9 Tips to recruit volunteers for your event
By Dan McCarthy, Event Manager at Mask
The staff at your event will play a major role in the success (or failure) of your activities. With the right team, your chances of success skyrocket!
In addition to the staff you’re hiring, no doubt you’re going to recruit volunteers to help you with the event. Many people look at volunteers as “extra”, but the truth is that good volunteers can turn your event into a roaring success. But how can you recruit them? That is often easier said than done.
1. Look Outside Schools
Most people tend to look at college students and alumni as the primary source of volunteers, but that’s not always the smart play. While students are usually willing to work for free (or very cheaply), they may lack the skills you need from your volunteers. They may be more into the work for experience rather than any commitment to your brand.
Instead, look for volunteers first from within your company. Then, try recruiting from your community. Work with local organizations whose mission lines up with the event you’re hosting. Find people from among your fans who are willing to help out. The more people want to be a part of your brand, the better they will be as volunteers.
2. Offer an Incentive
We all have a “what’s in it for me” mindset. If you want to make the volunteering process as easy as possible, offer people an incentive to participate.
Perhaps being able to attend the very exclusive event is enough of an incentive, or you may want to consider offering volunteer special discounts, prizes, or access to limited edition products in exchange for their time and labor. The incentive doesn’t have to cost you much, but it should be enough to motivate the right people into offering their time and help.
3. Quality vs. Quantity
When thinking about recruiting volunteers, you need to evaluate what’s more important: numbers or skills. If you need a lot of minimally-skilled people to help with an event, it should be easy to find volunteers.
But if you need people with very specific skills, you’ll have to be smarter about how you go about finding recruits. Think about quality vs. quantity before you put out the request.
4. Have A Clear Job Description
In order to make your volunteers as effective as possible, you need to make sure everyone knows EXACTLY what they’re doing. It’s wise to sit down and write out all the job descriptions ahead of time. Not only will this help you to find the right people for each jobs, but you can avoid a lot of confusion on the day of the even itself.
Volunteers are giving of their time and effort, so they want to feel like they are truly valued. The best way to do that is to stay in communication with them as much as possible. Perhaps a weekly or monthly update of how the event is shaping up, or a newsletter you can send out with pictures after the event.
Make it clear that you are communicating with them exclusively as your volunteer, and it will make them feel special–and more inclined to volunteer again in the future.
6. Recognize and Spotlight
To make future volunteers feel valued, spotlight and recognize the volunteers from your last event. For example, in your company newsletter, send out a special invitation to all the people who volunteered in the past, offering them something special as a “thank you”.
Then, show pictures or give details of the special prize you offered them, and spotlight them in your monthly newsletter or annual report. The more you recognize your volunteers, the more likely you are to get volunteers in the future.
7. Make the Best Use of Them
If you’re finding volunteers, try to make the most of the skills they’re bringing to the table. Don’t just pass off the unimportant tasks to them, but make sure they’re given tasks that befit their skillset.
The volunteers will want to feel valued, and being stuck in a crappy, no-skills-required job won’t give them a real sense of purpose. Make the best use of each volunteer by putting them in a position where they can shine.
8.Be Clear with Job Requirements
When putting out feelers for volunteers, make it VERY clear what you will expect from each person who participates in the event. Have a complete list of all job requirements drafted, and post it with the “Volunteers Wanted” ad.
By giving people a rundown of all the tasks they’ll be expected to carry out, it will help them know what they’re signing up for. You may get fewer volunteers, but those who do volunteer will come ready for the tasks you’re going to give them.
9.Follow-Up and Provide Feedback
Once the event is complete, make sure to follow-up on the volunteers. Ask them if they enjoyed the experience, and if they would do it again. Ask them for any feedback they might have to offer, and see what they have to say about the event. Set up a survey to fill out, and offer them an incentive to complete it. You’d be surprised by how valuable the insight of your volunteers can be!
But don’t hesitate to offer THEM feedback as well. You don’t want to criticize someone who has donated their time, but you should definitely thank them and give them positive feedback on their efforts. It’s a good chance to establish an open channel of communication with the people who made your event possible- the same people who may make future events possible as well!
Finding the right volunteers can be the different between a good event and a GREAT one! With the right people to help you, the execution of your event can be much smoother and less fraught with difficulties. Use the tips above to help you recruit the best cadre of volunteers for your next event- and every event after that. Good luck, and happy event planning!
This is a guest post by Dan McCarthy, Event Manager at Mask, an event management company based in the UK. Dan has six years of event project management under his belt. Follow him on Twitter @DanCarthy2