How to keep event-based volunteers coming back

Bringing back volunteers

There are many organizations that hold annual or semi-annual events requiring a lot of volunteers, but who don’t need them the rest of the year.

Often, those organizations need to start recruiting each time from scratch. This can be a massive and frustrating drain on limited time and monetary resources.

There is a better way. Here are a few ideas to help you reduce the turnover.

1. Make each experience amazing. There are people who volunteer at the Olympic Games every cycle, no matter where in the world the games are held. They plan their vacations around when and where the games are, and they spend those vacations volunteering. Why? Because they have such an incredible time. They meet amazing people, they get to watch special events, they see the difference that they make, and so on. The people who do this regularly even form a bit of a club, and look forward to meeting each other every time. Do some thinking. What can you do to add that level of pleasure to your events?

2. Keep in touch. Just because you don’t need their services for several months doesn’t mean you ignore them. Nurture your volunteers like you would a garden. You only harvest once a year, but you care for the plants throughout. Keep volunteer contact information current and send them updates on how the event went (how many people were fed, how much money was raised, how many people participated, etc), information on what events are coming up (and how many volunteers are needed for it!); and what your organization is focusing on right now. Don’t do this constantly; once a month or so is plenty. If you send too many emails, they will become annoyed and may unsubscribe from your list. Stay in touch and they will be excited to come back for your next event.

3. Make it easy for them. If you need your volunteers to fill out forms or have security checks, keep completed copies on file for past volunteers so all that they need to do is sign it or send it in. You could also reduce the amount of training required, so long as nothing important has changed. Simply give them a quick refresher and let them go. The fewer red tape hoops they have to jump through, the more likely they are to volunteer again.

People will volunteer for an event the first time because they believe in the cause. If they have fun, are kept involved and have things made easier for them, they will volunteer again and again. Good luck.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Karen Knight has provided volunteer recruitment, engagement and training for not-for-profit organizations for more than 25 years.

Her professional life has spanned many industries, working in both the private and public sectors in various leadership positions.

Through her passion for making a difference in the world, she has gained decades of experience in not-for-profits as a leader and a board member.

Karen served in Toastmasters International for more than 25 years, in various roles up to district director, where she was responsible for one of the largest Toastmasters districts in the world.

She oversaw a budget of $250,000 and 300 individual clubs with more than 5,000 members. She had 20 leaders reporting directly to her and another 80 reporting to them—all volunteers.

Karen currently serves as vice-president of the board of directors for the Kamloops Therapeutic Riding Association.

After many years working and volunteering with not-for-profits, she found many leaders in the sector have difficulty with aspects of volunteer programs, whether in recruiting the right people, assigning those people to roles that both support the organization’s mission and in keeping volunteers enthusiastic.

Using hands-on experience, combined with extensive study and research, she helps solve challenges such as volunteer recruitment, engagement and training for not-for-profit organizations.

Karen Knight can be contacted at [email protected], or through her website at https://karenknight.ca/.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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