Defining Accountability for Your Volunteers: Five Things to do Upfront

“What were they thinking?!”


If you’ve ever thought this at the end of a volunteer’s job, you know things can get ridiculous when volunteers decide to go rogue. If you think back though, maybe they didn’t have a clear understanding of their expectations or some accountability to back that up. So, what can you do to avoid more “what the heck?” moments in the future? 


Like many things, it starts with clear communication. This communication may be in an email, in a meeting, over the phone, or face-to-face, but know that it has to happen. Volunteers need way more than “welcome to the team,” so this is the perfect opportunity to lay out some expectations and opportunity for accountability. This will not only give them the direction they need to get started, but also will give you more peace of mind and a greater confidence in your volunteers. 


Top five things to define with volunteers as their volunteer coordinator: 



When a volunteer first starts, let them know what they will be doing. Will they hand out t-shirts or be responsible for the entire check-in table? Will they be in charge of the design concepts or will they merely be using assets already created to make a flyer? Let them know what they are responsible for so they can fulfill their duties. Ask if they have questions, and then ask them to tell you their plans to carry out their mission. Having a discussion or some form of response will give you both an indicator of whether or not you are on the same page.  



Although it may sound redundant to you, communicate the goals and impact of what they will be doing and the goals and impact of the event overall. Maybe they know their role, but they don’t understand the big picture. Realizing how their part impacts other volunteers, the organization, and even the community will create a sense of ownership and accountability for the volunteer. That way, they know that if they back out last minute or miss a deadline, several people will be negatively impacted. 



While you’ve got spreadsheets and lists and everything you might need as the volunteer coordinator, sometimes you forget to tell the volunteer what their timeline is. Add in a bit of buffer time, but then tell the volunteer when something is due. For instance, if someone is working on a newsletter for you, let them know when the first draft is due, when you need the revisions back, and when you want to send it—not just the final date you want to send it by. Or, if they are working a shift at an event, let them know when they’ll be done. No volunteer likes to stand around waiting to see if you or someone else will return to let them know if/when they can go home. Without a clear idea of start and end dates, volunteers may bail on you. 



Tell volunteers who they should first report to, especially if it isn’t you. Explain the role of the supervisor or person above them and then provide contact information for them. Volunteers need to know who to go to if they have questions or problems, but supervisors also need to be given the introduction in order to show authority when needed. 



If you have a long project or even a long shift, make it clear what your checkpoints will be throughout the process. That way volunteers know you will be available for questions and you continue to communicate the vision of their role throughout its duration. After the duties have been completed, be sure to follow up for feedback in a survey or meeting to provide accountability for both you and the volunteer. 


Defining everything volunteers need to know ahead of time means you have to be organized, and you have to communicate. That means you can’t be running around doing everything last minute yourself. Instead, you’ll need to be focusing your attention on empowering your volunteers. In the end, it’s worth it when volunteers not only complete their tasks but do so with a clear understanding of their goals and expectations—minus the frustration or miscommunication. 


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Figuring Out When and How to Say “No Thanks” to a Volunteer

We love our volunteers and their willingness to contribute. Sure, we all have our days when everyone is driving us crazy or it just seems like it’d be easier if we did everything ourselves. But deep down, we know we couldn’t do what we do without volunteers!


But what about those volunteers who aren’t a great fit for your organization? Like new volunteers who don’t have the necessary experience? Or how about the volunteers that have been there forever but are bringing everyone down and holding people back? When is it time to deny a volunteer? How do you tactfully say, “no thanks”?


Consider and evaluate

First, be fair to yourself and your volunteer by evaluating what the situation is and if it’s possible to handle it. Do they need training or guidance from someone more experienced? Do they need to be reminded of volunteer expectations? Is there a way to talk with them about an issue or their attitude in a way that can solve the problem without having to ask them to leave? Is it not as bad as you think, and you’re simply having a bad day? Determine if there’s a way to resolve the issue or the reason they aren’t working well on the team. If there isn’t a way to do that, then proceed. Unfortunately, there will be volunteers whu just won’t work.


Identify and try to accommodate  

Make every effort to pinpoint what it is that doesn’t match up with your organization. For new volunteers, it might be as simple as having too many people apply for the same job. You don’t want extra people standing around looking bored at your event. If that’s the case, see if there are other opportunities for those volunteers in another area or with another event in the future. Or, maybe their application missed the deadline or their references did n’t check out. Let them know the volunteer requirements were not met and what it would take to get accepted at another point.


Maybe the volunteer didn’t have the skills you needed for the job you were looking to fill. If there are other ways they can still contribute, let them know what options may be a better match at this time. Offer up an area where you still need help, but be understanding if they choose not to participate in that way.  


If your reason for turning down a volunteer has more to do with them needing to take a break after years of work in order to give others the opportunity to serve and give a voice, make sure to do it with grace. Regardless of their situation, acknowledge the work they have contributed and how it helped get you to where you are today. Then, explain that your organization is now moving in another direction with new leadership. While you’d love their continued support, explain that this new direction requires full commitment and focus from the volunteers.  


Finally, if a volunteer acts in a way that goes against the mission of the organization or blatantly disregards the volunteer requirements, politely and privately ask the volunteer to step downl. Express gratitude for their service, but clarify how they have acted in a way that is not permitted on the volunteer team.


Thank and update

No one wants to be ghosted, so don’t just ignore the volunteer in hopes that they get the hint. Communicate clearly with volunteers and thank them for their interest and willingness to volunteer.


Regardless of the method, make sure this continues to come from a place of thanks, even if they aren’t the right fit. It’s flattering to be a sought-after organization and maybe at another point the fit will be right. If there will be more opportunities for them to volunteer in a different capacity or at a different time, let them know that you plan to contact them again in the future. And then follow through with that commitment. If this person is probably better off not returning, make a (private) note in their records, wish them well and again, thank them for their time or interest or willingness. Even if a volunteer is leaving on bad or uncomfortable terms, there’s probably at least one thing you can thank them for.

In the end, make sure your “no thanks” includes both “no” and “thanks.”



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Volunteer Coordinate Like a BOSS: Best Practices for Task Management

On Mondays you debrief the weekend’s event and facilitate a brainstorm meeting for how to do the next one even better. On Tuesdays you have three different phone calls lined up with the executive director, the city councilman, and the marketing director before hosting a new volunteer training in the evening. On Wednesdays, you wear pink.


Okay, so you’ve got a million things to do as a volunteer coordinator. You barely have the time to read this blog post but needed a quick reprieve from the many hats you wear and the ever-growing to-do list. There are only so many hours in the day, so how can you make the most of them?


How do those other volunteer coordinators do it?


Leverage your tools

There are so many great tools out there – but you need to find what works best for you. Do you love color coding your calendar and hanging it in front of you? Or do you love the ease of having it all on your phone? Do you use Evernote or Asana to keep track of your ongoing lists of ideas and to-dos or do you keep a stack of post-it notes right next to your computer for when the moment of inspiration hits? What might work for someone else isn’t always best for you, so think through what works most effectively for you and incorporate those tools into your daily routine.


When it comes to volunteer management software, we got you. For starters, we love volunteer coordinators so much that we have a free version with a TON of features. Or, as you need a more robust system, we have a few different plans for you to choose from. Either way, make sure you take advantage of the training and tutorial videos we have so you can make the most of it. The more you learn about VolunteerLocal’s software, the more you might be able to cut down on all of the things you are otherwise doing by hand (like, easily putting together a list of everyone’s t-shirt size, exporting volunteer hours fulfilled by each individual needing a signature for hours worked, or filling multiple volunteer slots with a team of people).


Delegate it

You know all of those volunteers you manage? Well, believe it or not, some of them might be able volunteer by way of managing a small team of other volunteers. You simply can’t do it all. So even if you have the most knowledge or understanding of your event, you can’t be everywhere at once. When you find and connect with dedicated and willing volunteers, promote them to a leadership role. They may find the work more meaningful, and you will have less to stress about.


While you may be short-staffed (because face it, who isn’t?), it’s important to let your co-workers know what’s going on and how they might be able to help. Maybe they’re in a slow period or have the capacity to take on a little more this week/month. Clear communication of what you need and how someone can help instead of just constantly exclaiming “I’m so busy!” will make all the difference in getting some assistance.


Whoever you delegate tasks to, remember that means you have to step aside to let them do it once the training is over. Instead of micromanaging their every move to make sure it’s done the exact same way you would do it, try to empower your volunteers leaders and co-workers to make the decisions that will work best. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised when they come up with ideas and solutions that exceed what you’ve come up with in the past.


Remember what’s important

Sometimes you’ll go through a season that just stretches you a bit – personally or professionally. You may have to push through to get to the other side, but try to remember why you do what you do. Whether it’s because you work for an organization that helps people or promotes cultural experiences or positively impacts your community, what you do makes a difference. It might not seem like it when you’re sorting through spreadsheets or licking dozens of envelopes on those thank you cards, but it does. Perhaps you are the one with the best organization skills on the team or maybe you connect with volunteers in a way that really inspires them. At some point you chose to get into this role with this organization, so remind yourself why.


Once you remember why you do what you do, it’s often easier to see how best to prioritize the tasks in front of you. Sometimes you’ll have to make sacrifices and hard decisions in order to prioritize what matters most. Keep those important things on the top of the list and the “if it works out, then great!” things near the bottom (or on another list altogether) so you don’t get too distracted or overwhelmed.


While you’re remembering things, remember that you aren’t a machine, so don’t expect yourself to act like one. You’ll probably get tired or overwhelmed every once in awhile – that’s okay. You’ve got this! Give yourself a break when you need it and try to plan for a little self-care as you can. Maybe that means sticking to your lunch break or scheduling a massage or long-overdue haircut for the week after your event. It might seem like you’re adding another task to your list, but these are the kind of things that allow you to work better and more effectively in the long-run.




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Choosing Your Location, Location, Location

 The location changes everything when it comes to event planning.

Talk to any realtor (or any normal person quoting a realtor) and you’re bound to hear the phrase, “Location, location, location.” Why? Because it makes a difference – especially in event planning. The location sets a tone, affects outreach and visibility, and determines overall accessibility and appeal.

When the sky’s the limit, you ask, “Where should this event take place?” You dream a minute and are suddenly transported to a nice sandy beach before you remember your event’s in Chicago in the middle of January.

It’s  important to dream big and start a creative brainstorm, but also to stay grounded in some of the limitations and intentions behind your event. When it comes to location scouting, these are our top considerations:



There’s no sense getting your heart set on a place if it isn’t available how or when you need it. Is the maximum capacity there smaller than your projected attendance? Are there enough rooms that suit your needs? Is it perfect but you’d need to change your date?



More likely than not, you’re working on a budget, maybe even a tight one. What is the cost of all of the possible locations under consideration? Will the cost put too big of a dent in your budget? Is there room in the budget to cut down on costs in another area so more funds can be available for the location? Or, will the location provide food, security or some other segment of your budget that you had allocated elsewhere?



Is this an area with high visibility? Or a location that is highly desired? Does it carry a “wow factor” that may draw more people? If not, think of how can you address that or add to its appeal. Consider whether this location will expand your reach so that more people are aware and interested in your event. Perhaps most importantly, decide whether this location will align with the goals of your organization.



You may have others who have skin in the game here and therefore a few thoughts on where the event should be held. Be open to suggestions, but also be willing to make an ask. Sometimes business can obtain a sponsorship designation by way of providing the location and features for the event. Not only does that help you in finding a venue, but it broadens their reach in the community as well.



Consider the drive time (as well as public transportation and/or walkability) it takes to get to the event for your target audience. Will a faraway destination provide appeal or deter people from coming? What other local businesses and amenities are nearby? This goes for both the people attending the event and the people volunteering at it.



What kind of impact will a certain location provide? Will it help the community and boost the local economy or cause traffic in an already busy area? Be cognisant of whether the aesthetics of the location will cause a distraction to attendees or be a source of inspiration. Think about the positive and negative impact the event location will have on attendees, volunteers, staff, and the local community.


While we all have certain ideals and deal breakers, you may have to compromise on some things. Know where you can and should be flexible with your expectations. Prioritize these different elements as best you can to find a location that will be the best fit for your event.


*No control over the location? Sometimes you have say in where your event takes place and sometimes you don’t. But even if the streets for your run are already approved or the conference rooms are already booked–you do still have a lot of control over the location of where your welcome desk is, where the volunteers check in, and what the flow of your event consists of. Be sure to make a new map to reflect the changes so everyone knows where to go. Maybe you’re stuck in the same location as you’ve always been, but there’s a way to be more efficient or effective with the setup of the route, the food, or the volunteer stations.



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What Volunteers Want You to Know (but Are Afraid to Say)

You’ve got a room full of volunteers staring back at you after a training meeting. Your event is three weeks away, and this is the second group of volunteers you’ve held a big training for. After the first meeting, no one had any questions, but mysteriously a few volunteers bowed out the week after the training. You finish off the meeting by asking, “Any questions or concerns?”


A few shrugs and blinks later you dismiss them saying, “Can’t wait to see you again soon!”


When the event comes around, a few more don’t show. You feel like you gave them so much info and opportunity for questions, so what is it that they aren’t telling you?


Every volunteer is different and has their own reasons for volunteering or not volunteering, but here are some of the common things that might be going on with your volunteers:


  • They are giving up time with friends or family to be here. They are making a sacrifice with their time, and they need you to acknowledge it. Sometimes a last-minute emergency comes up and they need your understanding or they need time to focus on the people closest to them, but don’t feel like that excuse is good enough. Find out if there is a way they can volunteer during off-hours or in a different way to meet their needs and make that option known.


  • They came to make friends or network. Try to get to know your volunteers to find out all of their motivators. Sure, they might love the cause but maybe part of their goal was to add some social interaction in their lives. If they aren’t getting those personal goals fulfilled, they may bail in favor of another volunteer opportunity that does give them that chance.


  • They are unclear on their assigned tasks or feel mismanaged. There are some tasks that you’ve done a hundred times and think anyone can jump in on. Maybe that’s the case, but if a volunteer feels like they were dropped into a role without much communication or training, they may decide to not come back in the future. If you aren’t going to be around to help train and answer their questions, make sure to pair them with an experienced volunteer.


  • They don’t see how they can make a difference. Perhaps their role seems insignificant, but you know that it supports the overall goals of the event. Make sure you explain how their participation has an impact. Even if it’s as simple as handing out t-shirts, let them know that they are the face of the organization in that way, and without them you wouldn’t have the ability to do it all.


  • They feel overwhelmed by the workload. Always keep an eye on your volunteers for possible burnout! Some of these volunteers are straight up rock stars, and you trust them with everything…but they don’t have the capacity to take on everything. Remember that they are volunteers and probably also have work responsibilities or homework or simply need to take a break. They are passionate about the organization and have kept coming back to volunteer, but every volunteer has a breaking point so make sure you don’t let it get there.


  • The volunteer sign-up process was too tedious. It seems simple (and with VolunteerLocal it’s a simple fix!) but when people have a hard time getting involved to begin with, they may give up before they even start. Remember to make getting involved easily accessible and keep the lines for communication open.


  • They don’t feel like they know enough about the organization or cause. Maybe you gave them a bunch of info about the event or their duties, but you didn’t give them enough reason to be personally invested in the mission. Make sure that when you explain their role you don’t overlook sharing the mission of the organization.



Keeping the above list in mind will help you keep an eye out for your volunteers’ needs, concerns, and goals. In the end, you’ll have people who volunteer for a season and then that season comes to an end. Regardless, be understanding of what’s happening in the lives of your volunteers and grateful for the time they do volunteer with you. By serving as a supportive and attentive volunteer coordinator, you’ll not only keep a strong volunteer base but also maintain a positive image of your organization in the community.




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How to Accept and Leverage Volunteer Feedback

If you’ve been a volunteer coordinator longer than…oh, a week or so, you know that the more people there are volunteering, the more opinions you get.


From “I don’t like this” to “Why the heck did we do that?” you hear it all. Sometimes all those comments and complaints make you want to slam the door and say, “No more!”


The thing is, you need feedback–the right kind of feedback–to propel you forward. So instead of covering your ears and screaming, make a plan to seek out feedback to help you improve. Create opportunities for volunteers, board members, co-workers, vendors, and whoever else you interact with to provide constructive criticism. Once you sort through the noise, you may find that there are some really valuable thoughts and ideas that will make your leadership skills and your next event even better.


Plan for feedback

Despite your lists and best intentions, something may go awry or need some evaluating in the future. Plan for that to happen, and plan to hear from your volunteers about it. Remember when people give you their thoughts, chances are they are trying to be helpful. So create a survey about the event, the volunteer experience, or whatever area makes sense to asses and let people know ahead of time that you’ll be asking for their feedback afterwards. That way they know you plan to hear them out, and you can be sure to capture all of the responses in one place. Create questions that rate different aspects of the event as well as open-ended questions about what went well, what went wrong, how the volunteers feel they can help improve things in the future, and how you can best support them. This will likely prove to be a really valuable resource when you begin preparing for next time.


Time and place

Sometimes the biggest issue you have with the comments and complaints is the timing. A loud complaint in the middle of the event? Not ideal. Volunteers may speak their minds without considering that you have a million and two other things to worry about at that particular moment. Instead of completely dismissing them or getting frustrated, let volunteers know you want to hear their feedback but at a different time and place. Maybe that’s with the survey or maybe that’s in a follow-up meeting a week later. If you are in the middle of the event, remind them that unless it’s something that needs to be addressed immediately, you aren’t able to discuss it yet but to bring it up again later as you do respect their thoughts and opinions.


Choose wisely

When you open up the lines of communication and seek feedback, you will likely hear a lot of thoughts and opinions, even some that contradict each other. First of all, that’s great! Remember that receiving lots of feedback means people care and are passionate enough to provide you with their thoughts. But obviously, this can be overwhelming to sort through and choose which advice to follow. While sending out a survey to a broad group of people is an excellent way to invite feedback, make sure to continue seeking out honest opinions from the people you respect the most. Talk directly with key leaders in the organization and longtime committed volunteers who may have a better perspective on things. Bounce ideas around with your co-workers and find a mentor to continue to point you in the best direction for your career. Depending on the source, you can then determine if the comment or complaint you received is worth your time and energy. You want to hear from people at every level, but choose the right people to have the biggest impact on your decisions and overall outlook on how things went.



While it might seem like the easier answer, the last thing you want to do is shut down all forms of feedback. Hearing comments, and even complaints, is one way you can continue to support your volunteers. But even more importantly, it can lead to constructive criticism that can help you strengthen yourself and your event. In the end, everyone’s better for it.  



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Finding New Volunteers

Since you now know all about the importance of new volunteer recruits, how do you find these magical unicorns (also known as new and passionate volunteers)?

Some of this depends on your organization and location, but many of the same strategies apply no matter where you are when it comes to finding new volunteers. The two biggest things to remember for volunteer recruitment are simple: ask and access.



The simplest way to recruit a volunteer is to ask them to join you. It sounds almost too easy, but it can often get overlooked.


Invite people you know to join your cause or event, and you may be shocked to find that they’ve already been curious or interested in helping. Maybe they didn’t know you needed or wanted more volunteers, or didn’t realize the options to volunteer were varied. Asking someone directly is not only flattering, but also calls for a response. When a prospective volunteer has to stop and consider how they might be able to volunteer with an organization, they can visualize the possibility much easier.


After you’ve made the ask of people you know, invite your board, staff, and current volunteers to do the same. Those who are already involved in the event can speak to the importance of it, the value volunteers provide, and the fun they have while doing it! They can share about the role they have, and identify friends and colleagues who may be able to fill a different position on your team. As the volunteer coordinator, you don’t have to make a personal plea to every prospective volunteer, but you can certainly ask others to do some recruiting on your behalf. In some ways, their connections and conversations may be even more effective in recruiting new volunteers. It still starts from an ask on your part–ask those around you to join in volunteer recruitment efforts.



With any prospective or current volunteers, you need to provide them easy access to sign-up to volunteer.


So often, when people are looking to volunteer or get involved, the first place they look is your website. Make it easy and clear to see when and where they can volunteer and how to get started. Depending on your onboarding process, maybe that means starting with a contact form or email address or maybe you integrate VolunteerLocal with your website so volunteers can pick their job and shift right away! Regardless, you want to build on the forward momentum of their interest and make it as quick and painless as possible for people to start volunteering.


Outside of your website and organization, be accessible where volunteers already are. Contact local companies and colleges to see if they have a database to post volunteer opportunities. If you have corporate or media sponsors, make sure your volunteer opportunities are posted and promoted through those avenues as well. If you have a ticketed event that volunteers can attend for free, provide a link to the volunteer sign-up page alongside ticket sales information. Seek out feedback from current volunteers or brainstorm with your team on ways you can be more easily accessible to volunteers.


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The Importance of New Volunteer Recruits

As a volunteer coordinator, you’ve got your squad. There’s a reliable bunch that you know are behind you and willing to help. They pull the best strings, bake the best cookies, or write the biggest checks. Whatever it is, they’ve got your back, and you love them for it.


Obviously, keep on engaging with those golden volunteers. Retention is an amazing strength and you want to keep communication and relationships strong. That said, keep recruiting! Don’t be that coordinator so focused on what’s in front of you that you forget what’s ahead. New volunteers may take work to recruit, but they will keep your volunteer base going strong.


To persuade you even further, we’ve rounded up our top four reasons to recruit new volunteers:


New energy and ideas!
Maybe you’ve got a system and it’s good, but you never know what kind of new and exciting ideas new volunteers may bring. They are coming in with fresh eyes, so they may be able to identify your weak spots and how to tackle them. Or maybe they’ll find ways to build on your strengths as a team. The last thing you want is a group that’s stagnant and unengaged. The energy and excitement from new volunteers can reinvigorate your current team, meaning everyone benefits.


Expand your organization’s reach.
When you get new volunteers, you impact them with the mission of your organization. You get their time and energy, which means they will be sharing their passion and involvement in their social circles. Maybe that means more people volunteering down the line, but first it means raising an awareness about your organization and the important work that you do.


Raise up leaders.
When you introduce new volunteers, this creates a natural opportunity to create leadership roles for some of your current volunteers. Whether that’s providing a new role for someone on your core team or inviting a volunteer to step up to a more significant role, this promotes everyone. These leadership roles instill a greater sense of purpose and importance among the people involved, which can often mean a better possibility of retention and personal ownership when it comes to volunteering. Maybe it boosts their resume or maybe it helps them grow their own skill sets, but they benefit with the new role, and you benefit by delegating some of the training or organization to your volunteer leaders.


Protect the team.
Let’s face it, there’s always a chance that some of your volunteers will bow out. They might move away, have new time-consuming responsibilities, get sick, or simply get burned out and need some time away. When you continue to invest time in recruiting new volunteers, you won’t be so stressed when someone has to step away. It’s important to be aware of where your current volunteers are and how to support them. Sometimes supporting your team means saying goodbye while they spend their time elsewhere. Having a growing volunteer base makes it easier on you and them when that happens.


So, now that you know why you should keep recruiting, wondering how? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Check out our post on Creative Volunteer Recruitment Methods and 5 Ways to Recruit Race Volunteers.




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Prepping for the Worst – Anything Can Happen

Whether you are planning an entire event yourself or you’re the volunteer coordinator within a group of planners, at the end of the day, something still might go wrong. It may be out of your control – an unexpected change in the weather or human error – but you’d best be prepared for anything.


There are many common pitfalls volunteer coordinators try to avoid when planning an event. Problems can come up due to gaps in communication or unmet expectations. Making assumptions is never good (come on, we’ve all heard the saying about when you “ass-u-me”) and then there’s whatever is falling from the sky, literally.


Here are the top ways to prepare for the worst as a volunteer coordinator:


Communicate effectively

Maybe you send emails or texts or meet with your volunteers regularly. Whatever form your communication may come in, there’s always a chance it could get misunderstood. The biggest thing to remember when it comes to communication is that there are two sides to it and you need to both share and listen. Ask volunteers if there’s something they need from you or if there is a message that is unclear. Connect with volunteers so they know the line of communication is open. When some sort of dispute comes up, listen to the feedback of people to get a read on the situation. Sometimes people just need to be heard. So, listen, share, and reset as much as possible.  


Have a back-up plan in mind

Especially when it comes to outdoor events, everyone wants a day of perfect weather. Sometimes that happens and sometimes it just doesn’t. No one can control the weather, but you can rent a tent. The point is, know what your back-up plan is in case something doesn’t go quite as planned. Perhaps that means calling a rental company for a quote or even making a reservation beforehand. Make a list of people to call “just in case” that is easily accessible on the day of the event.


Redefine success

Think about that epic everything-went-perfectly event and what that looks like. It’s great to aim high! But then, also create your bottom line of what success looks like. For instance, I will host an event on this day and engage with volunteers. Or, We will raise awareness as an organization, even if that means 10 new people attend.  If all else fails, know what your key mission is for the event and count the success as it happens. Some years are building years–they may not meet the high standards you hope for, but they allow you to build up to that for the next time around. Of course, it is important to debrief and assess for areas needing improvement, but make sure to also acknowledge and celebrate the wins that do happen.



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Building a Core Group of Volunteers

When the world needs a hero–that hero needs a team.

No matter how powerful, smart, or rich a superhero is, they always need a little help. Whether it’s from someone they depend on (hello, Alfred), a team of other superheroes (Thor may be mighty, but he’s even better with Stark and Captain America) or someone who swoops in to save the day at the last second (Eleven, what would Hawkins do without you?), these superheroes can’t succeed alone. Before we get too nerdy, the point is–you need a strong team who has your back. In the case of a
(super) volunteer coordinator, we’re talking about
your core group of volunteers.


Build your dream team

Maybe you’ve got a few people who’ve been there through it all with you, or maybe you feel a hole where a team of committed volunteers should be. Start by assessing the volunteers you have now. Ask yourself and your volunteers how you can better support them and lead them toward more significant roles in the organization. Invite volunteers to tackle problems you are facing and trust them with the tasks you give them. Identify the strengths and weaknesses of your team to better leverage your strengths and seek solutions for your weaknesses. Then, start recruiting new volunteers. Some of these new volunteers may start with simple tasks, but others may be ready for a meaningful role right away.


Include some of your current volunteers in this process of building the dream team. If you want to have a strong core volunteer team, you have to start working as a team now instead of continuing to go at it alone.


Show them the love

Start by saying the magic words: “thank you!” It sounds so simple, but somehow still gets overlooked. Say thanks with sincerity and get specific about what you are thanking them for. Say thank you verbally, in a handwritten note, or even publically if the opportunity presents itself. Maybe throw an appreciation party for core volunteers. Everyone has different motivations for volunteering, be it to support something they are passionate about or simply to get a free t-shirt. Try to understand what motivates your volunteers, especially your core team, and encourage them in a way that matches their personal goals. For instance, if they are looking for career growth opportunities or ways to network, make sure to connect them with the right people.


While you obviously want to roll out the red carpet for your core team, you are also the volunteer coordinator over all of the volunteers. Be tactful about how and when you say thanks to your core volunteers and continue to include all volunteers when you thank people for a job well done. Make gratitude and appreciation a part of your culture and ask your core volunteers to pass that appreciation down to the people who report to them as well.


What’s in it for them?

Why should you “promote” volunteers to the core team? And why should they even want to join this dream team? When people are committed to a cause, they like knowing their effort will make an impact. So if they are spending their time volunteering, they probably want to get the highest ROI for both you and them. When they take on more responsibility, that often means more ownership. It means doing higher level tasks and having a voice in the decisions and direction of the event or organization. Ultimately, volunteers may get more fulfillment out of the experience. And in return, you get a stronger volunteer base with a higher likelihood of retention.


Now that you’ve got your team, all that’s left is putting on your cape.



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