By Robin Shapiro
While we’d all love to have ample staff to fill every event need, that is often easier said than done. When logistics and finances limit the number of paid staff members you can bring to your event, filling the gap with volunteers is a magical solution. Here are a few tips to make this happen.
-First off, I am going to share a tiny little secret. Some of your volunteers may actually know more about your event than you do. Yes. It is true! We have worked with volunteers who have been on-event with us year after year doing the same jobs. They have the experience and knowledge to own their position. If you had staff over-seeing their area, strike that from your staffing model. Empower your volunteers and feel confident in their ownership.
-Evaluate your volunteer pool to determine the resources and skills available. Which volunteers are looking for more responsibilities? What are their skill sets? Rather than finding the volunteer to fit the job, find the jobs to fit the volunteers.
-Ask for feedback! Connect with your key volunteers and ask them what positions or roles are needed to produce a successful event. They may be able to share insight on ways to re-distribute your staff and volunteers and reduce the needs.
-Promote your key volunteers to senior leadership positions. Consider giving these leaders the opportunity to wear a staff shift. By adding that sprinkle of glitter you will help your leaders shine and feel confident to embrace their new opportunities.
-Train, train, train. Make sure to give your volunteers the knowledge and skills they will need to be successful by training them the same way you train your staff. Invite them to pre-event staff meetings and site visits.
-Compensate them. Not financially, of course. That defeats the purpose. Reimburse their travel expenses and meal costs, like you do for your staff. Invite them to partake in the treats in the staff breakroom or invite them to attend the post-event staff party. Find ways to show them that you recognize their contribution and find it valuable.
-Shower your volunteers with love. It is important to remind your volunteers of their value to your organization and emphasize the ultimate impact of their contribution. We promise, if your volunteers feel appreciated and loved, they will come back event after event, year after year.
Whether they step up to “staff’ roles or not, shower your volunteers with love. It is important to remind them of their importance to your organization and emphasize the ultimate impact of their contribution. We promise, if your volunteers feel appreciated and loved, they will come back event after event, year after year and will step up to more responsibility.
As Manager of Volunteer Operations for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day®, Robin gets to combine her love of volunteerism and leadership development with endurance events. She currently volunteers with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Girls on the Run, and the American Youth Literacy Foundation.