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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Marketing Yourself, Your Organization, and Your Event

As a volunteer coordinator, you’re asking people to give their time for free. It’s not only important to show how cool your event is, but the ways in which your organization is making an impact on the local community. It’s also easy to forget about marketing yourself – how can you show volunteers that you’re a fair leader, who recognizes and rewards hard work?


In order to understand these questions, it’s important to understand the nature of your relationship to the public. As such it is vital that you regard your volunteers as ambassadors of the public. I say this rather than to the public because this point of view maintains the understanding that they are not just working for you. They volunteer because they want to give service to their community through which you are the vehicle. Their good graces are extended through you.


So, let’s say it again: Volunteers are Ambassadors of the Public


Often times, they are the back AND foreground, accomplishing tasks and interfacing with the public at-large whether they are flagging people into parking spots or managing the main stage. Make your volunteers the face of your marketing efforts. Show the enthusiastic personas and helpful demeanors which they possess. Get the public excited about the people they will meet. Do they have any special talents? Creative acumen? How have they added to the flare and flavor of experience? 


These questions can be engaged from all angles and is up to your marketing team (are they volunteers?) how you want to convey the positive manifolds of your endeavors. Also, try to decide what the best platform is for your community offering(s). Spend time researching similar Organizations or Events to see what they are doing and how they are representing themselves and then decide how you are unique in what you do. 


This added recognition is a very public display of positive reinforcement to your volunteers. In our techno-driven collective conscious, this is equivalent to going to the rooftops—nay, the mountain tops and singing their praises.


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5 Tips for Better Communication with Volunteers

Volunteers are the life-blood to all community-based activity. So, how do you retain the best and the brightest volunteers to ensure your event is successful? Here are some tips:


Set Expectations

A job well done is a job well explained. This means communicating to your volunteers before the event so they can grasp the scope of their tasks within the larger organism of the volunteer body. Sometimes this is a group orientation (which is a great opportunity for team-building!), or a one-on-one training. Help them get set up so they understand the materials they are working with. Give them a point person who can answer their questions as they arise.  


Communicate with Volunteers

Perhaps this means you have a file sharing system for volunteers that houses crucial information like contact lists, itineraries, directions etc. Timely or regular reminders should be a rule of thumb. There are also modes of communication (like walkie talkies) where volunteers and coordinators can communicate without cellular interference. Any changes made to the routine of the event should be directly communicated to the effected volunteers.


Show Appreciation

Let’s start by saying that good communication is the best way to show appreciation. When a volunteer can clearly identify their task and collaborate effectively with their counterparts to carry out their time successfully, it creates a sense of self-accomplishment and teamwork. Keep a volunteer station where volunteers can take breaks if necessary and remind them to take care of themselves. A heartfelt, ‘Thank you for being awesome, and doing x, y, and z,” shows your volunteers that they’re not just a cog in the wheel, that you notice them and their dedication to deepening their relationship with their community. 


Ask for Feedback 

In many ways, volunteers are the sense-perception of the event. They see and hear much of what is going on. As you on the ground team, they have a highly involved sense of how things are going and what improvements can be made to make the job more efficient and effective. This is something that can potentially save valuable resources for future occasions. And you never know, they may just have that connection you’ve been hoping for.


Follow up

Never underestimate the power of a thank you note. To go the extra mile, host a post-party-wrap-up-session, or give each volunteer a memento. Whatever you do, use it as an opportunity to expand on the individual and collective strengths of all.

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How to Source Volunteers from the Community You Serve

An event is on the horizon and you know you will need a large group of volunteers. Where will they come from? If you’re serving a particular community, you should aim to recruit volunteers who represent that community. But how to recruit those volunteers? Before creating your team, it’s helpful to get a sense of the community. Will it be youth oriented? Does this make it a family event? Is the event for the arts? Awareness? Once these questions have been asked, it’s likely that there are already existing communities from which to suss out dedicated candidates because they will already share many of the same values.


Good places to start include local businesses, schools and other watering holes like studio spaces and community gardens. Often, companies will schedule a volunteer day for their employees as team-building through philanthropy. A student may be looking to fill a gap on their resume, or a club looking for a new activity. Contacting all such places helps bring a range of diversity while uniting people through a common mission.


Whatever the case may be, a good volunteer has a mix of a sense of their own mission and their experiences. Which is to say, that on some levels, the mission of the event and the mission of the individual must align. A good way of gauging how this might be is to look at your current volunteers. What keeps them coming back? What gives them a sense of teamwork? The most important thing to look for is someone who isn’t afraid to learn anything new, who grows from experiences.


It takes a village and the hope is to inspire volunteers and encourage community engagement. When people who live in the same area come together in a productive environment, it creates a stronger sense of the individual within the community. When these things become a community staple, it also becomes a legacy. And there is nothing more beautiful than trying to leave something for future generations.



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