Volunteers are the heart and soul of any community event.
That is the difference between community events and other types of events; the point isn’t to generate a profit or advertise a product, the point is to get the community together and have a good time. Hired staff may be more reliable but volunteers provide energy to the event. In fact, Getting, managing, and rewarding volunteers is an art.
They are themselves a part of the community which makes their presence better for the whole event. Getting, managing, and rewarding volunteers, however, is not an easy task. Some people just get paid staff to work community events because they don’t know how to get volunteers. If you’re in a similar situation, let us help you out by telling you how you can get the volunteers you need.
How is one supposed to recruit volunteers? Why would people want to work for free for the event? These two questions are the ones people who are new to organizing events have the most difficult time answering. Here’s the thing; not everybody likes to avoid work. There are people out there who love giving back to the community and who also like the chance to make new friends by entering new groups. Do not fret about not having enough people to do all the work that is required. As long as you keep your approach right, you should be able to recruit great people in no time. Here are some recruitment tips
Start with people who have volunteered before
This is the most obvious step. Simply look at the past events of the community and see who volunteered. Contact the people and let them know about your event and ask for their help. Since these people have already volunteered previously, you can be sure that they like to do volunteer work. Another great advantage of experienced volunteers is that they know a lot about the group dynamics of the community. They can warn you about any recurring issues at the community’s event or about people who often create problems.
See who is available in your network
This is where family and friends are going to help you out a lot. We hope you’ve been keeping them happy! The first thing you need to understand is that you should never try to pressure someone into helping you out. Your friends and family will come if you force them to, but you really won’t need to. Simply see who has the time to give in your family or friends circle. Anyone who you know has too many responsibilities or is under stress shouldn’t even be asked. Contact the people you know who have the time to give to you. Also, if someone says no, do not take it personally. Everyone has their own life to worry about and they may have a perfectly valid reason to say no.
Ask the community leaders
A great way to get volunteers who are reliable is to ask the board of directors or team leaders to help out. They can send their kids or siblings and you can be sure that whoever is sent by them will work hard.
Getting, managing, and rewarding volunteers with Social Media
Your community probably has a social media page or group. Post updates about the event and judge the interest. If there are people who like your posts then they are great potential volunteers. You can also simply make posts on social media and ask people to tag their friends who may be able to volunteer.
Newsletters / Publications
If your community has a newsletter or any publication then it will be the perfect place to put in a volunteers required notice. These newsletters and publications are read by people who really like participating in the community which means they will be opening to volunteer.
Once you have your volunteers the next step is to have them work properly. Do you have professional experience at a management level? If you do then you will have more problems than people who do not. We have seen this happen many times when we are at an event to install the rock wall in the fun area; we see someone middle-aged or older completely exasperated and young volunteers completely uncooperative.
Here is something you need to remember: These are volunteers. They aren’t doing a job. Do not put pressure on them to make them perform, because then they will either leave or have no motivation to work. You have to keep them happy while at the same time ensuring that they do their jobs. It might seem hard but it isn’t. Remember, these are volunteers, people who themselves chose to work for the sake of the event. They aren’t on a job where they show up just for money, they are here because they actually want to work.
Host a Welcome Party
You need to turn the random people who volunteered into a team. The best way to do this is to host a welcome party where you get everyone together. At this party you will have two objectives. One is to find out what everyone is good at. If someone is good at dealing with technology they can handle Audio/Video. If someone is good at social media then you have your social media marketer.
If someone knows a lot of suppliers you know have a procurement expert. Play to everyone’s advantage to maximize the benefit as a whole. The other thing is that you have to figure out the team dynamic. Will everyone be doing their own part individually or are sub-teams needed within the team?
We cannot stress how important this step is. Poorly defined roles always lead to disaster. When you have poorly defined roles there are two possibilities; people will leave some work because they wouldn’t know it was their responsibility, or people will have fights and arguments because they will feel other people are entering their domain. If you define the roles properly everyone will know what they are responsible for. There are also no arguments about ego because everyone knows the limits of their authority.
This group of volunteers can make or break your event. If you want to ensure that everything goes smoothly you need to ensure that they are motivated. Make sure you are friendly and nice to all the volunteers and make sure you listen to them. You may be the organizer but that doesn’t mean that great ideas cannot come from others! Even if you do what you want to do, just listening properly to other’s ideas will make them feel good. Let the volunteers know that you know how important they are.
This is something which a lot of organizers skip. Do not, in any case, forget to properly reward the volunteers. Do not let them feel like they were on the receiving end of a one-event-stand! These people gave their time and hard work to you and they deserve recognition. If you reward them right they will also be willing to help you with other events in the future.
Thank them on stage
If your event has a stage then you need to thank the volunteers while closing the event. If there are too many volunteers you can just thank them, but if there are only a few then you should take their names as well.
Give them some official event loot like t-shirts, pens, or some other gifts. Something that reminds them of the hard work they did to make the event a success.
Publish their names
Make sure you mention the name of all the volunteers on the website or social media page of the event.
Introduce them to the VIP
If you have a VIP (for instance a local celebrity or someone in a position of authority like the Mayor) then make sure the volunteers get to meet and greet.
End it with a celebration
You know what is the best way to celebrate going though all the stress and pressure but still succeeding? A party! We don’t mean you need to get a keg and go crazy; just make sure you guys meet somewhere to eat and drink together and have some fun. This goes a long way in building a team which can be useful again and again. ‘All’s well that ends well’ isn’t just a phrase; we tend to remember things based on how they ended.
Doing it Right
As long as you motivate the volunteers the right way, you will have no problem getting everything done. People who volunteer are people who are proactive and who want to benefit the community. Let the volunteers have fun but keep motivating them to work. Let them know their importance to the event. Remember, you are the leader of this team of volunteers. It is your responsibility to keep your team happy and productive. Sometimes that means telling them to focus on work while other times it means telling them to relax and take a break.