Let's face it, volunteers can be a complex group to pin down, especially for race directors who have so many other things to focus on. Before you even have to herd the proverbial cats, you've got to find the proverbial cats and attract them to your proverbial milk.
Race volunteers come in all shapes and sizes. Big and small. Teenagers and seniors. Reliable and, well, less than reliable. Some are looking for community involvement, some just want a free parking spot. Whomever they are, we like to believe that most volunteers are passionate about the work they’re doing - if they care to give, odds are they’re giving because they care.
With that in mind, we’ve put together five easy steps to hone your volunteer force into loyal, informed and enthusiastic advocates for your event.
STEP 1: TRAIN THEM
Make sure those volunteers know their moves. A training session should include a step-by-step of their actual job duties. Bonus points if you can bring in returning volunteers to give newbies the real low-down on how things will work.
Make sure they know:
Introduce the volunteer coordinator; it’s always helpful to associate a face with the name of the person who’s choreographing the big dance.
Pro tip: A pre-event volunteer training session rarely has perfect attendance, but don’t sweat it. You just need a handful of informed volunteers to lead the rest of the pack.
STEP 2: USE YOUR VOLUNTEERS AS SOCIAL MARKETERS
Whether you like it or not, the social revolution is here. Your race volunteers are, with little doubt, going to turn up the volume on your events on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and social networks you may not have even used yet. As representatives of your organization, be sure they understand the gravity and implications of what they post online.
Our best advice? If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
There’s nothing wrong with a little free publicity - just make sure it’s the right kind of publicity.
STEP 3: TEACH THEM ALL THEY NEED TO KNOW
Your volunteers are the most visible representation of your organization on-site; make sure they know the lingo.
Equip each volunteer with a map of the event grounds or venue where they’ll be working, and make sure they can locate information booths and bathrooms on a dime.
Moreover, all your race volunteers should be able to speak intelligently about your event in case they find themselves on the recording end of a microphone by a media or news outlet.
STEP 4: PLAN FOR THE UNEXPECTED
If you’re running a post-race beer garden or beverage tent, prep your volunteers on the signs of alcohol poisoning and where to find birthdates on IDs. Set up wrist-banding stations and coordinate with the local police force wherever possible.
If it rains, provide ponchos. If it’s starting to get late, put together a hospitality crew to distribute fresh fruit to your folks on the course.
You’re the kind of coordinator who looks out for your volunteers – rain or shine. Keep them happy, hydrated and nourished throughout the day. If there is the possibility of physical injury during your event, be sure to explain proper protocol to your volunteers and get those waivers signed. Liability less, volunteer more!
STEP 5: VOLUNTEER APPRECIATION
The last (and perhaps most important) step of this process is a simple “thank you.” Volunteers love a little kudos (don’t we all?), so make sure they know how much you appreciate their hard work. From a t-shirt to a candy bouquet, a handshake to a milkshake, there are an endless amount of ways to show your gratitude.
Show your sincere appreciation: it’s the key to happy volunteers.
This post is courtesy of our good friends at VolunteerLocal. Check them out. They rock.