Volunteers are the glue that holds downtown programs together. With a small staff and limited resources, the people in your community are your best assets. Whether they help with an outdoor event or festival, participate on a downtown revitalization committee, or assist with day-to-day office duties, it’s important to keep them engaged and feeling appreciated. Consider these tips and resources to help bring your volunteer management capacity to the next level.
1. Know the type of assistance you need. It is extremely important for volunteers to feel like they are contributing, otherwise they will not have a purpose for helping your organization and may be less reliable. Work with your events committee to determine a consistent approach to recruit volunteers and plan it out! Write out a plan for your year-long events and where you need folks to help. Post the different jobs and shifts needed online or in an email to people who have shown interest in volunteering, and keep records of all shifts filled and still available.
2. Provide volunteers with the necessary resources. Make sure the volunteers are properly trained on their jobs. For example, if a large event draws thousands of people, they may need to review crowd management techniques, or if there is alcohol being served, they should be trained to ID and serve. Plan for a volunteer orientation at the beginning of the season or before the event to ensure they feel well prepared. Include information about your organization’s mission, history, and any other helpful background details that can help your volunteer serve as an ambassador for your organization or community.
3. Show your appreciation! Volunteers can be one of your strongest asset,s and volunteers who return year after year provide your events or programming with a consistent quality that comes from experience and devotion to your organization. By tracking how many hours your volunteers have committed to your organization, you can ensure everyone gets the appreciation they deserve. Consider low-cost, but valuable take-aways for event volunteers (e.g., t-shirts, posters, mugs) or educational opportunities for those volunteering in the office (e.g., networking event invitations, organizational membership, job referrals). Make sure to give extra recognition to those who go the extra mile. Consider hosting a special event just to thank your volunteers and recognize all of their contributions.
4. Do your research and continue to improve your processes. Check out the below resources for ideas on how to streamline and maintain your volunteer program.
The Western Hardrock Watershed Team Resource Guide for Rural Volunteers (available online for download or purchase)
Volunteer Tracking Programs
Volunteer Management Examples