On March 27, 2018, Culture Days hosted Volunteer Management with Winnie Wong (City of Richmond, Richmond, British Columbia), Karla Ferguson (Winnipeg Folk Festival, Winnipeg, Manitoba), and Andrea Field (Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, Ontario)
This webinar featured organizers who are well-versed with the management and coordination of volunteers. Running a big event such as Culture Days can require all hands on deck, and volunteers are the life force of any organization, particularly during a large program. Winnie, Karla, and Andrea shared their best tips about how to recruit, schedule and support volunteers, for both the Culture Days weekend and all year-round.
Don’t have time to watch the full video? We’ve summarized Winnie, Karla, and Andrea’s top tips below!
1. RECRUIT THROUGH YOUR RESOURCES
Unsure where to begin when it comes recruiting volunteers? Don’t stress! There are many resources available to you both online and within your community. Try looking on the web to see if your town or city has an online forum or volunteer website where you can advertise your volunteering opportunity, or find individuals who are seeking new ways to get involved. If you’re working with a partner organization or facility, ask to see if they already have an established volunteer database. Using social media and e-newsletters are also easy and effective ways to get the word out about your volunteer opportunity. Don’t forget, one of the most successful ways of rallying volunteers is through peer-to-peer recruitment and word-of-mouth!
Pro-tip: Winnie Wong suggests that you aim to promote your volunteer opportunity 1.5 months before your Culture Days activity or event.
2. SATISFY THE MOTIVATIONS OF YOUR VOLUNTEERS
Whether they are looking to give back to the community, gain work experience and hands-on skills, or complete community service hours for school, each volunteer has a motivation or purpose for donating their time. Uncovering these motivations and matching the volunteer opportunity accordingly is the best way to make your volunteers feel valued and understood. When possible, ask your volunteers to identify what their preferred station, activity, or role would be to help inform how you schedule or assign volunteers during your event.
3. IMPLEMENT MANDATORY ORIENTATION OR TRAINING
Karla Ferguson notes that the best way to keep volunteers happy and coming back is to offer a solid volunteer opportunity from start to finish – this includes a mandatory orientation or training session. It’s important to take the time to thoroughly describe your event or activity, as well as the Culture Days weekend. Clearly communicating the volunteer expectations, roles, and boundaries, and hosting a team meet-and-greet helps your volunteers to feel comfortable, capable, and excited to serve as Culture Days advocates.
4. BE FLEXIBLE
It’s important to recognize that your volunteers are willing and excited to offer their time, energy, and support in making your event or activity a success! However, not all volunteers are able to make a regular commitment to volunteering and can only dedicate a limited amount of time. Make it easy for people to volunteer by being creative and flexible when designing volunteering opportunities. Andrea Field recommends creating several schedule options, with varying hours and levels of commitment for your volunteers.
5. SUPERVISE & CHECK-IN
Providing the right level of support and supervision for volunteers can feel like a bit of a juggling act. You don't want your volunteers to feel like they are being watched, but you also don't want them to feel like they are left without support. Make sure you provide a balance of support and supervision, and manage expectations. Open and regular, two-way communication is key.
Pro-tip: Orchestrating a large activity or event where meeting with volunteers one-on-one will be difficult? Karla Ferguson suggests incorporating a buddy system where newer and/or younger recruits are paired-up with seasoned volunteers for extra guidance and support.
6. RECOGNIZE EVERYONE’S HARD WORK!
There are lots of ways to acknowledge volunteers and their commitments. Sometimes the best way to show you appreciate your volunteers is the old fashioned way – sending them a thank you card. In the age of email and social media, the handwritten letter is a novelty. Bonus points for personalizing the message, such as thanking them for a specific task they did during their time volunteering. Who doesn’t like presents? Small gifts and tokens of appreciation like swag items or gift cards are also great crowd-pleasers. Do you have a long-standing volunteer, or someone who made a BIG impact? Nominate them for an Outstanding Service Award in your community.
Pro-tip: Winnie Wong notes that youth volunteers enjoy instant gratification, such as free food and snacks, swag or signed forms, while adult or senior volunteers appreciate receiving a letter from upper management.
7. EVALUATE AND DOCUMENT FOR FUTURE OPPORTUNITIES
Following your Culture Days event or activity, it is important to debrief with your volunteers to find out what worked and what didn’t. Having on-on-one chats or circulating an evaluation survey are great ways collect feedback and information. Consider adding to an existing or creating a new volunteer database, with notes about performance and impact for future reference and opportunities. Don’t forget to track and document their hours as well!