Four Elements to Successfully Manage Volunteers

Posted on October 15, 2014

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Volunteers are always first to think of themselves last. In my time working events, I’ve found that if you take care of these special constituents, who are graciously donating their time, they’ll take care of your participants. It’s as simple as that. By treating your volunteers right, you’ll have a more dedicated and productive team that can accomplish just about anything you place in their path. Below I’ve outlined what I like to call the “Four Elements to Successfully Manage Volunteers”:

  • Ensure your volunteer projections and goals are correct. It’s important to balance enough tasks for the group assigned without overwhelming and overworking them. As a volunteer, it can also be frustrating to dedicate a day to an organization and not feel as if your time is appreciated and being used efficiently. Volunteering just to stand around (and wave your hands in the air like you just don’t care) isn’t helpful for either party. Defining that set of scales between work and manpower is one of the most important elements to successful volunteer management.
  • Provide water, snacks and/or a meal. This point goes back to volunteers being the first to think of themselves last. Watching out for your crew is crucial and straightforward, and making sure your volunteers are staying hydrated and safe is the most important thing you’ll do on-event as a volunteer manager. It’s worth the extra cost or time it might take to secure an in-kind donation. Plus, you don’t want to have a “hangry” individual on your hands!
  • Thank them and show appreciation. We all know that no matter the length of an event, it often feels like they are over in the blink of an eye.  Although staying focused on your deployment timeline with participants coming and going is complicated, it’s extremely important to take the time to look each volunteer in the eye (remove your sunglasses) and provide a genuine thank you. You can never say “thank you” enough and show how appreciative you and your organization are for their support. This is true for pre-event, on-event and post-event communication.  
  • Never forget the Golden Rule. We’ve all been taught the Golden Rule by a parent, teacher, friend, or even the hard way through experience: treat those around you the way you’d like to be treated. More so than ever, this is something to live by when it comes to interactions with volunteers. Volunteers are the heartbeat of any organization or event. These are the people who live and breathe your cause, so it’s important to treat them better than you’d expect to be treated. The Golden Rule as it applies to volunteers should never been overlooked.

While these four elements are fairly basic, they create a solid foundation for a successful volunteer program. By making sure you’re doing these four simple things, you’ll have repeat volunteers who will care more and work even harder when you have additional opportunities to work with them.

Kat Thomas found her niche at Event 360 in 2010. As the Programs & Participant Support Manager for MuckFest MS she spends most of her time working with volunteers and connecting with the community.  

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