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’s crucial to manage your volunteers in a way that makes the experience enjoyable and productive for everybody involved.
In 2018, Culture Days hosted a webinar about Volunteer Management. 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’ve pulled from their conversations to bring you a how-to guide to ensure the best experience possible for you and your volunteers.
Whether you require volunteers throughout the year or only for the length of the Culture Days celebration, 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 together with another organization 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. Online, 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’s 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.
Even if you are organizing online events, volunteers may be useful in the planning and execution of your programming.
If your local public health guidlines limit the capacity of your in-person event, you may need volunteers to control attendance and make sure that the event occurs in a way that ensures the safety of everybody participating.
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 are often one of the most desired aspects of getting involved. This is why it’s important to provide proper orientation and training to your group of volunteers, to the extent that your resources allow. During orientation, it’s 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.
Good communication is the key to a successful event. Having a clearn and open 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 recruits in order to create a system where everybody feels comfortable and supported. Periodic check-ins also help to ensure that everybody is happy and things are running smoothly. 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 celebration is over, it’s a very useful process to debrief and evaluate the successes and failures of your event. 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.