6 Ways to Promote Transparency With Your Volunteers

Transparency is a word that’s thrown around a lot these days – from self-help books, to articles on workplace culture, to relationship goals – and for good reasons. One of which being that people don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses. Transparent managers are proven to foster better workplace relationships, better employee alignment with company vision, and higher performance & engagement rates.


Now that I’ve sold you on all the reasons you should want to be transparent (I totally did that, right?) let’s take a step back. Transparency means “easy to perceive or detect” and, when describing an organization, “open to public scrutiny.” (That second one might sound a little frightening – don’t worry, we’ll get there.) In other words, being clear and open with your volunteers.


Here are six ways to promote transparency with your volunteers and encourage all the great community-building benefits I mentioned above:


1. Explain Your Decisions

Many of your decisions may seem implied or obvious because you have the advantage of knowing the big-picture. But to your volunteers, a decision may seem sudden or leave them feeling like they don’t know where they stand. When possible, concisely explain what prompted the decision or what specific event or organization goal you hope the decision will help accomplish. This will contextualize the decision for your volunteers and also reinforce your broader mission.

2. Define Volunteer and Staff Roles

There are few things more frustrating than showing up to volunteer at an event and not knowing what you will be doing. Try including role descriptions in the signup process. These can be brief, but give an idea of what the person will be doing during their allotted time. Then, send a follow-up email explaining relevant information like: where to go, who on staff will be available prior to and during the event, and any other things your volunteer would benefit from knowing.

3. Personally Acknowledge Your Volunteers

Make it a point for you or another staff member to check in with volunteers throughout the day. Greet them when they arrive. Ask them how the day is going. And when you see a volunteer doing a great job – tell them! People like to know where they stand with others, especially their supervisors. Make an effort to let your volunteers know they are seen, heard, and appreciated.

4. Make Yourself Available 

Make it easy for your volunteers to contact you or other event organizers and staff members. If there are multiple staff working on the event, include who to contact for different questions or concerns. And finally, include ways to contact supervisors the day of the event for last minute clarifications. 

5. Encourage (and Invite) Criticism

Criticism is not always bad and it doesn’t have to be scary! (Here’s where that “open to public scrutiny” comes into play.) Positive and negative feedback is just that – feedback. Give your volunteers a way to talk about their experience and provide criticism. Then, allow yourself to depersonalize their thoughts and consider them without getting offended. There are so many ways you can make it easy for people to do this: send out a survey, ask them in person, follow up via email and ask what could be improved – however you want to ask, just make sure you do it. 

6. Own When You Are Wrong

Whew! I saved a tough one for last but trust me, how you fail is so much more important than the actual failure itself. Admit that you were wrong, address the shortcoming with the offended party (in person or on the phone if possible), and genuinely express your intent & plan to correct course. 


There you have it. Transparency doesn’t happen overnight, but with time, as you model these practices, you will increase trust and retention within your volunteer program.


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Not All Volunteers Are Passionate – Here’s Why That’s Okay

Did you know that only 15% of volunteers do the majority of volunteering?

In volunteer recruitment, we often talk about how to inspire people who are passionate about your organization’s mission. But, the reality is, about half of volunteer hours are fulfilled by people who do not consider themselves regular volunteers. There are a number of reasons why people volunteer – and it’s not always their passion for your organization.


These volunteers might serve with a group from work or school, to fulfill community service hours, to attend an event for free, to try something new, and many other reasons. How do you show these volunteers the value of their contribution and maybe inspire them to come back? We have a few ideas in mind:


Find skills-based projects that make a measurable impact.

Maybe an inexperienced volunteer wouldn’t be the best person to greet guests or give tours, but they have plenty to offer behind the scenes to keep the event running smoothly. Try placing the new volunteer in a job where they can directly see their impact – maybe that’s set-up or assembly, or maybe they have more specific skills and can help with lights and sound. Maybe they help serve food and pass out swag – whatever it is, try to make sure it’s a task that has a goal outside of the overall event mission.


Create a sense of community.

People are more likely to volunteer if the work is collaborative. Try to create volunteering teams or groups to accomplish  Even if the job is more individual in nature, create space for community before and after the event. Allowing new volunteers to sign up as a group can also increase their comfort level and make it an enjoyable, positive experience.


Pair the new volunteers with an experienced volunteer.

Even if infrequent volunteers want to pair with a friend, place them with a station leader who can show them the ropes. Similar to the teamwork idea, putting less-experienced volunteers with someone who knows your organization culture will increase their comfort level in the new environment.


Increase professional exposure.

Another reason to volunteer is the networking potential! Be sure these volunteers get to meet the event organizers. Introduce them to key players in your organization and make sure they feel welcomed. Meeting corporate and nonprofit leaders can help the volunteer build their professional network.


Follow up. Everytime.

As with all your event volunteers, follow up with your less experienced volunteers after the event.Share follow up steps to learn more about your organization and remind them of upcoming opportunities.


In the end, all volunteer hours are valuable. You never know how volunteers may find your organization or event, but you can encourage them to come back, even if just for the free swag. Treat them with the same respect you would treat your regular volunteers and thank them for their service!




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3 Times to Start a Volunteer Facebook Group

We’ve had a lot of volunteer coordinators ask: should I create a Facebook group for my volunteers? We’ve found the answer is a little more nuanced than you’d expect. At their best, Facebook groups facilitate conversation and further recruitment opportunities. However, if not utilized and maintained they can be wasted space or just another platform to worry about. We’ve found Facebook groups are most helpful when you have several engaged users.


Here are 3 reasons a Facebook group could be beneficial to you and your volunteers:


You have a group of repeat volunteers
First of all, if this is the case, congrats! Now your challenge is to keep these volunteers coming back. A Facebook group is a great way to both foster community among your volunteers as well as keep them updated on future volunteer opportunities. It also gives volunteers a space to interact with each other, form friendships outside of the events, and even decide events at which to volunteer together.


You are hosting an annual event
Annual events tend to be a big push for volunteer coordinators and organizers. Maintaining a Facebook group throughout the year can help keep the event and organization on your volunteer’s radar. Facebook is a good tool to share news and other updates in a casual way throughout the year. Then, when the next year rolls around, you can ask if anyone is interested in volunteering again.


Your event has several dozen volunteers
If you are running a large event with several volunteer stations, a Facebook group can be a great way to keep your volunteers posted on event changes, reminders, and needs as the event approaches. It also gives the volunteers a chance to inform themselves before reaching out to you with questions. (Pro tip: You can post FAQ’s, shift expectations, or any other helpful resources in the group). Finally, it provides a way for volunteers to post last minute shift change needs should emergencies arise.


Once you create a group of any of these three types, check in periodically to answer questions or post updates. In the end, you are the expert on your own events and volunteers. Ask yourself if you have enough volunteers for them to support the platform, if not it’s okay! Building a solid group takes time. A larger group of engaged volunteers provides more opportunities to build community than a small group of one-time volunteers any day.




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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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Interpreting Volunteer Data: Key Metrics To Track After Your Event

The event is over – you made it! You are now left with your volunteer data: their information, the jobs that were completely filled, the shifts you couldn’t find anyone to cover, the number of families who volunteered together and so much more. How do you interpret this data and integrate the outcomes of your event into your consideration for best practices for next year?

There are so many ways to tackle this question and the important metrics will vary by organization and event. Here we’ll discuss one way to interpret data as it relates to volunteer data.


Identify Your Goals & Success Metrics

First, before you export any reports from your volunteer management system, determine what a successful event looks like for your organization. What are some things you want to be able to refer back to? It’s okay if it takes you a few events to nail down exactly what this looks like. Pro tip: collecting too much information is better than not collecting enough – you can always adjust down the road.


Save The Numbers

Okay, I get it – this might sound a little obvious, but after you identify what is important for you to know about your event results, assigning a quantitative value to each goal will allow you to compare to past and future events, create trends, and ultimately save you some guesswork before your next event. Again, these data points will vary based on your specific goals, but here are some we have found helpful:

  1. Total number of event volunteers
  2. Total number of volunteers per station
  3. Total volunteer hours used


Track Your Volunteer Value & Return On Investment

Now that you have these data points, you can determine bigger picture value such as:

  1. Monetary value of volunteer hours donated (number of volunteer hours multiplied by hourly wage of a paid employee)
  2. Number of paid staff hours saved by volunteer coverage
  3. Average revenue earned per volunteer hour worked


Project For The Next Event & Beyond

Event tallies can be useful on their own for trend tracking as well as big picture value. After a few events pass, you can use your tracked data points to project for future events and adjust volunteer recruitment as needed. Volunteer data not only reveals areas for growth, but also areas that are redundant or can use less emphasis in the future. Consider keeping track of 

1. Average number of volunteers per event

2. Average volunteer hours per event

3. Percent of volunteer hours over-projected or under-projected

4. Percent of event attendance growth per year


Data can seem overwhelming at first, but the beauty of data is in its versatility. The more you make it a habit of recording and reflecting on volunteer data, the easier it will get and the more useful it will be.


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Top 5 Volunteer Complaints (And How You Can Use Them to Improve Your Next Event)

Receiving constructive criticism can be tough – especially after putting hours into an event. But, when applied well, these critiques can be the key to making your next event a bigger success. Here are a few tried and true tips for receiving and integrating feedback from your volunteers into your next event:


A great way to avoid a surprise piece of feedback is to simply ask your volunteers to comment on their experience. Give them a space to be heard while providing them with a few points to jog their memory: Was it easy to sign up? Were the station instructions clear? What is one thing they would include next year?


Acknowledge The Feedback

Sometimes criticism isn’t neatly packaged in an email. When a volunteer speaks their mind (solicited or otherwise), it can feel personal. First, pause and choose to view their opinion as an opportunity to connect with them and show them you care about their experience. Then, thank them for their feedback! Whether verbally or in an email, they probably won’t expect it (in a good way).


Create A Plan

Now it’s time to use this insight to make your next event even better. Here are a few ideas based on common feedback we’ve heard from volunteers:


  • The event is too far away/coincides with another event or personal plans. If your volunteer numbers are low, consider how a different day or location could allow your volunteers to more


  • The event was disorganized. I wasn’t sure where I was supposed to be or do. Try promoting a volunteer to a leadership role. Ask a trusted volunteer to help manage a station or shift next year. Oftentimes, your volunteers have a better working understanding of how responsibilities fit together on the job.


  • I wasn’t challenged. Suggest a different role that may better suit their skill-set or even just shake things up. Providing fresh opportunities and areas for your volunteers to grow will give them a reason to come back.


  • My job was more than I signed up for. We’ve all been there – we sign up for a task and before we know it several other responsibilities are tacked on to the original description, making it a larger time commitment than we planned. Be honest with yourself about how many volunteers you need and consider increasing the number of volunteers in that specific shift.


  • Lack of communication. This is by far the most common complaint volunteer coordinators receive. No one likes to feel uninformed. Try using your volunteer management software to connect with your volunteers before and after the event. Send messages and updates to your volunteers by event, job, and shift to keep them in the loop throughout the event process.


It all comes back to communication. Hearing and responding to feedback — especially when unflattering — will elevate your volunteers’ experience, encourage volunteer engagement, and give them a reason to come back. Nothing takes the sting out of a piece of negative feedback like a returning volunteer!




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