How to Make Your Association Events Super Successful With Board Volunteers

How to Make Your Association Events Super Successful With Board Volunteers

If you’ve ever had an association event go horribly awry, it may have been due to failure to successfully manage volunteers. Volunteer participation doesn’t happen serendipitously; a strong organization must have a plan in place for working with volunteers. Memorable events can build the reputation of your association, so you want to treat your volunteers well and retain them for long-term involvement. In fact, a stellar volunteer may even be your next new board member.

1. Create a Volunteer Director Position on the Board

If your organization hosts regular events that require volunteers, consider creating a position on the board to direct volunteers. The Volunteer Director should be in charge of recruiting volunteers, greeting them at events and ushering them through the event until its completion.

2. Be Creative in Volunteer Recruiting

While the Volunteer Director should handle the lion’s share of recruiting, make sure the entire board of directors knows you are looking for participants. Always look beyond just the board itself; ask sponsors, members, or people in the community to participate. Run an ad in your association newsletter, put a banner on your website or even post signs around town if you are a local organization. Don’t wait until the last minute to seek volunteers. Include a “volunteer registration” form on your website and have forms available at events, so you can keep a running list of people who are interested in assisting your association in the future.

3. Set Expectations for Volunteers Before Gaining Final Commitment

Just like when you recruit new board members, you want to set out in writing your expectations for volunteers before they commit to an event.

4. Make Volunteer Management “Businesslike”

In addition to your volunteer responsibilities materials, use forms whenever possible to keep volunteer participation efficient. Use sign-up, sign-in and feedback forms, and keep these on file for future events.

5. Make Volunteers Identifiable

Attendees at your events won’t be bothering the wrong people with questions if you make your volunteers easily identifiable (and your volunteers will feel like they are being put to good use). At minimum, provide name badges; even better, outfit your volunteers in bright hats, association polo shirts or something equally fun and eye catching.

6. Volunteer Positions Don’t Have to Be Etched in Stone

Sometimes you place a volunteer in a job and it just doesn’t work out. It may be due to shyness, lack of skills or a personality conflict with another volunteer. Be flexible about swapping volunteers to other positions.

7. Have a Back-Up Plan

Occasionally, you will have last-minute volunteer cancellations or no-shows. Always have a few backup volunteers at the ready who can pinch hit for you. Think about worst-case scenarios, and make sure you have your most vital positions covered with an understudy.

8. Watch for Signs of Volunteer Burnout

Volunteers who work multiple events or who have busy lives are subject to burnout just like anyone else. If you notice a volunteer losing interest, becoming less reliable or being downright cranky about their participation, offer them a break by rotating them through a cushy job. Some people won’t feel right about bowing out until you give them permission to do so; consider telling them, when possible, that you have their tasks taken care of and they can just enjoy themselves.

9. Thank, Thank and Thank Again

You can never thank your volunteers too many times. In addition to verbal and written “thank yous,” there are many ways you can show your appreciation, such as free meals; paid parking; free logo t-shirts, hats, umbrellas, tote bags, etc.; goodie bags from sponsors; gift certificates; an opportunity to hear a keynote speaker or sit in on other sessions free of charge when not working; a mention in the program or an ad on the event materials; pre- or post-event get-togethers in their honor; free association membership with so many volunteer hours worked, etc.

If your association hosts frequent or large events, your volunteers are the backbone of your success. Treat them well; be organized; and your association will reap the benefits for years to come.