Cancelling an Event

Even for the most weathered of event planners, unexpected complications can arise and result in a cancelled event. Bad weather, low ticket sales or a sudden illness can force an intricately planned program to come to a halt.

While a cancelled event is disappointing for the staff involved, it can be even harder to figure out the right way to break the news to your registered volunteers who were committed to making it a success. 

Volunteers that signed up for an event may include students that were banking on those hours for a class, mandated volunteers, or long-time volunteers who attend your yearly event as part of their tradition. Others maybe just wanted to hang out with their friends and do something fun for the day.

Whatever their reasoning, communicating quickly and clearly after an event is cancelled is critical with volunteers to ensure you don’t lose them for future events and let them know that their efforts and altruism have not gone unnoticed.

Be clear and transparent

It’s frustrating to learn that a plan has fallen through. Communicate the cancelled event in as many ways as you deem appropriate, including emails, social media, text messages and phone calls. Volunteers are going to be curious as to why an event is cancelled – give them a reason and be transparent to avoid further frustration. You don’t need to get into the nitty gritty details, but give your volunteers clarity for their own sakes – and so they can better empathize with you.

Show your appreciation

If this was a volunteer’s first time signing up with your organization, an event cancellation may leave a bad taste. To prevent this from happening, let your volunteer know (through a personalized email or a phone call) why their willingness to help continues to matter. Be grateful and appreciative in your tone. While a volunteer may not have had a chance to actually come out and help with an event yet, it’s the thought that counts. By being appreciative and communicating directly, your volunteer will feel valued and more likely to come back in the future.

Keep them in mind

You now have information for people who are willing to volunteer for your organization – use it! Communicate about other events where you need volunteers and be willing to make those follow-up emails or calls when the time comes. There’s nothing that sends a better message than a personal touch to let that person know you’re thinking of them.

No matter the reason, make sure that your cancelled event is an opportunity to speak directly with your volunteers and convey your appreciation for their dedication and time. You can use your cancellation as a time to reconnect and recruit for future opportunities. Silver lining, baby!

Read More

Should Volunteers Manage Their Own Data?

Technology continues to evolve, and consumers are getting more and more accustomed to doing things both online and by themselves. No longer do you need to hire a travel agent to plan a vacation. Instead, you can utilize sites like Priceline or Kayak to book your own airfare, hotels, and make the perfect itinerary. While this is usually a welcomed new way of doing things, other processes that push the onus onto customers aren’t as widely accepted. For example, some of us are resistant to going completely paperless – while others frown upon having to log-in to a web portal to update their address or contact information.

So, how does this all fit into volunteer management? Well, technology solutions like VolunteerLocal have made it easier to recruit and manage volunteers as well as events. But when it comes to actual volunteer data, who should control it? Should volunteers be able to update their own address or phone number? Or, should organizations be ultimately responsible for making any updates? We believe that there is no right answer to this question, and it usually depends on your organization’s unique situation. However, we thought we’d lay out some pros and cons to these two approaches. 

 

Volunteers Self-Schedule (and Complete Registration) Online

  • This approach reduces manual work for you and your staff. Not having to reach out to volunteers to make sure their information is accurate can save a significant amount of time. 
  • Allowing volunteers to control both the registration process and their shift assignments gives them control (and ownership) of the schedules they build. Allowing users to manage their own information can be empowering.
  • Accuracy is improved. Consistently collecting new and updated information from your volunteers helps counter (sometimes) changing variables like t-shirt sizes, mailing address, or marital status.

 

Administrators Manually Input Data & Assign Volunteers

  • This approach gives you (the coordinator) total control of volunteers who are entered into your database, and the role(s) or shift time(s) they’re allowed to work.
  • Different organizations have different requirements for acceptance and admission to the volunteer program. Holding a little tighter to this volunteer data gives you the ability to fully vet and, when necessary, cross-check volunteer data to ensure that there is no false or misleading information in their profiles.
  • When you’re manually adding and assigning volunteers, you’ll naturally have better recall of your volunteers’ personal information, especially if you’re seeing someone’s profile picture each time you open his/her profile in VolunteerLocal. Who doesn’t want to be that coordinator extraordinaire who remembers every volunteer’s name, birthday and unique preferences?!

We hope these thoughts have been helpful to you! Please share in the comments what strategy you’ve chosen and why you made that decision.

 

Read More

Remembering the Big Picture

As a volunteer coordinator, you’re juggling what feels like a million different tasks.

Your mind might be racing because you didn’t order enough t-shirts. Someone just told you they’ve got a food allergy and you’ll need to adjust the lunch menu. One of your volunteers just cancelled with less than 24-hours notice. With all of the things you’re working on, it’s easy to get preoccupied with the little details.

Take a breath.

Remember why you’re doing this important work.

At the end of the day, all of this energy is dedicated to making a difference in your community, in sometimes small and large ways. In this moment of desperation, I like to read quotes from leaders I admire, who navigated the weeds long enough to make change, and do good. I’ve transcribed a few of my favorites below. Enjoy.

 

“Do small things with great love.” -Mother Theresa

It’s easy to feel insignificant when there’s a mountain of work in front of you. But every task, every errand, every call you’re making is contributing to this cause. It’s important to remember that even those mundane tasks are critical to the long-term outcome that everyone on your team is working hard to realize. Each step you take, no matter how small, is a step forward for your community. 

You may not be the only one feeling overwhelmed – some of your volunteers may also be feeling the drain, too. The clean-up crew are wondering whether their work matters. Those taking drinks tickets are gazing at the long-line before them and thinking, what’s all this for?

Everything adds up, particularly the things we put care and love into. Let your volunteers know that whatever task they’re doing, it’s making an impact. Every individual contributes in a significant way towards increasing awareness, raising funds, bringing people together and making our cities and towns more cultural, vibrant and fun.

 

 

“To move forward you have to give back.” -Oprah Winfrey

 

Giving your time helps others, and it helps you. It’s easy to give our money, or donate our old belongings to a local thrift store – but to give our time? Our effort, hard work and (l)earned skills? These opportunities to give that part of ourselves enables us to connect with others and the mission. We can grow in meaningful ways.

 

“A lion chased me up a tree and I greatly enjoyed the view from the top.” -Confuscius

 

 

It’s that time of night when the spreadsheet in front of you is starting to blur. You have a giant detailed list of seemingly endless things to do. You’re tired, exasperated and just over it.

Step away from the glow of your computer screen and remember the big picture. There will always be challenges before you, and opportunities to overcome them, individually or with the collaboration of those you trust and can depend on to help see you through. If you find yourself at the top of that tree, take a look around. The view is unbelievable. 

 

Read More

De-Briefing After Your Event

Finally – that event you worked so hard on is over. It finally feels like it’s time to throw on some slippers, grab a bag of chips and wind down with a glass of wine.

But not so fast.

While you should definitely give yourself a pat on the back, the period after an event can give you an opportunity to debrief both for yourself and your volunteer crew while the event is still fresh in your minds.

A de-briefing session can check on what worked and what didn’t for both you and your volunteers. It’s a positive opportunity to put a variety of minds together for a brainstorming sit-down. It can give you a chance to address concerns, highlight strengths and soak in feedback to better future events. And even if you feel like an event went successfully, you will want to check in with your team and volunteers to make sure you’re all on the same page.

Set aside time, have an agenda and get ready to review your goals both for yourself and your team.

 

Questions to ask yourself and your volunteers:

  • Get bigger and better

What are things that can be done to make the next event an even bigger success? Think about both the physical planning of the event and the analyzation of your attendee engagement. Could registration go more smoothly? Do you need more parking? Likewise, is there a way to get more attendees to your event? How was your social media language?

  • The good, the bad and the ugly

Take steps to congratulate yourself, acknowledge what could be improved upon and what needs to be thrown to the wayside. Acknowledge yourself and your volunteers for a job well done, but also discuss what didn’t work and how it can change. 

  • Listen and learn

What kind of feedback did the attendees provide – both explicitly and not explicitly? Brainstorm ways to get attendees to provide direct feedback, but also discuss what was observed. Did people struggle finding things? Was one activity particularly popular?

  • Let’s take action

Create a priority list and determine what actions can and should be done. Making a plan of action sets the tone for both yourself and your volunteers that the feedback they provide will be considered and utilized to make future events even better.

 

Read More

Most Effective Volunteer Recruitment Strategies

When you’re looking for volunteers for your event, the task may seem a bit daunting in the beginning. Don’t worry. Everyone starts somewhere.

As a wise man (Drake) famously said, “Started from the bottom now we’re here.”

This Washington Post article found that whether you’re finding people passionate about your mission, sharing your organization’s story or just meeting people in person, you have a real chance at drawing volunteers in. The article highlights recruitment efforts of different organizations and they’re all things you can easily do for your organization. We’ve compiled our top tips below to not only find volunteers, but find the perfect match.

Tell a story:

  • Use social media to your advantage. If there are any interesting anecdotes, people or causes associated with your organization, share them to get people excited about joining.
  • Give details about your organization on your website. Share your history, mission and stories about your staff to give prospective volunteers a personal connection.
  • A picture is worth a 1,000 words, so save your breath and share event photos! Plus, you can tag volunteers for their friends to see and potentially join as well.

Get your feet dirty:

  • Meet face-to-face. There’s a reason grassroots efforts have stuck around for so long and that’s because of the connection. Get into your community.
  • Attend volunteer fairs. Students are often seeking community service hours or experience, so get them amped up about participating in your organization. Make that conversation happen.
  • Talk to your network. Don’t be shy about asking friends or neighbors to volunteer – just asking may be the nudge they need.

Think for the future:

  • Create meaningful titles for volunteer positions – people might just be looking for opportunities to add to their resume.
  • Make a good experience for volunteers to make them lifelong returners. Express gratitude and appreciation for the work that they put in.
  • Don’t be afraid to reach out again after hearing a “no.” Keep “no” volunteers in mind for a future position or date that may work better for them.

Make it fun:

  • People are more inclined to say yes if they’re with people they know. Encourage people to volunteer with friends or family.
  • Make a community. After volunteer events, go out for food and drinks. Having a fun time will encourage people to continue returning.
  • Everyone likes swag. Give volunteers t-shirts or other souvenirs to commemorate their time and it provides an opportunity for further promotion.

Know your audience

  • Crafting a targeted campaign will ensure you’re reaching your ideal volunteers, while also appealing to those who are interested in what you’re offering.
  • Provide detailed volunteer descriptions. People not only want to know the details of what they may be participating in, but this will also ensure you get the ideal candidate.
  • Go to where the volunteer prospects are. If you’re hosting a marathon, offer to speak at a gym or with your local high school’s track team.

 

Read More

Why Use Volunteer Management Software

2017 called and it said to let go of your old Excel sheets and move to a quicker way to organize volunteers.

Volunteer management software conveniently takes care of the busy work volunteer coordinators are bogged down with, so you don’t have to sweat the small stuff.

It is the simple solution if you’re the person that spends hours over spreadsheets, groans over your inbox or stresses over scheduling volunteers.

From the convenience of your computer, the software streamlines processes like registering volunteers, moving around shifts and providing details like maps and work descriptions.

The process is easy: Simply create your event and the software will handle the rest. Volunteers can sign up for shifts they’re interested in, register with a buddy or easily change their times.

By easing your workload, the software gives you time to focus on other duties and reduce your labor and costs.

As for the volunteers, the easy-to-use service makes it even more convenient for them to find and sign up for a shift, encouraging them to come back again and again.

And you can easily send out a thank you email to them with a simple click.

 

A few of the things volunteer management software can do to help you:

  • Easily create jobs and shifts
  • Customize questions during registration
  • Send an automated follow-up email to a volunteer
  • Get notifications when volunteers sign up or cancel
  • Ditch paper waivers by including online waivers from volunteers
  • Keep track of phone numbers, addresses and important volunteer information

 

Even if you aren’t ready to let go of your Excel sheets, fear not. Software like VolunteerLocal makes it easy to export volunteer data, so you don’t have to glue yourself to your computer.

Trust us, your planner will thank you.

 

 

 

Read More

How to Lead Volunteers Like Leslie Knope

Even Leslie Knope, the world’s best fictional coordinator from the show “Parks and Recreation” said, “No one achieves anything alone.”

That’s true for most things in life and it’s especially true when it comes to volunteers.

 

Volunteers serve as the lifeblood that keeps an event pumping, whether it’s handing out water at a triathlon or checking IDs at a music festival.

 

But in the hustle and bustle of an event, volunteers don’t just keep things flowing smoothly – they’re the eyes and ears for when something goes wrong.

Whether you’ve been coordinating volunteers for one year or 10, their feedback is crucial and serves as an opportunity to grow and make an event even better for the future.

A volunteer may witness an area where supplies ran out too quickly. An attendee may have come up to a volunteer and voiced their concerns about something.

These are all pieces of feedback coordinators should actively seek to not only keep their events running smoothly, but to keep volunteers returning for years to come.

Luckily, the ways of receiving feedback are plenty:

 

  • From the get go, encourage feedback from your volunteers. Whether it’s during orientation or an introduction, invite their voices.
  • Talk face-to-face with volunteers during an event. They can give you some real-time feedback in the moment.
  • Use social media as a tool for conversations. A convenient way for volunteers to give feedback is through Facebook groups or through direct messaging.
  • Send a follow-up survey. You can encourage candid responses by ensuring anonymity in their feedback.
  • Chat with volunteers during after parties. Show your appreciation by holding a get together for your volunteers and use the opportunity to hear from different voices.

 

Show gratefulness for volunteer feedback and work to incorporate their advice during your future efforts for even greater success. Because after all, like Leslie Knope says, “I care. I care a lot. It’s kinda my thing.”

 

 

 

Read More