Hoping for Event Longevity? Find Some GREAT Volunteers!

I ran my first half marathon at the 32nd Annual Kaiser Permanente San Francisco race put on by Pamakids Runners. With 32 years of experience and a good reputation, this event has a clear advantage and it never lacks volunteers. At each corner I rounded, there was a volunteer ready to cheer us on, hand out water, or scream out the mile split times. Although at times unorganized, 90% of the volunteers seemed enthusiastic and glad to be helping – and I sure was thankful!

With a new nonprofit event, reaching out to groups and individuals for their time can be exhausting. People are extremely busy and selective about volunteering their time and an average organization loses 35% of their volunteers every year. So what is the trick to gain effective volunteers and ultimately retain commitment for events to come? Here are three factors that matter:

  1. Finding your volunteers. It is important to seek out groups and individuals who have an interest in the subject at hand. This type of volunteer is able relate to the participants and support and encourage accordingly. They also are more likely to reach out to friends and associates and ask them to volunteer as well.
  1. Groups vs. Individuals. Both types of volunteers are amazing to have on your team for different reasons, but it’s important to balance the two. Groups tend to have pre-existing leadership who are able to successfully energize the team. A group also has more accountability and, theoretically, will work harder. On the other hand, if an individual is volunteering, generally it is not a requirement, but a real interest in the work—they 100% want to be there.
  1. Enticing your volunteers. People are limited in how much they are willing to volunteer their time. They choose their philanthropic involvement by their alliance with the companies involved, the event itself and, of course, the swag or perks they receive. Choosing the right volunteers for your event really depends on the size of the gathering, the subject being explored, and the type of labor needed. If you want your volunteers back, know why they are there.

Courtesy of Third Sector Today, author Lena DGuiulia, edited for length

Today’s Task: Good volunteers are busy, so reach out early. And, watch for our upcoming blog post on how to effectively use temps for event planning and execution.

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