Volunteers are at the centre of many events and are often what makes cultural programming successful. Because they are such an important part of an activity, it is crucial to manage your volunteers in a way that makers the experience enjoyable and productive for everybody involved.
In 2018, Culture Days hosted a webinar regarding volunteer management, which you can watch here. The guest speakers were Winnie Wong from the City of Richmond, Karla Ferguson from the Winnipeg Folk Festival and Andrea Field from the Bata Shoe Museum. We have pulled from their conversations to bring you a guide to have the best experience possible with your volunteers.
Whether you require volunteers throughout the year or only for the length of the Culture Days weekend, there are many resources to help you find them. The first step would be to check if your municipality has an online volunteer forum or website where you can list your opportunity. An example of this is Volunteer Toronto, which lists opportunities within the Greater Toronto Area.
If you are working with another organization as part of Culture Days, the venue for your event for example, they may already have an established database of volunteers that you can tap into. Social media and e-newsletters can also be a great way to find volunteers. Increasing your online presence will help your overall visibility and make people interested in your programming, which in turn will make your potential pool of volunteers grow. The web, however, is not the only way to recruit volunteers. One of the most effective ways to advertise your opportunity is to stay active within your community, engaging with people in person and letting word-of-mouth work its magic.
It will be easier to recruit volunteers if you can identify what they will gain out of the experience of working for your organization or at your event. Being clear about the duties and responsibilities of the volunteers will be given is very important in building a healthy working relationship from the start getting people motivated to work for you.
Retainment is one of the concerns for a volunteer program. Making your volunteers want to keep working with you, or come back the following year for another Culture Days event is beneficial to everybody involved.
Catering to Volunteers’ Motivations
Making sure to understand your volunteers’ motivations during the recruitment process will help you provide them with what they want and need throughout their entire experience. 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.
Orientation and Training
The new skills acquired throughout a volunteering experience is often one of the most desired aspects of it. This is why it is important to provide proper orientation and training to your group of volunteers, to the extent that your resources allow. During orientation, it is a good idea to thoroughly describe your event as well as Culture Days’ general mission. If your resources allow it, it is great to have a general orientation, a position or crew specific orientation, additional training if specialized skills are necessary, as well as an on-site training sessions. This will make sure that your volunteers feel prepared, safe and confident in their role. Putting in the time to properly train volunteers will enhance their experience and ultimately save you time in the future if they decide to return and work with you again.
Having a clear superving structure is instrumental to an event running smoothly. Volunteers must be aware of who they are reporting to so that communication can happen smoothly. Communicating is the key to a successful event and itmust go on both directions. Having an open and courteous line of communication with your volunteer, and making sure that everybody is comfortable asking questions or requesting help, will go a long way. A useful structure is to pair returning volunteers with new ones, in order to create a system where everybody feels comfortable and supported. Periodic check-ins are a useful tool to ensure that everybody is happy and everything is operating properly. Creating an environment where on-going two-way feedback is encouraged will give everybody the chance to adjust and improve after every situation. This does not need to be negative feedback, positive reinforcement goes a long way!
After the Culture Days weekend is over, it is a very useful process to evaluate the successes and failures of your event. A debrief with your volunteers will give you a lot of information to use for future events. This can take the form of one-on-one meetings or a circulated survey for volunteers to fill out. Not only will this feedback help you improve on your events, it will also show volunteers that the organizers of the event care about them having a voice and want to hear what they have to say about their experience. Valuing their opinions also makes volunteers much more likely to be motivated to keep being involved with your organization.
Make sure to document your findings when going through the evaluation process. Keeping this information well organized will help you utilize it effectively when planning future events.