Big events provide great opportunities for nonprofit organizations to raise funds, boost awareness, connect with donors, and engage volunteers.
Because the weather is usually nice enough for people to spend time outdoors, summer events tend to be a big hit. Your organization can reap the benefits of robust engagement from summer events like outdoor carnivals, 5k runs, charity golf tournaments, BBQ fundraisers, or charity concerts.
However, for these events to be successful, your organization will need a lot more than just a fun event idea and a large gathering space. You will also need the workforce necessary to make sure that everything runs smoothly throughout the event.
While many people have more free time in the summer to engage in summer volunteer opportunities, the potential impact of these volunteers will be lost unless you are able to manage them well.
Organizing dozens or even hundreds of volunteers is challenging, but essential to guaranteeing that your event runs as smoothly as possible.
If you prepare thoroughly and prioritize your volunteers, you can overcome these challenges and these events can truly be a boon for your organization.
Read on for the five best practices you should keep in mind when you put together your volunteer event this summer:
1. Provide volunteer training
When you’re putting on a large event with a large number of volunteers, the last thing you want is to send your volunteers to fend for themselves without any plans, structure, or training.
It’s not enough for your volunteers to know the mission, vision, and other talking points of your organization. They need to know their specific role during the event, how to complete all of the duties they are expected to perform, and the best way to communicate with organization leaders who can help and direct them if they get stuck.
If you have tons of volunteers working your summer festival with no direction, training, or defined roles, important duties will slip through the cracks. If every volunteer isn’t on the same page, they may share conflicting information with attendees. If volunteers aren’t trained, they may panic if an emergency arises.
Make sure your volunteers are trained on everything from what to do if someone has a medical emergency to how to secure an event wristband so that nothing can throw them off on event day. Set up training session times to educate volunteers on how to deal with emergencies, where to go if they need more volunteers to help them with task or direction on a specific task. Create messaging channels through your volunteer management software or through apps like GroupMe or WhatsApp to help volunteers communicate with each other and event organizers.
2. Create an effective volunteer schedule
You won’t have any luck pulling off a large summer event if you don’t have an effective method of volunteer scheduling.
It will be hard to host a BBQ if all of your volunteers only show up for the beginning of the event. Your 5k will be a disaster if the volunteers passing out water and doing other essential tasks feel like they can come and go as they please. Your charity golf tournament won’t be fun for your donors if none of your volunteers show up in pre-arranged shifts.
Utilize a scheduling system that allows volunteers to self-schedule for specific shifts during your event and allows you to see any scheduling changes and gaps that need to be addressed. Don’t forget to account for shift changes! Utilizing a system that empowers volunteers to schedule themselves, alerts you when a shift is filled, and notifies you when someone has canceled will save you time, enable quick pivots, and give you peace of mind.
Excellent digital volunteer scheduling will help guarantee enough volunteers during every part of your event while communicating effectively to volunteers when they need to arrive, how long they are expected to stay, and when they can head out for the day.
3. Start marketing early
Event success can largely be credited to how well an event is marketed and promoted. You will have a better turnout at your event if you start marketing as early as possible. Step up your social media presence, create eye-grabbing, brand consistent posters and graphics , and reach out to your email subscribers and donors as soon as you can to increase interest. Include critical details like where, when, why (how does the event connect to your cause), and how to contribute from afar if a constituent isn’t able to make the event in person.
Marketing early is not only important because it will help you gain attendees, but also because it will help you gain volunteers and donors.
Large events require large numbers of volunteers. If you wait until the last minute to market your event and start reaching out to volunteers, you may struggle to find the volunteers you need to run your event.
4. Give out swag
Giving t-shirts, tote bags, calendars, and other swag to your volunteers can make them feel valued and help them stay connected with your organization.
Make sure every single volunteer leaves with something, big or small, to take home at the end of your event, ideally with some contact info for your organization on it.
Yes everyone enjoys free stuff, but free stuff from an organization that created a meaningful experience to contribute to a great cause helps mark a memory in time. When you give your volunteers a take home gift instead of leaving them empty handed (no matter how small that gift or token) they will have something to connect them back to your event, your organization, and ultimately your mission.
Everytime one of your volunteers wears or uses their gift, they will be reminded of your organization and the positive experiences they had while volunteering for your event. If every volunteer wears the same shirt, for example, it will enforce feelings of belonging and camaraderie that will make them think fondly about being a member of your organization’s team whenever they wear that shirt in the future. If you pass out calendars, it will be easy for them to think about your organization and see when your next volunteer events will be when they look at the calendar each day.
Furthermore, branded swag is an opportunity for you to expand your reach and spread awareness about your organization. When your volunteer wears a t-shirt or carries a tote bag that has your logo or name on it, other people in the community will be exposed to your brand.
Foster teamwork, improve awareness, and help your volunteers stay connected with your organization by creating merch for your volunteers to take home.
5. Solicit real time feedback
While sending out surveys after your event will give you the chance to see how you could improve your event the next time around, it doesn’t allow you to see how you can make real time changes during the event that will help make the event a success.
It’s better to know that your volunteers need breaks while you have time to give them rather than to figure this out from negative surveys you receive days after the event has ended.
Invest in a mobile friendly volunteer management software that offers real time digital feedback forms or features. After a volunteer’s shift has ended Civic Champs’ mobile app automatically asks the volunteer to gauge how their experience was through a single tap, that feedback is automatically available to you as an admin. Real time feedback will allow you to overcome possible challenges and mediate risk with regards to volunteer experience so you can course correct if volunteers are unhappy or confused.
Contact Civic Champs to see how our volunteer management software can help you make your summer event a success.