Do you have a love/hate relationship with your volunteers? Yes, you appreciate their help (most of the time) but have trouble managing them? You are not alone! We all greatly appreciate the sacrifice volunteers make to help out with our nonprofit events, but it can sometimes become a headache to coordinate one more group of people when the event already puts SO MUCH on your plate.
I have good news for you: there is a magic pill to get rid of your volunteer headache...or pills, rather. Six to be exact.
Pill #1: Management
It’s 2015-- don’t manage your volunteers like it’s the '90s.
Did you know that there are companies that provide online volunteer management for FREE so you don't have to? Take advantage of them and let the volunteers coordinate themselves within a volunteer management software program.
Here are three volunteer management software/programs that are either free, low-cost, or have options for growth:
- VoluteerHub (this one connects directly to your CRM!)
- Volunteer Spot
- Volunteer Matters (free option)
Pill #2: Simplify Assignments
Re-think your volunteer assignments and the number of volunteers you actually need. Just because you have had 50 volunteers every year for the past 7 years doesn’t mean that having so many volunteers is necessary or efficient. Nothing is worse than overcrowding your event with extra volunteers who don’t know what they are supposed to be doing. Make sure that each volunteer will have a meaningful task.
Pill #3: DELEGATION
This is key...
You know your volunteer base better than anyone, but sometimes we get so caught up in making our event perfect that we think we have to control EVERYTHING and fail to see the potential in those around us to do the job right.
It is very important to learn how to relinquish the reigns to other people, as difficult as that can sometimes be. Delegate meaningful tasks to volunteers and trust them to do the job right.
Pill #4: Training
Train your volunteers properly so they are prepared for the event!
Two options here:
- have a pre-event meeting, or a few, and consider segmenting your volunteers by job difficulty (i.e. greeters arrive 15 minutes early, raffle ticket helpers arrive 25 minutes early, etc.) to stagger their arrival. This way you have time to spend with each set.
- send out an instructional, preparatory email- anything you can and need to do to prepare them will make your event headache a little less intense. Ask them to arrive early for a brief rundown as well to get them both prepared and excited!
Pill #5: Supervision
You can't be everywhere at once.
You will most likely be spread thin during the event, which is why you needed volunteers in the first place! Name one volunteer as a supervisor. You'll want to pick this person in advance of the event and meet with them before the event day. (Look back to those delegation tips from step 3- here is another place you may want to use them!) If you designate a head volunteer to answer questions and handle those few stragglers that are always running in 10 minutes late, you put the trust in their hands.
Just like donors, volunteers must be thanked and cannot be thanked ENOUGH.
It will save you time in the future to have a standard card, small gift or a volunteer of the year recognition opportunity. The more appreciated they feel, the more likely they will return the next year, and there is nothing better than a longterm volunteer!