According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, over 6 million Australians volunteer, that’s 36% of the population! Why? They want to make a difference, learn new skills or gain experience.
With this in mind, volunteers can be a great asset to your team and budget. With a little forethought, volunteers can provide valuable manpower and contribute to your success. It’s a two way street with volunteers, so here’s how to manage that relationship to ensure everyone receives value.
Before the event, do the legwork to understand what motivates your volunteers – what’s in it for them? From there identify what tasks you can allocate and what learning opportunities can you create. You may need volunteers to usher guests from one point to another; assist with registration; or to distribute collateral.
To cover yourself, make sure you understand the difference between a volunteer and an employee. You don’t want to get into hot water!
Once you’ve identified roles and responsibilities, calculate how many volunteers you need onsite. Don’t forget to allow for shift rotations, lunch breaks and attrition. Create a role description that outlines the purpose, tasks and time commitment required. Are there any skills or experience your volunteers should have?
You can advertise on a volunteer specific portal such as GoVolunteer. You’re likely to attract people who take volunteering seriously on these platforms. Alternatively you could approach a university or TAFE, this is something our team have done in the past.
As with anything, spread the word on social media or via email marketing…
Create a briefing pack with an event overview, contact list, event schedule and procedures. If you have the opportunity, we would definitely recommend a Skype call to get everyone up to speed before the big day.
Designate team leaders to manage/liaise with the volunteers throughout the duration of the event. If you have your events team at the helm, you can trust that any bumps will be addressed quickly and professionally. It also gives the volunteers confidence knowing that they can ask questions along the way.
Look after your volunteers, after all, they are giving up their time to help you host a spectacular event. They are very often front of house and interacting with your delegates, so you want them to feel valued. Staff meals or merchandise go a long way, as do discounted tickets or other event-specific perks.
After the event, it’s smart to reach out to your volunteers to reiterate your thanks and to seek out feedback. Send a quick online survey to find out what worked and what didn’t. We use good old SurveyMonkey! You’ll be able to incorporate that feedback into next year’s event. You may also be able to gauge interest for those wishing to return for the next event, who can provide a gold mine of familiarity, enthusiasm and experience.
Hustling with volunteers can sometimes be tiring. If you set clear expectations from the onset, provide training and support and recognise their hard work, they can add a lot of value to your event. We find that volunteers are often the most enthusiastic team members, so harness that drive!
If you need assistance during planning, production or execution, let us know.