Volunteer Engagement – Best Practices for Busy Events

volunteer engagement at every event and interaction
Photo by Aranxa Esteve on Unsplash

It is so much easier to keep a volunteer than it is to find a new one. And how your organization focuses on volunteer engagement will have a direct impact on how you are able to retain them.

What is Volunteer Engagement

With an emphasis on volunteer engagement, you can have a direct impact on the retention of your volunteers. Volunteer engagement refers to the level of involvement, commitment, and satisfaction of volunteers in their work. It includes the activities, programs, and policies that organizations use to attract, retain, and support volunteers. Great volunteer engagement can:

  • Increase community involvement and support
  • Build additional support and human power
  • Bring new skills and perspectives
  • Enhance your organization’s reputation
  • Promote teamwork and collaboration
  • Strengthen relationships and connections in the community
  • Aaaand generate positive publicity and increased visibility for your nonprofit

By focusing on creating a great experience for volunteers and retaining them, you can help reduce costs for your organization in several ways as well. For example, when most of your volunteers stay with your organization for a long time, there is no need to invest continuously in training new volunteers. Experienced volunteers are more productive and efficient, reducing the time and resources needed. As volunteers are more involved with your organization, they gain a deeper understanding of the mission and goals, leading to higher-quality work. It takes time and money to replace a volunteer, such as advertising, interviewing, and training new volunteers (psst! POINT makes all of that a lot easier). Retaining as many volunteers as you can lowers the burden on your staff. A stable volunteer base provides ongoing support for the organization’s programs and activities, helping to ensure long-term sustainability. And retaining volunteers provides continuity in the organization’s programs and services, reducing the need for sudden changes or disruptions.

Where to Start?

A great place to start building an awesome engagement plan with volunteers is at those busy events! Charity walks/runs, gala dinners or auctions, volunteer fairs or recruitment events, community festivals or parades, fundraising concerts or shows, youth camps or workshops, health fairs or screenings, environmental clean-up events, cultural celebrations (e.g., Diwali, Lunar New Year), and disaster relief efforts or aid drives are all excellent examples of places where you may have lots of new and returning volunteers. Showing that you care about their volunteer experience is super important. There is a lot that goes into these events, but don’t leave your volunteers as the final thought! Keep reading for best practices that you can start doing now to keep your volunteers engaged and involved. 

Best Practices, Tips, and Tools for Volunteer Engagement

Clear volunteer communications!

Giving volunteers clear instructions and providing them with the necessary resources and training can help ensure that they are able to carry out their duties effectively.

  • Provide contact info in case of questions for the day of. It does not always have to be the same person. This could be anyone on staff, on the volunteer team, or another individual who is helping to coordinate the event. 
  • Post signage and directions to where they need to go. This information should be included in confirmation details and made available at the venue.
  • Provide volunteers with a way to communicate with each other (walkie-talkies, anyone?) and with event staff. This ensures that they are able to work together effectively. And that if any issues arise, they can be quickly addressed.

Assign specific tasks and responsibilities to volunteers, such as:

  • Point of contact – this could be someone you trust to be your right-hand person. So that when the event lead is too busy or is not able to be found, this person can step in and handle things on their behalf.
  • Volunteer check-in lead – this is where volunteers go when they arrive at the event and get all of the information about volunteering that day.
  • Directing traffic – both for the volunteers who are coming early and event guests.
  • Information booth leads – this can be a great shift for volunteers who can’t stay for the whole event but can help for a couple of hours.
  • Volunteer experience liaison – assign a volunteer to check with other volunteers throughout the event (especially new volunteers who are helping for the first time) and make sure they have what they need

Support their human needs:

  • Provide volunteers with frequent breaks. This is especially important if they are staffing a role on their own and may not be able to step away easily for bio-breaks.
  • Make sure everyone has access to food and water. This includes making sure you plan for volunteer meals or snacks in your budget.

Provide Day-of Resources

  • A guide for the day. This person will let the volunteers know what to expect as the event progresses, and if possible, what their roles are in the day’s activities.
  • A map of the venue and location. It would be great if restrooms, food, first aid, and information booths were included on the map!

Want an easy way to manage event signups and send volunteers automatic notifications?

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Photo Brandy Strand
Brandy Strand
Nonprofit Partnerships Account Executive

No guilt trips, no sad stories. Just a chance to do something good.