Volunteers… we can’t run events without them!
Not only are volunteers required to fill crucial roles during the event as part of the operational team, it’s absolutely true that without their passion and enthusiasm, the event experience for the participants and spectators would not be the same.
The bigger the event, the larger the number of volunteers required to play a key role in making the event a success. Over the years I have learned that there is a certain skill-set and expertise required to successfully populate a spreadsheet with volunteer names. However, populating a spreadsheet is one challenge, having all the volunteers attend is another.
A quick Google search makes it obvious that there is a great demand for volunteers across a wide variety of industries. The challenge as an event organiser, is to ensure that your volunteer call out stands out amongst the other opportunities available. Even though I find it hard to believe that there is a one size fits all solution to volunteer recruitment, my experience has taught me that a targeted communications strategy and ongoing engagement are the key factors to success.
Having worked on a variety of events over the years, often as a volunteer myself, I have come to realise that each event appeals to a certain type of volunteer. A fundraising event often attracts volunteers who have a connection to the cause, whilst a cycling event may attract keen cyclists and/or cycling fans, as it offers them the opportunity to take a look behind the scenes and rub shoulders with the riders. Others however, may choose to volunteer to give back to their community or to experience what it is like to work on a major event. For an event like the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, it is often a combination of all of this. Being able to ‘profile’ your particular ‘core volunteer’ at the start of the recruitment campaign ensures your communications strategy is targeted and set up for success.
Seeing the number of volunteer registrations increase week after week may make you believe that you are on a winning streak, but… be wary! The number of names filled out in a spreadsheet do not automatically equal the number of volunteers who will show up on event day. This is where the real challenge lies. Ongoing engagement from the moment a volunteer signs up until event day is essential. This can be achieved by sending out regular event updates, timely details and instructions on what is expected from them on event day, or a friendly reminder via text message the day prior to the event.
Equally as important as the engagement prior to the event is, taking the time to thank the volunteers for their efforts post-event and invite them to provide feedback. Year on year at our events, we make small changes to our volunteer management process, in order to optimise the experience. And it is based on that all important feedback, from volunteers and from our staff.
Having been a volunteer regularly myself, has taught me to always ‘walk in their shoes’ and treat them the way I would want to be treated. After all, for me personally, nothing makes me happier than seeing familiar faces return year after year as only that is proof of a successful volunteer recruitment campaign!
By Anna Vandierendonck : Senior Manager of Workforce for Sport Projects