bottles, offer plant-based food or meals instead of meat (avoiding meat is a great way to lower your carbon footprint), and avoid printing t-shirts on new shirts. Partnerships with local businesses also tend to have less environmental impact than buying your supplies at a big box store.


Get the whole family involved!

Folks often wait on the sidelines to cheer on the racer in their families. This is a prime time to provide educational activities and interact with them. Here is a fun list of potential activities to set up for families. This is also a great opportunity to ask your all-star volunteers for help in leading the activities and gathering people.


Those who participate in charity events are often already civic-minded and want to help out. Reminders that they’re getting fruits and vegetables as snacks for the benefit of the environment will likely increase their level of engagement and pride in what they’ve accomplished. Make environment-themed signs, give verbal encouragement, and thank them for making your event as green as possible!





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Battling Festival Fatigue: 7 Ways To Look Out For Your Music Festival Volunteers

Music festivals manage to capture what many people crave – a shared community experience with like-minded people.


It’s a chance to step away from the monotony of normal daily life and be apart of something bigger than yourself. While festivals look fun and carefree to festival goers, they can involve long, labor-intensive hours for event staff and volunteers. Here are a few ways to avoid festival fatigue and take care of your volunteers:


The free ticket
We’ll just come out and say it – the primary reason many folks choose to volunteer at music festivals is to see great bands for free. The free ticket is a hallmark of the festival volunteer experience and a great way to draw an enthusiastic crew. Depending on the length of your festival, there are plenty of ways to tier festival access by offering passes to more sections of the festival based on number of hours worked. While the ticket is a way to get volunteers in the door, the music festival is so much more than a free pass. The experience is what keeps volunteers coming back.


Sell the volunteer experience, not just the perks
Two unique things about festivals come to mind: the behind the scenes peek and the people you meet. One of the best things about music festivals is getting to meet so many new people with common interests, perhaps from very different backgrounds. Plus, many volunteer opportunities cater to groups – so you may get to share the experience alongside trusted friends. Volunteers usually arrive early to help set up and get to see the camp come to life – from idea to bustling reality. They work alongside event coordinators, band crews, and sometimes the talent themselves. They’ll leave knowing they played a part in making the event happen and with a greater appreciation for event organizers.


But have perks for volunteers, too
Much of the festival experience happens between volunteer shifts. Offering volunteers the essentials – a place to camp, a place to shower, and free meal tickets – will not only help them rest before their next shift, but will also eliminate more cost-prohibitive factors of attending a festival. Don’t forget about the little perks, too! Free water, volunteer tents, and phone charging stations are essential during long shifts. Oh, and event t-shirts don’t hurt either.


Rely on past volunteer testimonials
No one understands the festival rush quite like volunteers themselves. Encourage prior volunteers to share their experiences – good and bad. Consistent feedback will help you know what to change for the next event and help highlight which aspects people look for. You can even invite a few trusted volunteers to write a FAQ for your volunteer information page.


Share photos and videos
There’s a reason for the common adage “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Getting volunteers to see your event and picture themselves there is key. Encourage volunteers to snap and shoot moments of their experience. You may try using a volunteer-specific event hashtag on Instagram and feature volunteer photos on your event account. Or, try a snapchat geo-filter for quick event-specific video sharing. Seeing the event through the eyes of the volunteer gives a unique perspective event photographers may not be able to capture.


Set realistic expectations
Volunteering at a festival isn’t only fun and games. While there are plenty of benefits, volunteers are required to do their fair share of heavy lifting – often literally. They may have to deal with difficult people, or work very early or very late. It’s important for event and volunteer coordinators to clearly explain what is expected for each shift block.

Proactive communication is a must to avoid volunteer burnout. Set a standard of clear communication from the start with a simple volunteer sign-up system. Here you can allow volunteers to note preferences, limitations, and see their respective duties in one place.


Have fun
In the end, a little bit of chaos is inevitable. Festivals are about having fun – even for volunteers. Your festival’s success is tied up in your volunteer’s success and with these tips, it’s sure to be a good experience.



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5 Steps For Choosing The Perfect Race Route

If you’re organizing a race, of course you need a route!

What might not be so obvious, though, are the little things that could end up making or breaking whether or not racers have the best experience possible. We’ve compiled the top-5 “off the beaten path” steps to help ensure your route contributes to your run’s success!


  • Determine your audience – The first step is to figure out what type of runners you’re targeting. Is it a family fun run, a run that you can bring along your dog, or do you want to attract racers trying to set PR’s? Determining this will not only help you narrow in on the most effective marketing campaigns, but also provide useful context when choosing the route.
  • Make a list of the “must haves” – You know your audience. Now, put yourself in their shoes. What type of route would make them excited to sign-up? For example, if it’s a fun run, make sure to incorporate nice scenery or a route that goes through the city/town. If you’re trying to attract more competitive runners, make sure that the route is accessible – you won’t be able to get away with a route that isn’t 100% closed off to runners. Other “must haves” may include:
    • Route that includes lots of trash cans (if dog friendly
    • Route that includes a loop or easy way to break it into a smaller distance, if you’re planning to have a 1 mile, 5K, and 10K.
    • Smooth terrain if attracting kids or parents pushing strollers.
  • Start experimenting with routes – Once you have a clear idea of what you’re looking for, it’s time to start experimenting! There are free tools online (RaceEntry, PlotARoute) that can help you start mapping out possible paths. Don’t forget about public parks that have designated running/walking paths/trails!
  • Take ‘em on a test run – Choose your top few routes and try them out! Nothing beats actually experiencing how the route flows. You may find out that the route uses a road that is going to be too busy, or the hills are a little too challenging for your audience.
  • Choose the best one – Hopefully you have a clear winner, but if not, don’t forget to consider things like distance from where your racers are going to be coming from, parking accommodations and amount of space for spectators.


There you have it! Easy peasy, I hope! Now that you have your route, it’s time to start promoting the race! If you need help recruiting and managing volunteers, we can help! Our platform makes it so seamless that you’ll wonder how you ever got by without it.


We’d love to hear from you! What considerations are most important to you when choosing a route?




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Top 5 Reasons To Consider Corporate Volunteer Groups

There are certain benefits prospective and current employees have come to expect, most notably things like health and dental insurance, paid vacation time, and some type of retirement savings plan. While many companies are racing to give themselves an edge by offering “trendy” perks like beer on tap and ping-pong tables, another benefit is also gaining traction: paid volunteer time.


Research has shown that employees tend to stay with companies longer if they encourage volunteering so it may not come as a surprise that according to a recent survey, 60% of companies offer paid volunteer time, with another 21% planning to do so within the next two years. As a volunteer coordinator, corporate volunteers may not seem to be the best option, as most companies only offer 8-16 hours of paid volunteer time each year. However, we believe
that corporate volunteer groups can definitely be beneficial, and
have outlined the top-5 reasons why below.


  •  They’re reliable! We’ve all experienced the frustration of flaky volunteers. Corporate volunteers are usually extremely reliable not only because they’re being paid, but also because their employers may require proof that they actually volunteered.


  • Great for larger group volunteer opportunities. Companies will often try to organize large volunteer events where many of their employees can volunteer at the same time. Maybe you need some landscape work done, or could use some new paint on the interior of your building? These are excellent candidates for a larger group project with corporate volunteers.


  • They’re available when others typically aren’t. Whereas most traditional volunteers are available nights and weekends, corporate volunteer groups are looking for opportunities during the normal 9-5 workday.


  • They’re skilled. Need trade-specific help? Corporate groups can be a perfect fit! Need help redesigning your website? Why not reach out to the engineering department at a software company?


  • They might just stick around. Corporate volunteerism can be the first step in a much longer journey. Be sure to let your corporate volunteers know about ongoing needs that they may be interested in. Sign them up for your email list and be sure to thank them for their efforts! You might just have found a great group of long term volunteers.


We’d love to hear from you! Have you partnered with companies who offer paid volunteer time? What advice can you offer those who are on the fence?





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