How To Manage A Team Of Volunteers
Behind the scenes of every exciting nonprofit event or social function is a team of people working hard to create the magic of the night.
It is an art form to make all these pieces work together when you’re harnessing the creativity and energy of volunteers, and in this post are helpful tips to navigate pulling it all together.
Tip #1 - Treat them as employees
To create a positive atmosphere for your volunteers, it's important to consider them as professionals who do not differ from those who are paid or are staffed employees. Most volunteers sign up to receive community credit for school, to gain a valuable experience that is resume worthy, or they are just here to give back to the cause.
Although they are not paid, their reasoning is similar if not the same to your paid staff, so why not treat them like a part of the team?
This will create a positive atmosphere and, by making everyone feel equal, will encourage positive feedback on your event and hopefully bring in more volunteers next year.
Tip #2: Create a volunteer agreement form
Putting together an agreement document helps outline the various expectations that workers are to abide by, leaving nothing up to speculation.
It needs to incorporate common issues like attendance, a code of conduct, required dress code etc.
In addition, the contract needs to specify the amount of time for which it will be in effect and if there are conditions under which it can be broken prematurely.
This will create a more professional atmosphere that your volunteers take seriously to encourage a more efficient work environment.
Tip #3 - Listen to their opinions
A top-down structure can often be a cause of stress, and it may leave the management open to blind spots.
Those on the first floor have the unique perspective of seeing the ins and outs of day-to-day operations and can often give valuable feedback that can help things run more efficiently.
Most of the time, your workers are exposed to far more issues, complaints, and customer personas than you aren’t aware of or ready to handle because of your little experience with the hands-on work.
Don’t be afraid to listen to your team and let them give you feedback; one suggestion is handing out an experience post-event survey before you dismiss your volunteers to gain more insight on improvements throughout the event that could be made.
Tip #4 - Define their roles
Nobody likes to be left guessing what their responsibilities are, therefore supervisors needs to explicitly lay out who is supposed to be doing what. Each task should have a set of action steps needed for its completion, and the lines of communication should be open to address any areas of confusion.
By defining the rules up front, you are eliminating any “empty time” for your volunteers and making sure no task is left unassigned.
By doing this step, your event not only became more organized and controlled, but you can have a clear head to focus on the bigger-picture of the event.
Tip #5 - Create a master contract
This document will serve as a protection for you and your unpaid work force in the scenario that anything unforeseen happens, and should also lay out the protocol for accidents and injuries.
You can draw up your own or find a free template online to save you time and energy.
By having this contract, you can avoid lawsuits, stress, time and MONEY. Take the extra step that will save you from doing more work in the end.
Tip #6 - Give out rewards
Make it clear in the beginning which perks your team can receive for a job well done, because this will be their incentive to complete their time as volunteers and encourage them to return next year.
This can be doled out in the form of free coaching, free courses, tickets, merchandise or a letter of recommendation for future employment. Depending on the event, the possibilities of their rewards can be endless and in fact the reason why you got the volunteers in the first place.
Some people need a little incentive even if they are giving back to a good cause, and it can’t hurt to show a little appreciation in the end … I mean, they did work for free.
Tip #7 - Make the most of training
Be sure to thoroughly equip your volunteers for success, taking your time, and updating them on changes to procedures, protocol etc.
This is vital as they will represent you and your event, so why not invest time into training to mold them into the representatives they could be. The more quality training they receive, the more confident they will be during the actual event, creating a smooth, professional environment for your guests!