Training and managing volunteers can sometimes feel like herding cats, but it doesn’t have to be that way. We have discovered a simple four-step solution for successful volunteer management: define volunteer jobs clearly, find the right person for each job, dedicate time to training your volunteers, and thank your volunteers a lot.
Defining Volunteer Jobs
Telling a check-in volunteer that they will be “checking in guests and welcoming them to the event” is not the same as documenting a step-by-step check in process and sharing it with your volunteers before your event. Describe each volunteer job thoroughly. We suggest writing a script for each role and sharing it with volunteers a week before your event. This will give your volunteers ample time to read all of the job descriptions, ask questions, and determine if their assigned job is a good fit. Advance communication also reinforces the fact that you value your volunteers, welcome their questions, and view them as an integral part of your events team.
Your volunteers also need to know their purpose. Why are they doing a particular volunteer job and what are the desired outcomes for the event? For example, check-in volunteers need to understand that they are the first touch point for your events’ attendees and have a huge impact on your guests’ event experience. Therefore, during the check in process, they must make attendees feel welcome and do so with a high level of professionalism.
The Right Person For The Job
Matching the right personality and skill set to the right volunteer job takes time. A designated volunteer coordinator, who knows and has worked with your volunteer pool, is key to matching the right person to the right job. We recommend writing job personality profiles that will not only help your volunteer coordinator select the right person, but will also help your volunteers determine which jobs are best for them. By selecting the right person for the right job, we guarantee that your event will run more smoothly and you will make more money. Below are two examples of volunteer job personality profiles.
You know everything about your organization and you know many, if not all, of tonight’s attendees. You are friendly and courteous and most likely were an ambassador in a past life. You are a present or past board member of this organization.
Check-in and Check-out
You are a natural host or hostess. You are pleasant, efficient, and a model of grace under pressure. You are proficient and unfazed by check-in software. You are also able to switch to paper if the power goes out and can accommodate walk-in guests with a smile.
Train Your Volunteers
Step One: Clearly Communicate All Event Information
Emails are great, however we suggest you create a shared online page (we love Google Docs) with event information that volunteers can easily access.
Step Two: Make Sure Volunteers Know About Your Organization
Your volunteers need to know who you are and what you do. They should be able to share information about your organization with guests and answer all event-related questions.
Step Three: Train Them
Most volunteers, if they are the right person for the job, can be trained on the day of your event however, we recommend training all check-in staff beforehand as they must be extremely comfortable using your event software. On the day of your event, give volunteers their scripts and discuss exactly what you expect them to do for you. Tell them when they will be fed (you must feed and water them), when they are off duty, and who to report to should they have any questions or concerns during your event.
Step Four: Make Your Volunteers Feel Like A Part Of Your Team
Ask your volunteers for their input. What worked? What didn’t? How could their experience have been improved? If you ask them, they will tell you and they will happily volunteer for your future events.
Thank Your Volunteers
Thank your volunteers in all ways possible: thank them in the event program, send them a personal note, or give them a gift. Your volunteers need to know how important they are to you and that you are grateful for their time, experience, and energy. Well-cared-for volunteers do become donors and strong life-long supporters of your organization.
You’ve defined your volunteer jobs, selected the right people, trained them, and thanked them. Well Done. Perhaps cats can be herded.