The Value of Volunteers in Event Management
The annual conference. The monthly meeting. The quarterly speakers’ series. No matter the type of event, or its size, preparing a successful event involves more than just the leadership. It becomes essential to include non-board member volunteers in the planning and execution stages, too. But getting volunteers is often a difficult task in and of itself, especially when expectations are unclear.
Here are 15 key components to finding and keeping volunteers to create successful events.
Before the event
1. Describe needs clearly. As you seek volunteers for your event(s), plainly state what will be expected of them. Include details about estimated number of hours, the training involved, and communicate the value of their volunteer time to the overall success of the event. Take this a step further by showing how this experience can benefit them in their career trajectory.
2. Deliver quality training to prepare for the event. Stress the importance of volunteers participating in training and include the history of the chapter such as previous activities, goals, and details on the specific task they are performing. If possible, provide a tour of the venue.
3. Send detailed event information. It seems like a mundane and obvious task, but sometimes it does get overlooked. Make sure volunteers know when and where to meet for the conference or event. They need to be present for the event to succeed.
4. Arrange for free event registration. If your volunteer agrees to provide a certain number of hours at the event, they would receive free registration. Also, to encourage volunteering at other events or activities, you can offer free or reduced registration for larger events even if they are not involved in organizing it.
5. Offer volunteer opportunities to members and non-members alike. Communicate the need for volunteers for a larger audience. This allows non-members to get involved in a positive way, attending the event at a lower rate, seeing the value of membership first hand, and then converting from a non-member to a member status.
During the Event
6. Specify job titles. And specific clear cut duties. This leaves no question as to where volunteer should be and what they are to do. It also makes it possible to more quickly list on their résumé, which is especially important for entry-level members.
7. Provide specialized name badges for volunteers. This has a two-fold purpose: volunteers will know they are a driving force behind the success of your event, and attendees who are not volunteering will know who is there to assist them. Chapters that use StarChapter, generate and print badges during the event in a snap.
8. Establish a centralized volunteer station. Better suited for the annual conference. Board member volunteers should manage this station aiding event volunteers.
9. Offer a volunteer relaxation room in larger events. Managing the event might be stressful, help volunteers by setting up a room where they can step away from the busyness of the conference, have a snack, and/or refresh with water will ensure they are rested and ready to assist non-volunteer attendees.
10. Make it a fun experience. Whether this involves ensuring that volunteers can attend the sessions they want or offering a theme day for volunteers to build unity at larger events, ensure that volunteers are happy with the experience. In fact, ask them ahead of time what will make their job more enjoyable and use that information to drive volunteer activities based on this year’s cohort of volunteers.
11. Highlight participation in content. This can be as simple as a list of volunteers or more detailed bios about the way they volunteered. Encourage members to write the content themselves.
12. Select an MVP of the volunteers. Offering an award to the most valuable volunteer encourages them to do their best and inspires others to get involved in the future.
13. Offer future discounts. Even if your volunteers received free admission in exchange for their participation, extend an additional discount for future events where they do not volunteer. This encourages them to attend either way.
14. Conduct a survey. It isn’t just the attendees that should express their opinions about an event. Volunteers should be offered a special survey to provide insight into what worked and what didn’t with regard to volunteer participation and management. Give them a voice in the process.
15. Invite volunteers to participate further. By volunteering at one event, your volunteers showed they care about getting involved! Have a board member follow-up with them with guidance on how they can fully maximize their membership value.
Volunteers are truly the backbone of successful events. Without them, event management becomes nearly impossible. And events are quite possibly one of the greatest benefits the chapter offers its members, so making them great for all involved is essential. It is all interconnected with chapter success.
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