One question people who produce events asks at some point is “how are we going to get all of this work done?” And the magic answer is volunteers! You should harness the resources and energy of others to help you accomplish what can seem impossible. This may seem overwhelming, but utilizing and managing volunteers does not have to be complicated! Here are some vital steps to help you manage and utilize your volunteers.
Form the plan
Your first step will be to document the areas and roles where you need help. Give each a level of priority like must have (high priority), should have (medium priority), and would like to have (lowest priority). Outline the roles, responsibilities, and hours you will need for each role for each day of the event. You may want to break down long daily needs into two or three shifts. Once you have all of these items listed, it’s time to create a volunteer application form to gather their information. Check out our post on 9 Details to Capture in a Volunteer Application to make sure you’re including everything you need.
PROTIP: Consider overlapping start and end times of the shifts by 15-30 minutes. This allows the current volunteer to train the replacement and also helps if the replacement is delayed.
Correspondence is key
You MUST have good communication with your volunteers. For starters, you will want to send an initial email thanking them for applying, what the status is of their application, and if they are approved, the proposed schedule, role, and other important information they will need. Give them any relevant information to make them aware of what they will be expected to do and make sure you request a reply from the volunteer to confirm they are available for the assigned shifts. If there is no response, make sure you send a follow-up. Emails sometimes get sent to junk mail and can get lost in the inbox sometimes.
After sending the follow-up, if there is still no response, we recommend sending one last email. Let the volunteer know that if you don’t hear back from them, you’ll need to remove them from the schedule. This is a must so you can work on filling that spot with someone else. If they end up responding later, definitely see if you can still utilize them.
Send reminder emails out to all volunteers a few days prior to the event and include any updates to the roles, times, needs, or information previously provided.
PROTIP: If you have had volunteers confirm months in advance to the event, might be helpful to send a reminder one month out from the event just to touch base and make sure they are still good with their schedule. This would allow you ample time to make adjustments if needed!
Be flexible but be prepared
As we all know…things happen! Sometimes volunteers get sick, no-show, run late due to traffic, or forget something which can cause some added stress. Build a way into your plan to roll with those unexpected punches. It’s good to know where you have some less vital roles you could move a volunteer from to cover another area if needed. Or know which onsite staff may be able to step in to help out until a volunteer shows.
There will be times you don’t have enough volunteers and times you have too many volunteers. Be aware of the flow and utilize your volunteers throughout the entire event or end their shift early and allow them additional time to network.
PROTIP: Treat your volunteers right. Be good to them and they will be good to you and continue to offer their services in the future!
There are many ways to manage your volunteers. Above are some suggestions that have been extremely valuable to us. We have accomplished great things through utilizing and managing volunteers for our events!
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