There are lots of similarities between organising event volunteers and organising regular volunteers for a club or group. For example you should ensure you have:
- A clear idea of how many volunteers you need, what sorts of roles need fulfilling and what skills these require
- A plan for how you will recruit these volunteers
- A budget to pay for volunteer travel, uniform/clothing, refreshments on the day
- A plan for how your information about volunteers will be stored securely and shared appropriately
- Insurance that covers your volunteers as well as your participants.
In addition to this there are a few other things worth considering when you’re managing event volunteers:
- Not everyone who signs up will turn up. You should over-recruit and allow for about 25% of your volunteers not to show up on the day.
- If you’re over-subscribed, it’s worth having a reserves list and letting people know they’re on it.
- If you need a lot of volunteers then an application process is a good idea.
- Select volunteers for the roles with the person who is in charge of that aspect of the event. Make sure you communicate your decisions to people who have applied as soon as possible.
- Communicate regularly with your volunteers in the lead up to the event - it helps to keep them engaged.
- Think about your volunteers’ training needs. Some may need training in advance of the event. Others performing very simple tasks could receive a briefing before their shift. Whatever the role, all volunteers need to be given a clear understanding of their tasks, the conduct you expect, health and safety information, information on what to do in an emergency, an understanding of the site and what is happening at different times, and an introduction to their team leader.
- Unless it’s a very small event that requires few volunteers, put your volunteers into teams. A team might be a group of volunteers all located in the same area or a group who are all doing the same job that are able to communicate with each other (for example via radios or phone).
- Try to have a mixture of new and experienced volunteers on each team, and ensure that team leaders are aware of volunteers who may need extra help - for example those who are very young or who have disabilities.
- Assign team leaders to each team - these will ideally be people who have experience of volunteering and of the tasks their team will be performing. They will keep each group of volunteers motivated and on-task, ensure they get their breaks and refreshments, solve problems and answer volunteer questions, and say thank you at the end of the shift. They will also communicate any major issues on the day to you.
- Set up a roster so that your volunteers all get breaks during their shifts and so that you have the cover you need throughout. Tell volunteers what their shifts will be as soon as you have planned them.
- Think about where volunteers will be able to store their valuables and take their breaks. It’s good to have a designated volunteer area or room.
Saying thank you
- Thank people. Make sure team leaders thank volunteers at the end of their shift and that you thank your Team Leaders. You should also email everyone after the event to thank them. You could even think about a thank you party. If your event has sponsors then perhaps you could ask if they can donate products for a volunteer goody bag you can hand out at the end of the event.