Best Practices for Scheduling Volunteers for Events
If you’ve ever been responsible for event planning, you know it’s common to pour months of planning into an event that may only last a few hours. That’s because when it comes to events, every detail counts. And one of the most important aspects of planning an event is the volunteer team that will help make your event a success. Consider the following planning tips when scheduling volunteers for your next event, and share any tips you’ve gained from experience in the comments below!
Depending on how much time separates one event from another, you may need to start planning the next event as soon as you’ve finalized the other. Perhaps you’ll even need to plan multiple events at the same time. If you or a member of your team has any experience with planning for this event in the past, determine how much time you’ll need to plan it and then add approximately 15-20 percent more time as a buffer to account for any unexpected emergencies or delays. This will be your planning start date.
Who you need
Make a list of each and every possible role for which you might need a volunteer. Perhaps you need someone to collect vendor material coming in the mail, someone else to monitor trash cans during the event, and others to keep the bathrooms clean. Think through both the high-level and detailed tasks that will need to be considered before, during, and after the event. If these can be done by volunteers, write it down — even if you don’t have a title for the role yet.
Mark any roles that can be done by new volunteers and those that might need to be completed by more experienced volunteers so you can be sure they’re filled accordingly. For example, you might use a volunteer to manage the signage, and you might prefer to enlist the efforts of a graphic designer or a volunteer who has completed this task with success in the past.
How many you need
Once you have a list of roles and tasks that need to be covered by volunteers, determine how many volunteers you’ll need for each position. When doing this, take into consideration the shifts that will need coverage. For example, if you need someone to keep the bathrooms clean, it’s unlikely you’ll find a volunteer willing to do this for an eight hour event, so break down the shifts into two shifts of four hours each.
What you need
Create appropriate job descriptions for the positions, even if means just creating a short bullet point list. Do this for both old and new positions. If you already have this written out for previous roles, be sure to review them to check for accuracy and make sure all the information is up to date. Having expectations clearly defined will tease out any misinformation, overlapping responsibilities, gaps of oversight, or poor assumptions.
*Organize volunteers *
Now that you know the roles, number of volunteers, shifts, and tasks that you need to make your event a success, determine if you have enough event volunteers in your current pool of volunteers to cover all the needed shifts. Start filling positions with the volunteers you have available, and if you still need more, start spreading the word that you have a need.
_Consider current volunteers _
Take a look at your regular (i.e., weekly, monthly) volunteers to see if any of them would want to also volunteer for your event. You can quickly find out by sending an email or making a few quick phone calls, depending on the size of your volunteer base.
Look beyond your organization
Create a post and share it online, in community newsletters, or in public locations, such as libraries, where you can share the information for free and get it in front of a bigger audience.
Tell your network
Even if some of your current volunteers can’t help with the event, be sure to let them know that they can share the opportunity with those in their networks. What’s more, be sure to share the opportunities among those in your own professional network. And, if you don’t have direct connection with your organization’s board, be sure to have the Executive Director share it among the leadership as they may have families, friends, or colleagues who would be happy to invest in your organization as an event volunteer. Many of those volunteers may also come with sought after skill sets that will only serve to strengthen your event as a whole.
Schedule reminders in advance. If you’re using Volunteer Scheduler Pro, you can also set up auto-reminders to go to volunteers via email or their phones. Check-in meetings, newsletter updates, and trainings can also serve as great ways to remind volunteers of their tasks and responsibilities.
Even with the best planning, things can go awry — people get sick, weather changes, volunteers forget. That’s exactly why it’s best to have a backup plan. Identify the roles that must be filled and then find volunteers who are willing to serve as emergency backups. For all other positions, use sub requests to work through any last minute availability changes. Consider everything from guest speakers to audio board volunteers so that you know you have a “Plan B” for all major responsibilities.