How to recruit volunteers for an event - 10 proven methods

Volunteers are the lifeblood of your event. Without them, your water stations would be unmanned, finish lines a chaotic mess, and nobody would know where they need to be.

But finding volunteers is easier said than done. At the end of the day you need people to give up their free time without being paid, all to help someone else’s event. That’s a tough ask.

It can be done though - if you know the right techniques that is. In this blog, we’ll share 10 proven methods that your event can use to recruit volunteers, plus some tips on how to manage them

#1 Get the word out with some volunteer recruitment posters

Recruitment posters and leaflets are a great way to get the word out there. You can be as specific or as broad as you like with this method of recruitment. Take the time to find out where the people most likely to fit your event requirements would be. Or put your printed media everywhere. Having said that, it’s important that you bear in mind the phrase ‘quality not quantity’.

#2 Recruiting volunteers through social media

When recruiting volunteers, it pays to get creative. Social media is a great way to reach people. This way you can leverage your following to boost volunteer numbers. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, mix things up with eye-catching images and videos to attract volunteers.

#3 Look at what you’ve already got

If you are a seasoned event then you likely have a following with an abundance of past entrants. Why not try and recruit them as your volunteers? These people will know your event and may even have some useful insights into how you can improve it.

#4 Reach out to the community

There are plenty of community groups like schools, churches and residents’ associations who will have plenty of would-be volunteers just waiting to help your events. High schools in particular are a great port of call, as many of their more senior students will be looking to undertake work in the community to bolster their college applications.

#5 Be clear

Avoid any confusion and provide clear instructions and expectations. This way your volunteers will be ready and know what is going to be expected of them come event day. It may reduce the number of applications that come in, but at least you will be building a quality team.

#6 Volunteer application forms

Narrow down your volunteer applications by setting some pre-qualifications. This will make it easier for you to determine which applicants meet your needs. realbuzz registrations allows you to set up volunteer application forms with editable form fields, so you can collect all of the volunteer information you need.

#7 Skills, Skills, Skills

Make the most of the skills and experience your volunteers have to offer. If someone is outgoing and loves talking to people, keeping them behind the scenes is a waste of their talents.

This won’t just benefit you, it will also contribute to your volunteers’ motivation. Thus, contributing to them having an enjoyable time working for your event. Retention should always be at the back of your mind when working with volunteers.

#8 Set volunteer incentives

Volunteers are giving their time away for free. So, it shouldn’t come as a shock to you that offering an incentive is going to help sweeten the deal. Offering discounts on future event entries or prizes could go a long way in boosting your team's motivation.

#9 Recognition

A little recognition goes a long way. The simple act of saying thank you could be enough to turn a one time volunteer into a regular. That is a valuable asset to have in the events industry. Plus, this will encourage your volunteers to tell other people about their positive experience, setting up a word of mouth network for more volunteers.

#10 Plan B

Have a plan B. The show up rate for volunteers in the event industry is usually about 50-60%. This figure suggests selecting a few extra volunteers to cover any no-shows is a must. Let’s face it, you don’t want to stretch your volunteers too thin, it's much better to have a few extra than not enough.

Now that we’ve given you the inside scoop on recruiting your volunteers, here are a few tips on how to manage them correctly.

Recruiting the right event volunteers

We don’t want to sound like a broken record, but it is important that you recruit the right volunteers. There are a number of reasons that people volunteer, whether it’s to develop skills or to add another line to their CV. You need to sift through your applications and pick out the people that want to help you for the right reasons and are willing to commit to your event. Your volunteers need to be able to contribute to the success of your event not become a burden to your team.

Avoid this mistake: Focusing on the volunteers that are looking for work experience. Someone looking to bulk up their CV isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But these volunteers can often stop showing up once they have put in enough time to add your event to their CV. This is going to cause a high turnover at your event. As we mentioned above, you need people who are willing to commit their time to your event.

Managing event volunteers

Your volunteers might work for free, but they are still at your event to do a job. Treat them with the respect you would a paid employee. As we mentioned before, your volunteers will have their own strengths and weaknesses. An important part of managing them is making sure you give them the opportunity to do what they are good at. You need to get to know them in order to help them. This will play a huge role in keeping them motivated. This is yet another reason using pre-qualifications is essential when recruiting your volunteers.

Volunteer policy is a must have, this is key to defining the role volunteers will have at your event. This should include things such as:

Avoid this mistake: Neglecting volunteer experience. If you dismiss your volunteers’ experience, the time they spend with your event will be much shorter. So, making sure that they feel empowered to carry out their tasks will help you keep them. Retention should be a priority. If this is your first event, you will spend a lot of time recruiting your volunteers. You will also invest a lot of time in training your volunteers as these individuals will be representing you on event day. The logical conclusion should be to make sure that this isn’t a process you need to go through before every event. The longevity of your volunteers will also be affected by the level of structure and planning you have in your volunteer program. Setting a clear structure allows your volunteers to spend time on the tasks that they have been recruited for.

Training your event volunteers

Good volunteer management also comes down to the training that you provide for your volunteers. It's important that you give your volunteers the training they need to confidently help you make your event a success.

You don’t want to throw your volunteers in at the deep end. So, set aside some time to go through exactly what will be expected of your volunteers. This is an easy way to avoid any event day stress and confusion.

Inductions are a great idea, but bear in mind that some of your volunteers might not have the time to attend one. It would be useful to make the information available to them online as well. This way all your volunteers can stay up-to-date with what needs to happen on event day.

Don’t leave anything to chance, let your volunteers know:

And anything else you feel that they need to know to be successful at your event.

Avoid this mistake: Ignoring volunteer training. Failing to provide training for your volunteers is going to make them feel undervalued. It is also going to affect their ability to work confidently at your event. Part of this training should be to explain your event’s code of conduct to volunteers. This is your brand - you don’t want a volunteer ruining your reputation because they haven’t been trained properly.

Retaining volunteers

Every volunteer wants to feel valued on event day and beyond, so ask them for their opinions and feedback. Your volunteers have been there and worked through your entire event. You would be missing a massive opportunity if you didn’t ask them to share their opinion. This is also a great way to retain your volunteers. Asking their opinion will make them feel valued, and show them that you are looking to improve for your next event.

Avoid this mistake: Thinking short term. Your volunteers are an important asset. Retention will speak volumes when you come to recruit for your next event. It won’t just make finding the perfect volunteers easier as you will already have worked with most of them. It will also make your events more appealing to individuals that are looking to start volunteering. It's also important to remember that your volunteers are working for free so you may want to offer them flexibility. Your volunteers will have other things to do that may limit the time they can spend working for you. The last thing you want to do is make them choose between their personal/professional life and your event.

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