Recruiting Volunteers for Your Next Event
POSTED ON MAY 15, 2016
How Important are Volunteers?
One of the most important steps in planning events for nonprofits is attracting, recruiting, and retaining volunteers. Our post-event feedback questionnaires ask the question: What was your event’s most critical element of success? By far, the number one answer is – the volunteers.
It is surprising how many event planners come to us with no clear plan of how to attract, and hopefully retain, volunteers for future events. It’s not that it doesn’t occur to them that they will need volunteers, it’s just that they don’t seem to realize how important the volunteers are to their event’s success.
After Premier Meeting Services chooses a venue and develops a theme, we immediately begin the process of finding volunteers to execute the event. Here are the five “must-do” steps we take to insure a successful volunteer recruiting and training program. We believe they will be a big help, especially to first time nonprofit event planners, to insure they have the volunteers their event will require.
ANALYZE YOUR SPECIFIC EVENT’S VOLUNTEER NEEDS
We always ask these three questions to begin the process:
- Do you need a large number of volunteers with minimal qualifications or a few volunteers with certain skills?
- Do you need them for an extended term or only a day?
- Can you use a simple word of mouth campaign or do you need a more targeted strategy?
UTILIZE SOCIAL MEDIA
- Plan to post volunteer invitations on your Facebook pages well in advance of the event. Include job descriptions, applications, the amount of time a volunteer will be expected to contribute, post event requirements, a sign-up sheet for each position or function to allow volunteers to choose what they would like to do, and don’t forget to include incentives like free tickets to celebrity presentations, or free rounds of golf, or free food, or whatever will truly reward your volunteers for service. Don’t be insulting. Volunteers know that a tee-shirt with your organization’s name printed across the front is no incentive.
- Post your volunteer invitation on the Facebook pages of groups and businesses in the surrounding area interested in your cause. Also, utilize LinkedIn groups like environmental groups that might want to participate in a green event.
- Volunteer posting sites like Craigslist, NetworkforGood, VolunteerMatch, and Idealist are not to be overlooked, especially if this is your first event and you need to attract your initial volunteer corps.
- Local college websites always have volunteer groups that might see your event as a learning opportunity.
- Consider inviting whole groups of interested parties to volunteer at your event. What could be more sensible than the Girl Scouts of America using their alumni list to invite all alumni in the area to volunteer at their national event?
DON’T BE AFRAID TO BE OLD FASHIONED
- Get out into the local area and set up booths at area festivals, farmer’s markets and common areas around town. This activity will target local volunteers who live in the neighborhood.
- Remember not to forget legacy media. Post your event broadly in local papers and on local radio stations. Many older volunteers still rely on old fashioned media for their information and retirees are the single largest volunteer corps in America.
MAKE IT FUN
- Effective communication is the key to making your volunteers feel at ease in unfamiliar surroundings. Hold frequent meetings and trainings until everyone knows what is expected of them. Communicate with your volunteers before, during, and after your event. Seek their suggestions and listen to their feedback. Everyone wants to feel like their involved in your cause and can make a real contribution. When they feel necessary and useful the entire experience is fun and they will be back next year. Eventually you will have more volunteers than you need.