Managing Volunteers: 5 Strategies for Event Planners

Partner Post, 18 August

By Addison Waters

Whether your organisation is a nonprofit, corporation, museum, or theater, you may turn to volunteers from time to time to help run your events. Depending on your event type, you may have volunteers manning the check-in booth, handing out refreshments, acting as a resource to answer attendee questions, or conducting any number of other tasks. 

Managing event volunteers isn’t drastically different from managing other types of volunteers. Both processes require careful planning and the help of volunteer management tools. 

However, there are a few event-specific tips to keep in mind to make your events as successful as possible and to empower volunteers to perform their duties to the fullest.

Whether you’re hosting a in-person, hybrid or virtual event be sure to: 

  • Take a strategic recruitment approach.
  • Set clear expectations.
  • Empower volunteers to promote your cause.
  • Encourage volunteers to maximise their support.
  • Stay organised with volunteer software tools.

As Get Connected by Galaxy Digital’s volunteer management guide explains, proper volunteer management is a great way to build long-term relationships with supporters. This can provide your organisation with reliable support for future events. Let’s dive in!

1. Take a strategic recruitment approach.

The volunteer management process starts well before the event itself. To have a successful event, you need to bring on the most effective group of volunteers you can find. 

 Whether you’re hosting a nonprofit event, fundraiser or community-led activity, proper volunteer recruitment techniques can help you get in touch with your ideal volunteer audience. 

Connect with engaged supporters or enthusiastic community members using the following recruitment tips:

Identify your volunteer recruitment audience

Will your event benefit most from a broad group of volunteers or a more specific collection of skilled volunteers? 

For instance, if you’re hosting a large-scale event like a festival or walk-a-thon, you may need many volunteers who can scan tickets  and  check-in participants. On the other hand, you might be hosting a smaller-scale event that requires the help of more skilled volunteers, such as those with childcare experience or language skills. 

Determine your event’s ideal volunteer audience so that you can start developing your outreach plan.

Create your call to action

You’ll need to market your volunteer opportunities to inform community members about the upcoming event and motivate them to get involved.

When drafting your promotional messages, keep the following in mind:

  • What skill level am I hoping to draw? If you’re conducting broad recruitment, you might use phrases such as “Volunteers Wanted - No Experience Necessary!” However, if you’re looking for volunteers with specific skills, you’ll want to list those skills in your volunteer recruitment messages.
  • Have I correctly explained the need? Prospective volunteers want to know what they’re agreeing to before signing up for your opportunity. Ensure your recruitment message accurately reflects the expected responsibilities and time commitment.

Clearly defining your answers to these questions allows you to draft a volunteer recruitment message that accurately describes your upcoming event and how the volunteers will participate. This gives volunteers a clear picture of what you’re looking for and how they can help.

Post your message strategically

Once you’re happy with your recruitment message, be sure to strategically send your communications to get the best response. You should send the message to:

  1. Past volunteers: These supporters have bolstered your organisation in the past and are more likely to do so again.
  2. Donors: Your organisation’s donors have a proven affinity for your cause and will be more receptive to your volunteer recruitment efforts.
  3. Community members: Just because someone hasn’t yet engaged with your organisation doesn’t mean they never will! If you’re conducting broad recruitment, send your message out to the community at large to cast a wide net and bring more new supporters on board.

Share your message on your social media platforms, include it in your email newsletters, and post it on your event website. For more targeted outreach, you can also post your recruitment message to job sites like LinkedIn or volunteer recruitment sites like VolunteerMatch. 

Implementing these volunteer recruitment strategies will enable you to gather an effective and passionate group that's suited to your event's needs.

2. Set clear expectations.

No one wants to go into a volunteer opportunity with absolutely no idea about what they’ll be doing or what’s expected of them. Setting clear expectations for event volunteers upfront can assuage any concerns and ensure volunteers are ready to take on their roles once the event begins.

Equip volunteers with the tools, resources, and training they need to be successful before the event.

  • Setting clear expectations for what event volunteers will be working on and what their work is meant to accomplish. You can set expectations using your volunteer recruitment messages as well as the confirmation email you send after volunteers sign up.
  • Providing adequate training before the opportunity begins so volunteers know what to expect and how to approach the work successfully. Depending on the event type, training might include a walk-through video volunteers can watch before they arrive or an on-site instruction session.
  • Supervising volunteers throughout the experience and answering any questions. Make sure volunteers know who to get in touch with if they have questions or concerns throughout the event. You might also offer volunteers a number they can text or call to get their questions answered.

Setting expectations and supporting volunteers throughout your event can lead to several positive benefits for your organisation. Volunteers will not only feel more comfortable volunteering at your event, but they’ll also feel more inclined to volunteer again because of the positive experience they had. They might even invite their family or friends to volunteer with them next time, thus growing your volunteer audience through word-of-mouth.

3. Empower volunteers to promote your cause. 

Your event volunteers are your on-the-ground helpers who have firsthand experience with supporting your organisation. This puts them in an ideal position to effectively advocate for your organisation to a wider audience. 

When you empower volunteers to become more deeply involved in your organisation, you’ll not only increase support for your mission but also empower volunteers to become champions for your cause. This can lead to greater personal fulfilment for volunteers and stronger ties between your organisation and its most engaged supporters.

Encourage volunteers to take their involvement to the next level with the following tips: 

  • Before the event kicks off, encourage volunteers to share the event website with their networks of family and friends. This can spread awareness of both your event and your organisation as a whole.
  • During your volunteer training sessions, give volunteers background information on your organisation and its mission. Encourage them to share this information with event attendees or point attendees to additional resources to learn more.
  • Encourage volunteers to become peer-to-peer fundraisers or donors. If your organisation is a nonprofit or community organisation such as a museum or theatre, your volunteers are a natural audience to also promote your organisation’s donation opportunities. During your next fundraising campaign, turn to your volunteer audience to request donations or ask for peer-to-peer fundraising support.

Your volunteers will appreciate the care and attention your organisation takes to involve them more deeply in your mission. By taking the time to foster volunteer relationships, you’ll build an audience that’s much more receptive to your requests for assistance in the future.

4. Encourage volunteers to maximise their support. 

You can take the previous strategy a step further by connecting volunteers with opportunities to maximise their support for your organisation. 

Volunteers can provide even more support and monetary assistance for your organisation through programs such as volunteer grants. In volunteer grant programs, businesses donate to charitable organisations after their employees have volunteered a specific number of hours with those organisations. 

The process looks like this:

  • One of your volunteers works for a company that offers a $100 donation for every five hours that employees spend volunteering. 
  • After volunteering at your event for five hours, the volunteer fills out a form requesting a grant. 
  • Their company reviews the request and approves it.
  • The company sends your organisation the $100 donation. 

These programs can provide much-needed funding support for philanthropic causes, but they’re often overlooked due to lack of awareness. You can increase awareness of these programs by sharing information about them during your volunteer orientation and encouraging supporters to research their eligibility for volunteer grants.

5. Stay organised with volunteer software tools.  

At a certain point, using spreadsheets or documents to manage event volunteers won’t cut it any longer. As your organisation’s events grow in scale, you’ll need a dedicated management system to stay organised. 

To manage volunteers effectively, we recommend using a combination of volunteer and event management tools such as:

  • Volunteer management systems: Volunteer management software solutions allow volunteer coordinators to track volunteer involvement, send automated reminders, access volunteer profiles to create a personalised experience, and pursue recruitment and promotion efforts that keep volunteers engaged long-term. These solutions are a one-stop-shop for managers to keep track of volunteer information and communications, which can ultimately increase volunteer participation. 
  • Event management software: Along with a strong volunteer management program, you’ll also want to ensure that the events you host are as effective and engaging as possible for both volunteers and attendees. Search for an event management platform that makes it easy to sell tickets, collect donations, gain donor insight, and assess fundraising progress. This allows you to provide a streamlined, efficient process for participants while collecting information that can help you craft better events or donation appeals in the future.

With these software solutions, you ensure that your events are poised to run smoothly. Plus, if your organisation is a nonprofit or other fundraising organisation, you’ll have a streamlined way to gather donations and add donor information to your database.

These strategies allow you to optimize every aspect of the event volunteer management process, from recruiting the right people to retaining crucial volunteer support for the long run. Remember, robust volunteer and event management tools can help position your organisation for better event success. Look into your options to find solutions that align with your organisation’s needs and priorities. 

Addison Waters - About Author

Addison Waters is a Content Writer at Galaxy Digital, a volunteer management software for managing, tracking, and engaging volunteerism. Addison holds a Master of Creative Writing from Durham University. Say hi on LinkedIn!

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