If you’ve ever coordinated (or helped coordinate) a volunteer event, you know one of the most frustrating parts of the job is handling last minute changes.
Unfortunately, to a certain extent, there’s not much you can do about it. There are always going to be certain situations and things that come up for people. That said, there are processes and safeguards you can put in place to limit last-minute changes. The best news? We’ve curated a top-5 list for you below!
Think through contingency plans.
The first step is to take the time to think about what could go wrong or change at the last minute, and have a plan in place for when/if these things happen. You know there are going to be volunteers who can’t make it at the last second, so what do you do? If your event is outdoors, what is the plan if the weather turns? Make a list of “what if’s” and make sure to address them all at least a couple of weeks before the event to limit the stress of when/if they happen.
Specifically recruit stand-by volunteers.
Volunteer no-shows are a given. Have a certain number of volunteers sign-up specifically as fill-ins if needed. Make sure to let them know how you’ll be communicating with them, and what to expect if they’re not needed anymore.
Make it known how volunteers can back out if necessary.
If something does come up last minute for a volunteer, be sure to have communicated to them the steps they need to take in letting you know. Send e-mail reminders to volunteers prior to the event, and specifically ask them to reply to the e-mail if they no longer can make it. It also can be useful to communicate a date that volunteers can no longer back out, unless absolutely necessary.
It may seem harsh, but there should be accountability in place for people who agree to volunteer, especially if you’ve enacted some of the processes mentioned above. You might give people one strike, but if they continue to volunteer and then not show up, consider not allowing them to volunteer for a certain period of time, or restricting which jobs they can sign up for next time.
Print schedules for volunteers ahead of time.
Make sure things run smoothly by printing schedules and distributing them to volunteers ahead of time. This not only provides yet another reminder to your volunteers, but also helps reduce confusion the day of the event. It’s often comforting to volunteers to know exactly when and where they need to be and reduces the stress on them in addition to you on event day. 🙂
We’d love to hear from you! How do you handle last minute changes and limit no-shows?