We Love Volunteers!
Did you know April is National Volunteer Month? During this busy time of spring galas and ramping up for summer outdoor events, the Ann Plans team wishes to express our gratitude for the event volunteers who help in so many capacities such as greeting, guest registration, facilitating games, and bid spotting for live auctions.
One of the projects keeping Ann Plans busy is planning for CommonBond Communities’ May 17 Celebration of Home Gala. Earlier this week I sat down with Arbor Otalora-Fadner, Volunteer Manager for CommonBond, to talk about effective engagement of event volunteers. Read on for the highlights of our conversation.
Engaging Volunteers for Their Success and Yours
Thank you to Arbor Otalora-Fadner, Volunteer Manager for CommonBond Communities, for sharing insights for this article. Having a well-organized plan for the recruitment, communication with, and training of your event volunteers makes for an enjoyable and successful experience for volunteers and guests alike!
- Recruit ambassadors. For an event like a gala where many of your volunteers will be in direct contact with major supporters, you want to choose your volunteers carefully. CommonBond focuses on recruiting staff members and volunteers already involved with the organization to fill the majority of the volunteer slots. As Arbor commented, “Volunteers who are passionate about your organization are the perfect ambassadors to have interacting with your guests.”
- Make it easy to plug in. Many of our clients use an online registration platform such as Sign-up Genius for ease of volunteers registering to help.
- Communicate details in advance. Arbor receives feedback that volunteers appreciate the advance communication that helps them prepare for their experience. In addition to descriptions of each volunteer role, a Volunteer Guide is provided that includes information on the purpose of the event, schedule for the evening, parking options, dress code, and floor plans of the event spaces.
- Be intentional with assignments. If your registration volunteers will be using computers, be sure to assign people who have a base comfort level with technology. Assign outgoing individuals to roles such as facilitating participation in revenue-generating games and bid spotting for the live auction.
- Provide radical hospitality! Volunteers are there to serve, but making sure they feel appreciated goes a long way. Take every opportunity throughout your event to say, “thank you!” Food also speaks volumes. CommonBond volunteers love the taco bar that is available in the volunteer room during the Gala.
- Have a designated onsite Volunteer Coordinator. Your overall event will run much more smoothly if you have a Volunteer Coordinator whose role is to welcome volunteers, answer questions, and make sure all volunteers are in place during their assigned times. CommonBond finds it helpful to have two people assigned to this role who can tag team throughout the evening.
- Make it fun! Events are fun by nature, but consider ways you can enhance the volunteer experience. For example, provide your volunteers with a bid number so they can participate in the silent auction, and be proactive in capturing fun photos of your volunteers. CommonBond places chairs in the back of the ballroom so volunteers can enjoy some of the program.
- Build in a brief training for each role. Regardless of how simple a volunteer position is, make sure there is someone assigned to orient volunteers to their role. You may want to provide a cheat sheet of talking points for your registration volunteers and greeters, and a handout of the rules of games volunteers will be facilitating is super helpful.
- Your volunteers should be easy to identify. Provide volunteers with a name tag that has the title “Volunteer” listed under their name. If your event is casual, such as an outdoor event, provide a brightly colored volunteer shirt.
- Follow up! Be sure to send a thank you note and share the results of your event so the volunteers feel part of the success. Arbor creates a volunteer survey through Survey Monkey to encourage feedback. Consider hosting a post-event volunteer gathering to provide a social opportunity to celebrate and debrief.
Executing a successful and enjoyable event takes a village. Thank you, and three big cheers, to all community members who are volunteering their time this spring event season!