The Ultimate Guide to Hiring and Managing Volunteers at Your Events

by Harry Prince,

24 March 2022

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Contents

Sure, event volunteers are a sure-fire way to save money when running events for your nonprofit organisation or community event. They can even be cost-effective ways of staffing your monetised events if you get your staffing right! 

However, the big picture idea surrounding event volunteers is that they are people who add depth to your events, enriching your attendees’ experience; because they believe and care about what you’re trying to achieve. 

Here’s the thing, though, managing event volunteers needs to be done well. Otherwise, it could have catastrophic consequences for your community event and your relationship with volunteers going forward. 

That’s why we’ve put together this ultimate guide to hiring and managing volunteers. There’s no fluff. It’s just straight to the point actionable points. So get reading and good luck! 

The Ultimate Guide to Hiring and Managing Volunteers at Your Events

Infographic via Volunteer Toronto

1. Managing Event Volunteers Begins with Measuring Staffing Needs

So before you go out hiring event volunteers, the first step of the volunteer management process is figuring out your staffing needs. So consider the size of your venue, your number of attendees, etc. and make as strong an estimate as you can. 

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2. Understand Event Volunteers Motivations 

It is essential to understand why event volunteers will donate their time and labour to your cause – knowing this will better help you to convince them to join your event and how to motivate them and incentivise them going forward. 

There are several reasons that people will want to work at community events or for nonprofit organisations. The range from but are not exclusive to the following: 

  • Passion in your cause 
  • Yearning to form new connections 
  • Work experience/skill-building
  • Community forming 
  • Free entry/associated perks 

Understanding this information will make enhance your volunteer management. If you know what they’re trying to get out of it, you can help them work towards it, thereby creating a more effective event volunteer when carrying out their duties. 

3. Write Clear Role Descriptions For Your Event Volunteers 

Managing event volunteers is in many regards, just like hiring regular staff. It’s essential to be upfront about what you need and what the job entails. And plus, the more precise you can be with your role descriptions, the more sincerely your potential event volunteers can consider whether they’re up to it and which role suits them best. 

How you write your role descriptions are your business, but if you indulge us, we think it should look something like this: 

  • Title
  • Job overview
  • Key responsibilities
  • Qualifications
  • Location
  • Time commitment

4. Make The Event Volunteers Application Easily 

Again, a crucial part of managing event volunteers effectively is respecting their time. Exhausting HR tricks such as asking applicants to type out their CV only to ask them to upload a physical copy of it will not endear yourself to them. 

We’re not telling you to be recklessly negligent but make the process as simple as possible for them. They’ll appreciate it. It’s about fostering the good sentiment that brought them to this process in the first place, not chipping away at it. 

5. Simplify the Hiring Process For Your Community Event 

When companies hire for critical positions, the hiring process can take ages, spanning several interviews. When managing event volunteers, cut that out. Instead, here’s what you do, plain and simple. 

  • Have a screening process (pick the applications that stand out)
  • Hold interviews (pick the ones that still stand out)
  • Do a background check (better safe than sorry)

See? Simple. 

6. Match Talent With Roles For Better Volunteer Management 

Here’s where creating clearly defined role descriptions come in handy. It makes it easier to sort event volunteers with specific jobs. 

Matching talent with these roles should be a two-way street. At the end of the day, you’re controlling who does what. But individuals must have an input in what they do. If they’re allowed a choice, they’ll be more motivated to do a better job. 

However, letting people have a totally free choice could lead to specific roles overloading while some other jobs are left unattended. Similarly, and quite obviously, it could lead to event volunteers being responsible for positions for which they have little to no experience or skills to do. 

So, in short, matching talent with roles is a crucial role in volunteer management. It requires conversation, honesty, logistical patience, and tact. 

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7. Hire Diversely For Effective Community Events 

Being an event volunteer should be an enriching experience. You can assist in that experience by hiring a diverse range of people to join your community event and nonprofit organisation activities because representation matters, and diversity is beneficial to everyone. 

Isn’t it life-affirming when you meet and work with people who have a different lived experience than you? Think of a young teen and retired person working as hosts, sharing stories and perspectives; think of people of different nationalities working in the tech booth, making a friend they’d never have had the chance to meet. 

And to help them all get along, why not use one of the great activities from our ultimate guide to team building

8. Recruit More Event Volunteers Than You Need

Volunteer management isn’t without teething problems. So hire more event volunteers than you first thought you needed. 

Firstly, there will likely be more no-shows when you manage event volunteers than paid staff. This is perhaps more common with events run by nonprofit organisations compared to community events. 

The sad truth is, people’s livelihoods aren’t on the line, so the charitable high that they were on when they applied to be an event volunteer might have worn off come event day. 

Secondly, what if there are clashes between members, which leads to people quitting on the job?  And finally, what if you’ve just miscalculated? It happens to the best of us. The convenience with event volunteers is that you’re not out of pocket by overhiring compared to paid staff, so it’s a case of no harm, no foul! 

9. Communicate Clearly and Early For Effective Volunteer Management

Here’s the thing, it’s easier said than done to communicate clearly and early. So how do you go about it? 

Well, there are several ways. You can have an emailing list to disseminate important information such as dates for training, event volunteer guidelines, etc. 

If you want to allow your event volunteers the capacity to reply – and create a conversion – then a group chat via something like Watsapp, Slack, or Telegram is better. 

You need this avenue for reciprocal communication because what if they have complaints? What if they have questions about their role? An organisation that can’t communicate is own doomed to fail! 

10. Show Your Appreciation to Your Event Volunteers

Your event volunteers must know that their hard work is appreciated. So tell them. 

Of course, if you’re a nonprofit organisation, financial remuneration isn’t possible. However, any sort of gift you can offer your event volunteers will be greatly appreciated. 

For example, everyone loves a free lunch. Offering free food will cheer people up and give them the energy to fulfil their tasks. It’s an oldie but a goodie! 

Another good example is free merch. Especially if it’s goods that regular attendees are paying for, and while we’re on that subject, check out these 32 cool branded merchandise ideas for every occasion. 

Or perhaps free access or generous break times to enjoy the event is a lovely touch, especially when a regular attendee is paying to attend! 

And finally, you can offer them a reference! There’s a good chance your event volunteers can use the experience at your event to learn a new skill or for leverage in job or university applications. It’s only fair that you return the favour of their work with a helpful reference, right? 

11. Stay in Touch After Your Community Event is Over

Volunteer management doesn’t end after your event is over. You need to continue communicating with your event volunteers after the last bits of decoration have been packed away. 

Firstly, as we said, they must know that they’re appreciated and that you’re still thinking of them after the event. 

Secondly, their opinion on how things went is critical. If they feel their training didn’t prepare them adequately, or the chain of communication or leadership wasn’t effective in solving their problem during the event, you need to know about that. 

What do they think would make future event volunteers have a more incredible experience? Learning from each other is what makes for good volunteer management. 

Wrapping up 

Now that you’ve got a grasp on managing event volunteers, what’s next in the event planning process? Well, for starters, you need the perfect location. We can also help you with that because exciting event spaces are our bread and butter. So make sure to browse our collection when you’re ready to book the perfect venue

And after you’ve got the perfect venue, you’ll be wondering where to get extra funding from next. Well, we have that covered too. Just read our guide on How to write an event sponsorship proposal. Good luck! 

Harry Prince
Harry Prince

Creative Content Manager who sings to his dog.

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