Whether we plan corporate, association, nonprofit or community event programs, our greatest asset is our “volunteer team.” Volunteers are the life-source of our programs. They are frequently the “face” or “image” of our gatherings.
Volunteers and their collective hours of service save the meetings and hospitality industries many millions of dollars annually. Imagine if we had to budget for their time, workers comp, and benefits. We CANNOT begin to thank and recognize their collective contributions to our many event activities.
Give Me a V. Give Me an O. Give Me an L…
As we build our overall strategic, marketing and logistics plan for our events, here are 10 proven organizational tips to help manage our volunteer programs:
- Gather Volunteer data on a volunteer interest form. Just as you hire a new employee, treat this engagement with great similarity. Create a volunteer data base. Invite interested volunteers to complete a registration form. Gather not only their basic information but just as important, if not more so, their “areas of interest and talents.” Some volunteers work best in the “public eye.” Others are best “behind the scenes.” You want to make sure you “match” your volunteer with a suitable position of responsibility. Nothing can be more discouraging to a loyal volunteer than to assign them a task that is “not a good fit.” Respect them: Assign a responsibility that is both enjoyable and challenging.
- Volunteer Job Descriptions — before you solicit volunteers to support your event program, write a “job description” for each volunteer post. These job descriptions should clearly lay out EXACTLY what they will be doing AND what is expected of them. The job description should be REVIEWED with the volunteer. This will insure that their involvement with your organization will run all the smoother. Like any paid or volunteer position, change happens. Think of the document as a “working document” one that can be revised and updated on a frequent basis. Invite your volunteers to provide feedback. After all, they will know best what works and what does not.
- Calendar and schedule the volunteer assignment as soon a possible. Respect the calendar of your volunteers. They are respected and busy professionals too. Try to give as much advance notice as possible. They will respect you for the notice and appreciate your organization!
- Communicate. Volunteers like to be communicated with, involved and made to feel a part of the organization. Add them to your electronic newsletter distribution list. Share event updates, keep them involved and interested. Your volunteers are saving you $. They deserve respect and the courtesy of understanding how the event is progressing along.
- Spotlight your Volunteers — in your newsletter and written communications. Take the time to SPOTLIGHT VOLUNTEERS. You may have a volunteer or two who has been with your organization for years. Spotlight them! You may have volunteers who have done some extraordinary service — spotlight them!! You will be respected and admired for treating your volunteer team with such great care and admiration.
- Uniformed Look. Do you want your volunteers to look like a cohesive team? If so, encourage a themed attire look. Make their attire an easy choice — either tell them what to wear (“colors and theme”) or provide attire with your logo and branding. If they are volunteering multiple days, you may need to provide several sets of volunteer attire. Our guests and audience appreciate knowing who our volunteers and staff are. Make this easy and have a “dress code.” It’s best for everyone involved.
- Give Meaningful Responsibilities. Volunteers are intelligent people. They are educated and experienced in the work world. Reward them with meaningful responsibilities. Consult with your planning team and seek activities that could be handled by competent volunteers. Bright professionals do not want to do meaningless functions. Give them responsibilities where their intelligence and experience can be best utilized.
- Recognition. We honor donors. We honor top sales professionals. We honor employees with years of service up on the event stage. PLEASE consider honoring some of your top volunteers. Bring those extra-special volunteers up to the stage and recognize them for their years of service, for their hard work, for their dedication. The entire volunteer team will be thrilled and they will ALL share in the celebration.
- Debrief and Evaluation. Include your volunteers in the debriefing of the event gathering. Send them the program evaluation and ask for their thoughts and comments. Remember, guests and attendees will frequently share with your volunteers what they really thought about the event. Your volunteers truly are the “eyes and ears” of your event gathering.
- Say THANK YOU. When you see your volunteers, say THANK YOU. Nothing makes a volunteer feel more appreciated than these simple and sincere words, “THANK YOU.” They will remember you and want to come back for more when they are appreciated.