Retaining volunteers is one of the most important aspects of executing a successful event year after year. It is the dedication of returning volunteers that helps us pave the way to our end result of happy participants.  Here are few ways to help communicate and engage with volunteers in order to bridge the gap between registration and event.

  • Clearly communicate expectations. Outline when volunteers should expect to receive information and the time frame. This will help volunteers feel informed and comfortable with their responsibilities, while fostering excitement and enthusiasm for their work for the event. Communicating these expectations early during the registration process sends an unspoken message that you understand that their time is precious.
  • Send a tangible thank you. With limited budgets and resources, a thank you goes a long way. While t-shirts and event mementos are nice, often a thank you note outlining how they helped the event and the cause will be appreciated as much as the swag.  Make sure to be specific about the task that was completed.  

For example, “Because of your help with our Volunteer Traffic team over 20,000 people were able to attend closing ceremonies”.

“Because of your contributions, 1,500 participants received their victory t-shirts and a symbol of what they accomplished”. 

“For this year’s event our wonderful volunteers gave over 700 hours of time, saving valuable funds to be put towards helping our cause.”

  • Connect with your volunteers. Greeting someone by name will help him/her feel a part of the larger picture but ensure he/she is not an unknown in that larger picture. Acknowledge that each individual’s talents are important to you and to the execution of the event.  Name tags and personal introductions will remind volunteers that they are a vital part of the event. When possible, take a moment to pause and talk with the volunteers, not only thanking them personally for their assistance but also listening to what they have to say (their stories and feedback).  
  • Solicit feedback. Hand in hand with connecting with your volunteers is gathering their feedback.  Throughout the event speak with your volunteers and gather their feedback.  Volunteers are often on the front lines of the event and they see things that we do not. Since it is impossible as one volunteer staff member to speak with all volunteers over the course of the event, solicit their feedback afterwards through a survey or request that they reach out to you.

Retaining volunteers is not an easy process.  In today’s world there are many different demands on their time and just as many volunteer options.  Use the tools above to help you begin the process but more importantly remember that these people are giving of their time and treat them kindly.  Treat them as you would want to be treated and they will remember your event fondly and want to come back.

Libby brings more than 7 years of event experience to Event 360.  In her current role, she recruits and mobilizes volunteers for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day®, a sixty mile walk in support of a world free of breast cancer.  In her role as a Crew and Volunteer Coordinator, she has seen firsthand the impact and dedication that volunteers make to an event. In her free time you can find her volunteering at her kid’s elementary school and the city food bank.

With a passion for working with volunteers, Val Jones has found her home with the Event 360 family, which gives her ample opportunity to work on her life motto of changing lives for the better, one person at a time.  She spent several years traveling and working as the On-Event Crew & Volunteer Coordinator for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day® series before transitioning to the Crew & Volunteer Coordinator for the Dallas/Fort Worth event.  In her spare time Val can be found working with the volunteer ushers at the local performing arts complex or curled up with a good book and her two cats, Fidget and Sam.

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