Managing volunteers for sporting events.
Most sporting events rely heavily on volunteers’ generous donation of time and labor. Whether juggling a handful of helpers or hundreds of volunteers the truth is the situation can be tricky since volunteers aren’t technically employees. Volunteers cherish their time on the job, want to feel appreciated and know their efforts are helpful. Plus, many volunteers are frontrunners when it comes to donations for fundraisers and ambassadors for the event. That’s why the key to successful management of volunteers is three-fold: what is done before, during and after the event.
Recruiting and retaining volunteers is a topic of its own but even before the signup sheets are full, as all planners know, it’s never too early to have a plan. When it comes to delivering the ideal event, good communication with volunteers is paramount and it’s no different when planning a sporting event. That’s why the foundation for proper volunteer management is distributing a clear and concise volunteer policy. This is a chance to tell volunteers what is expected of them, qualifications needed (age requirements, skills, physical expectations) and what benefits or perks they will get in return for their time (lunch, t-shirt, post-party, tickets to other events, etc.). You will want to make sure that these perks are purchased in advance. Additional details that should not be omitted are time commitment, safety and emergency information, supervisor contact information and any other pertinent event information.
Depending upon the level of involvement some training may be necessary. These gatherings are best done well before the event. It’s best to keep these meetings brief and to the point but effective so everyone walks away feeling confident in knowing their responsibilities. Designating volunteers to activities they enjoy (water stations, passing out finisher medals, crossing guards, concession stands) and leaders for each division will help make the event run smoothly and avoid one person being the overwhelmed “go-to person”. Try tools like www.signupgenius.com for an easy way to fill specific volunteer roles. When there are various spots to fill, take it a step further and organize teams for the purpose of building camaraderie and keeping the common goal in sight. This is especially helpful if many volunteers are teens or younger since teams can keep the kids accountable and on task.
During the Event
The big day has arrived and the proper people are in place - now it’s show time! First, are your volunteers wearing their appropriate uniform? This may be an obvious suggestion; after all, t-shirts are often an expected bonus for volunteers during sporting events. In some cases, it’s one of the reasons volunteers sign up for events; people love swag. Naturally, depending upon the time of year and type of event other options could include sweatshirts, windbreakers, waterproof ponchos and baseball caps. This element is important for all workers, paid and non-paid, for many reasons. Event workers recognizing each other guarantees better communication and attendees and participants should be able to recognize workers for simple reasons like directions to restrooms or more serious situations, such as a safety concerns or medical needs.
Giving volunteers a home base can keep everyone in the loop and are an ideal place to offer water, snacks and shade, keep sign-in sheets and relay event changes and messages. Volunteers can even man the booth to keep things running smoothly.
Another good idea is to recognize volunteers at the event, such as a thank you during an awards ceremony towards the end of the event.
After the Event
Most importantly, thank your volunteers again; a hand-written note is always appreciated. Asking for post-event feedback is also a nice way to say, “your input matters” while learning ways to improve the next event. Send an online survey (try www.surveymonkey.com) to uncover what’s working and what’s not and how volunteers rank the overall success of the event. Since it’s not realistic for event planners to know every little circumstance that occurs during the event, asking volunteers to voice any concerns will help alert event planners of problems or situations that can be avoided in the future.
Volunteers are valuable, especially the experienced contributors, it’s nice to keep them coming back year after year. Remember to ask volunteers to sign up for notification of next year’s events and remind them the event couldn’t go on without them.