Your Needs Unmet – How to Meet Them with VolunteerLocal

Before I started blogging for VolunteerLocal, I started using VolunteerLocal. At first, I was working at a small nonprofit that occasionally hosted little volunteer opportunities. I used the free version of the platform, and it helped me manage my little signups simply. When I moved to a role at a University became responsible for events that necessitated hundreds of volunteers, I knew exactly which platform I wanted to use to protect my sanity and make signing up a breeze for the volunteers. (Any guesses?) That’s right: I created a new VolunteerLocal account and upgraded to a paid version of the platform that I continue to build into my annual budget at work.

The VolunteerLocal platform meets my (every-evolving) needs year after year, and it will meet yours if you:  

 

 

Need an easy way for volunteers to sign up for specific shifts and jobs. Volunteers love not having to create a log-in with a password they will constantly forget. With VolunteerLocal, they can sign up using whatever e-mail address is most convenient for them, and they receive a confirmation message automatically. Volunteers (and volunteer managers) can see exactly how many spots are open for any given shift and job. 

 

 

Need a dashboard to track your progress. Customize your VolunteerLocal login so you can get a quick snapshot of how many shifts remain open, how many are filled and how many unique and overall volunteers you have participating in your event. It even gives you a countdown of days until the event, if you want! This is a great motivator or nerve-calmer, depending on how recruitment is going. 

 

 

Need to collect volunteer T-shirt sizes. No need to guess at sizes for volunteers and accidentally over-order a batch of XXLs. The ability to customize signup information eliminates the need to track down volunteers and individually request their size, mobile phone number, or any specialized info that you need, like whether they’re with a certain company or over the age of 13. You can build it all in, and keep it constant or change it up and make it unique for any event.  

 

 

Need an easy way to communicate with volunteers. Paid VolunteerLocal accounts allow you to send mass messages through the platform to your whole volunteer team, or customize instructions and follow-up per job. 

Need an easy way for volunteers to cancel their shifts. If you don’t want to deal with e-mails and voicemail excuses, you can allow volunteers to cancel or swap shifts. Or, if you’re like me, you can turn that function off. Social sharing is also an option, if you want your volunteers to be able to tweet out or post to Facebook about their shifts and help you with your marketing efforts. 

Need a simple day-of sign in. You can easily export your volunteer lists and data as a spreadsheet. Again, you can so this en masse for the whole group, or export batches for specific job sign-ins. You can also use the platform to check in volunteers electronically on the Grow Plan.  

Need a way to store your annual volunteer data. I like to archive my events in VolunteerLocal after they’ve happened, and then at the end of the year, I take them out of archive and collectively export the data to get a big picture of who has volunteered and how often/long. I’ll also pull a past event out of archive if I want to make volunteer staffing plans based on the previous year’s successes and challenges. 

 

 

Need other people to be able to manage different events. With various paid VolunteerLocal accounts, you can have multiple administrators who can access only the events and information you give them permission to control. This is great if you’re working with student clubs and want to give access to student leaders, but only for the organizations they oversee. 

 

 

Need an assistant. What volunteer coordinator wouldn’t like an assistant to help with busywork and data? VolunteerLocal is like a virtual assistant that can pull reports for you faster than you can grab yourself a cup of coffee. Plus, it never takes a vacation day! 

 

 

Need to talk to a person if you’re stuck. VolunteerLocal has amazing customer service. They have been a phone call or e-mail away when I’ve had rare issues, and give me pointers on shortcuts and tricks that make using the platform even more fun.

 

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Activate Volunteers Outside Your Event

As event organizers, producers, directors, etc., it is your job to observe and plan for all stages from beginning to middle and end. As you establish your checkpoints leading up to the event itself, it is crucial that you put this on your list: activate volunteers outside your event.

The urge and the philosophy behind this is one of thermodynamics: energy in equals energy out. This has to do with conservation. Simply put, the higher the note you start off with, the more you will be able to sustain that energy among your volunteers and create a positive, thriving environment. 

(Not to mention there is much to be done leading up to an event whether it is coordinating the volunteers themselves, stuffing packets, running errands, phone drives, or other logistical conundrums.)

Arrange for volunteer gatherings to help accomplish these tasks and more. Something like stuffing packets is ideal because it is the kind of work made light by many hands, and has an easy rhythm that allows for volunteers to talk, get to know each other, and even forge friendships. The mission will bring your volunteers in, but feelings of “togetherness” will keep them coming back.

Get them excited before the day of the event or a short time leading up to it with some kind of orientation, training or pep rally. Plan team-building exercises. This is a great way to build community while also ascertaining how certain people interact with each other. Who are the leaders in the group? The doers, the organizers, the observers? Work your magic to ensure that each volunteer is in the best position catered to their unique skills and interests. They will repay this effort ten-fold – when vision, values and strengths are aligned, purpose thrives.

A pre-celebration party or gathering is an incredibly festive way to begin any trial. Go as big or as small as your budget allows, but if someone threw you a party just for being there, wouldn’t you return next year, too?

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5 Typical Jobs for Race-Day Volunteers

Time to divvy out the duties for volunteers helping with your race.

It’s race time, and you’ve got dozens of volunteers needing jobs! No, hundreds! No, MILLIONS! (That escalated quickly.) However big your run or volunteer base may be, here are five main jobs to assign to volunteers ready to help.   

 

Set-up/tear down crew 

Okay, so maybe you’ll need to come up with a creative name here, but this is fairly straightforward. Regardless, it’s an important job. No matter how big your muscles are, this is not something you can do alone (Note: Make sure the volunteers in this team are physically fit enough to do the tasks required). It takes a team to put up the tents, get the tables arranged, get the water bottles in coolers, unfold chairs, unroll the finish line. And then when it’s all over, you need an even bigger crew willing to stick around and take care of the trash and recycling, store unused t-shirts for next year, return equipment to vendors, and countless other small things. If you have a big crew for either of these, make sure it’s clear who volunteers report to as their direct supervisor if it’s not you. 

 

Check-in team

These are your early risers. Coffee? These people don’t need coffee, they live off of sunshine and happiness. This is an important part of the event as this team greets runners and/or volunteers, makes sure they have everything they need, and answer any questions. It’s a fun and friendly role, perfect for someone who identifies themselves as a “people-person.” Whoever works with the check-in team has got to be someone excited to be there, so don’t try to force anyone onto this team. The people who love it though usually rock this job. (Note: Don’t actually forget to bring the coffee, ever. Or else.)

 

Water station 

Now we’re talking essentials people. The body cannot live without water, and runners will be glad to see a water station as they round the corner. Volunteers in this station will hand out water (Note: If volunteers holding cups from the bottom it’s easier for runners to grab it in a hurry), pick up and throw away the discarded cups, and cheer on the runners. Not only that, but this can be a fun and goofy place to encourage runners passing by with signs, decorations, and support for their journey left ahead. 

 

Course marshall 

For the volunteers who like telling people what to do or have always imagined what life might be like for a traffic cop–this is the job for them. Positioned throughout the course, these volunteers make sure runners stay on course and provide them with direction, be it with a megaphone, sign, or giant foam finger. Especially around a corner or at an intersection, course marshalls help runners know where to go without having to pack a map. Course marshals may also keep an eye out for runners’ safety and shout out encouragement. (Note: Discourage volunteers from saying the ever so-vague, “Almost there!” as runners pass–if it’s a long race, “almost” is never close enough.)

 

Finish line 

This group basically gets to do ALL of the jobs but during the best and last moment for the runners. So make sure the volunteers cheer people on, hand out water, pick up trash, tell runners where to go next, and help them with whatever may arise. Near the end is where more friends, families, and fans of the runners tend to congregate, so watch out for dogs, strollers, and over enthusiastic supporters! (Note: Make sure these volunteers are equipped with some basic info to assist runners, like where the nearest bathroom is or where to pick up their medal.)

 

All of these jobs are important, but can also be a ton of fun! The more the merrier as far as volunteers go. Just be sure to give volunteers clear communication about their goals, duties, and who to report to. And, if you really do have millions of eager volunteers, buy yourself some earplugs because that cheering section’s gonna be LOUD! 

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Event Production Tips to Produce a Flawless Multi-Day Experience

If you made the brave and perhaps daunting choice to host a multi-day event, we at VolunteerLocal applaud and support you! Coordinating volunteers for one day is crazy enough, and you have added a whole other layer. This can double the number of shifts, alongside the number of volunteers needed to fill them.

Here are some things you’ll want to consider as a means to keep everyone from burning out before the final shift has ended. 

 

1. Location changes – If you are coordinating for a charity race there could be a marathon one day, and a 5k the next, or maybe a kid’s race. Chances are the main event hub will stay in the same location but you might have a different starting or end point. Don’t forget to add or subtract those shifts. A good way to keep yourself from getting spread too thin is delegating one of the smaller tasks to a volunteer and having them help you coordinate.

 

2. Overnight Security – Are you leaving the merch tent over night? It would mean no unpacking and repacking the next day. It’s probably better to hire out security instead of recruiting volunteers. You need to coordinate and make sure the security company knows exactly what you need, but they should be able to handle the rest.

 

3. More Shifts – It’s a no brainer that more days equals more shifts which probably means more work, but it doesn’t have to mean getting overworked. Delegating is a great way to keep everything moving quickly and keep your sanity. You physically cannot be everywhere at once, so don’t try

 

4. More Volunteers – More shifts (hopefully) means more volunteers. This is a great place to use delegation too. Maybe you can organize a few tiers of volunteers, one tier would be daily volunteer coordinators. They would see that all the shifts on their day are filled. Another tier could be morning and afternoon coordinators. Having levels broken down would free up more of your time to focus on big picture issues and not get bogged down by filling every single shift.

 

5. Watch Out for Micromanaging – It is really easy to get wrapped up with having to know exactly what every volunteer is doing, or how many shifts everyone is signed up for. Communication will help everyone understand the mission and tasks for the event, so if you have communicated well, it’s time to let go and trust your volunteers.

 

Are you feeling overwhelmed by all you have to do? Make sure you take care of yourself and your passion. No matter how much you love your cause and working with volunteers if you don’t allow yourself any grace you could burn yourself out.

Check out our blog with strategies to make sure you keep your passion for volunteer coordinating alive: https://blog.volunteerlocal.com/volunteer-coordinator-burnout-and-how-to-avoid-it/

 

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