The Pursuit of Happy Volunteers

Every year our country remembers the acts and declarations of our forefathers. And every year, 30,000 runners take in the sights and long-standing history in the city of brotherly love. As George Washington once said, “Let’s run this thing!”

The Philadelphia Marathon was founded over 60 years ago and is consistently listed among the top ten courses in the country. While the theme changes every year, the course and the people remain favorites among the runners trotting along the water and through downtown Philly.

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Christine Waite is the volunteer coordinator for the ~3,500 volunteers it takes to make this race happen each year. Between the Kids Fun Run, 8K, Half Marathon and Marathon, she says the event could not be the success it is without these volunteers.

While this is a long-standing event with many repeat participants and volunteers, the process to get there has been far from seamless. In fact, they have switched volunteer registration processes three times in the last three years.

Photo cred:
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With the ability to send confirmation emails to volunteers, customize volunteer roles, and run up-to-date reports, the Philadelphia Marathon has finally found their perfect match with VolunteerLocal. Waite says, “Compared to last year’s system, it is 100 times better!”

It’s not too late to help these founding runners!

To life, liberty, and happy volunteering!

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We heard it through the Grapevine (Texas)

Courtesy of Grapevine Texas

You may recognize the name “Grapevine” as one of your favorite dance moves, but did you know that Grapevine, Texas is a nationally-acclaimed destination spot in the Southwest? Boasting 80 locally-owned shops, wineries and restaurants amid the gorgeous scenery of north Texas, it’s no wonder thousands travel here every summer for a relaxing, tannin-infused getaway. 

Beyond the local attractions, Grapevine is also the home of multiple events, such as GrapeFest®, the largest wine festival in the Southwest; the Christmas Capital of Texas®, which features 1,400 Christmas events over more than 40 days; Main Street Fest, a three-day family-friendly festival of fun; and numerous others. Grapevine has even been officially recognized as a World Festival & Events City by the International Festival & Events Association (IFEA).

Courtesy of Grapevine Texas
Courtesy of Grapevine Texas

These events are made possible by the Grapevine Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB). “The Grapevine Convention & Visitors Bureau is the destination marketing organization for the City of Grapevine, Texas,” says Luke Wolfard, Festival and Event Manager at the Grapevine CVB. “It’s our mission to attract new and repeat meetings and conventions, leisure travelers and local residents to experience the superior level of attractions, shopping, dining, annual events and more.”

These festivals are also a way to support the local community. “Grapefest (and others) are very important to the community because the proceeds help finance the Grapevine Heritage Foundation,” explains Wolfard. The Grapevine Heritage Foundation is a not-for-profit community organization committed to promoting the preservation, protection, and economic development of Grapevine’s physical and cultural heritage.

Before switching to VolunteerLocal, Grapevine recruited volunteers using paper forms that volunteers filled out by hand, and then mailed, faxed, or dropped off at the CVB. Data was then manually inputted and stored in (you guessed it!) Excel spreadsheets. For an organization that recruits up to 1,000 individual volunteers for some of it’s largest events, VolunteerLocal has made it much easier to organize and communicate.

“[VolunteerLocal’s] ease and online use for the volunteers to sign up for shifts has enabled us to recruit a larger amount of volunteers with greater efficiency,” Luke Wolfard, Festival and Event Manager at the Grapevine CVB says. “I will continue to use VolunteerLocal at our future events and would definitely recommend it to others.”

When you’re planning your next family vacation, or simply craving a glass of the best wine the southwest has to offer, consider Grapevine, Texas: it’s as fun (and accessible) as your favorite dance move (step-behind-step-touch)!


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Trot Your Stuff at the Turkey Trot!

VolunteerLocal was created and is headquartered in Des Moines, so we guess you could say we’re biased when it comes to our love for the city. But it’s for good reason. With the amount of young professionals, awesome restaurants, affordable housing and more, there’s no reason not to love this metropolis.

Photo cred: Raygun

Michael Zimmerman, founder of Rip Roar Events, agrees with us. “The cost to culture ratio in Des Moines is great. You can afford to take a risk and start a new company. People are trying to do things that might cause great change without worrying about paying thousands in rent or for groceries. Instead, people can reinvest into things that benefit the community.”

Rip Roar Events was created with that idea of culture and community building in mind. Zimmerman founded the company in January 2015, with an interest in children’s endurance events. This November, they’re hosting their first ever Turkey Trot, a 5K and 5Mile race on Thanksgiving day which encourages runners of all ages. Beyond featuring an awesome route, it will also include a community meal, to bring the people of Des Moines together.

Turkey Trot Vector Logo-page-0 (2)
Courtesy of Rip Roar Events

“We’re focusing on community and culture building events,” Zimmerman explains. “We thought, ‘What are we going to do that’s actually going to benefit the community?’ So we created the Turkey Trot, which I believe provides people with an outlet to do something besides sit around the TV… We’re having a community meal, and one of the options when registering is asking if you want to buy a plate for somebody else. We already have 150 plates bought, so people are saying, ‘It’s Thanksgiving, let’s continue to make Des Moines great and give back.’ Everyone will be coming around the table to share a meal that perpetuates that [greatness].”

VolunteerLocal has been a useful tool for gathering new volunteers–and it doesn’t hurt that it’s a local business. “It’s great that we’re using something that was developed locally by young people, people that we know in our community. We try to do as much within a local platform as possible to say, Des Moines kicks butt and we’ll prove it in every facet,” says Zimmerman. “For a first year event that’s up and coming, and trying to establish consistency, it’s fantastic to be able to give people this very professional platform… [VolunteerLocal] is a total luxury for a small up and coming race.”

So while we understand the temptation to stay on the couch in your most forgiving sweatpants, we recommend taking part in this year’s Turkey Trot. It’s an event that promises to benefit the community, and you. We’re positive it will make those turkey legs and mashed potatoes all the more satisfying.

Click here to sign up and learn more about volunteering opportunities for the Turkey Trot 2015!

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5 Steps to Volunteer Greatness

Now, we understand that volunteers can be a complex group to pin down. They run the gamut from teenagers to seniors; some are looking for community involvement, some want a free parking spot. We like to think that most volunteers are passionate about the work they’re doing – if they care to give, odds are, they’re giving because they care. With that in mind, we’ve put together five easy steps you can take to hone your volunteer force into loyal, informed and enthusiastic advocates for your event.


Step 1: Train Your Volunteers

Make sure those volunteers know their moves.

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A training session should include a step-by-step of their actual job duties. Bonus points if you can bring in returning volunteers to give newbies the real low-down on how things will work. Do they know where to check-in when they arrive? Do they know what to bring? Who to talk to if they get lost or confused? Introduce the volunteer coordinator; it’s always helpful to associate a face with the name of the person who’s choreographing the big dance.

Pro tip: a pre-event volunteer training session rarely has perfect attendance, but don’t sweat it. You just need a handful of informed volunteers to lead the rest of the pack.


Step 2: Let’s Get Digital

Welcome to 2015. Your volunteers will almost undoubtedly turn the volume up on your events – through Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, you-name-it. As representatives of your organization, be sure they understand the gravity and implications of what they post online.

Photo cred:
Photo cred:

Our best advice? If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Leverage social media to draw attention to your event. Create a hashtag you’d like your volunteers to use when they tweet about their experience. Share with them your Facebook page and encourage them to “Like” what you do online. Ask your volunteers to tag your event in their photos (you might even consider hosting a photo contest!). There’s nothing wrong with a little free publicity – just make sure it’s the right kind of publicity.


Step 3: Repeat After Me…

Your volunteers are the most visible representation of your organization on-site; make sure they know the lingo. All your volunteers should be able to speak intelligently about your event in case they find themselves on the recording end of a microphone by a media or news outlet.

Moreover, equip each volunteer with a map of the event grounds or venue where they’ll be working, and make sure they can locate information booths and bathrooms on a dime.


Step 4: Always Assess Risk

If you’re running a post-race beer garden or beverage tent, prep your volunteers on the signs of alcohol poisoning and where to find birthdates on IDs. Set up wrist-banding stations and coordinate with the local police force wherever possible.

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If it rains, provide ponchos. If it’s starting to get late, put together a hospitality crew to distribute fresh fruit to your folks on the course. You’re the kind of coordinator who looks out for your volunteers – rain or shine. Keep them happy, hydrated and nourished throughout the day.

If there is the possibility of physical injury during your event, be sure to explain proper protocol to your volunteers and get those waivers signed. Liability less, volunteer more!


Step 5: Volunteer Appreciation

The last (and perhaps most important) step of this process is a simple “thank you.” Volunteers love a little kudos (don’t we all?), so make sure they know how much you appreciate their hard work. From a t-shirt to a candy bouquet, a handshake to a milkshake, there are myriad ways to show your gratitude. Try a little tenderness: it’s the key to happy volunteers.

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New VolunteerLocal team member!

Hey VolunteerLocal! I’m Lucy, the new (Happy) Community Builder. I can tell you that I am literally the happiest to be getting this opportunity to work with such awesome people dedicated to volunteering.

I graduated from the University of Iowa in English and Creative Writing. I was initially worried that those degrees would lead to me becoming a starving artist, and I love food way too much for that. Instead, it took me down an amazing path working with different nonprofits in the Chicagoland area and doing local volunteer work until I landed here, your new VolunteerLocal customer support rep, ready to answer any and all of your questions. You’ll also be seeing me on the blog and over on our social media.

I can further tell you that I am addicted to tacos, I am both a dog AND a cat person (breaking barriers one fluffy creature at a time), I was a synchronized swimmer for exactly one year in high school, and I am an expert knitter.

I’m absolutely overjoyed to be a new part of this community. Tweet me at @luceedubs or follow VolunteerLocal on Twitter, Facebook, or Linkedin

Happy Day, Happy Volunteering!

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Getting Trippy with the Nippy Hippie!

Early this November, the Altoona Chamber of Commerce will throw their third annual Nippy Hippie 5K, a run/walk that supports the local community of Altoona, Iowa.

Courtesy of the Altoona Chamber of Commerce
Courtesy of the Altoona Chamber of Commerce

Not only does this particular 5K have an outstanding name, but it’s also doing some amazing things for the community of Altoona.

For the third year, the Altoona Chamber of Commerce is putting on the Nippy Hippie 5K, a run/walk that brings in hundreds of participants and gives a portion of the proceeds to different projects going on in the community. This year, they are thrilled to be able to support the Altoona Kids Cafe, a program created to help families experiencing food insecurity.

“When children are hungry, they don’t learn as well,” explains Melissa Horton, Executive Director of the

Courtesy of the Altoona Chamber of Commerce
Courtesy of the Altoona Chamber of Commerce

Altoona Chamber of Commerce. “The Altoona Kids Cafe put together an incredible program that feeds over 300 kids over the summer. Along with feeding kids, it’s also providing extended learning activities…Beth [my coworker] and I volunteer at this particular cafe in the summer time as well, but we wanted to be able to give them even more this year.”

Before using VolunteerLocal, the Altoona Chamber of Commerce relied on asking board members, family or friends to volunteer for their events. But ever since using VolunteerLocal’s software, they’ve had a huge success getting more people involved. “The simplicity of how people can [sign up] is awesome! People love the fact that they can just click the link, pick where they want to be, and we’re able to easily communicate with them. That’s been a huge plus for us.”

Courtesy of the Altoona Chamber of Commerce
Courtesy of the Altoona Chamber of Commerce

So don your best tie-dye and head on out Saturday, November 7th from 10:00am-12:00pm and join the Nippy Hippie 5K! It promises to be a very groovy time with a local bar serving food and drinks, free hot cocoa, and a “selfie station” sponsored by Sam’s Club. There will also be plenty of kids and family activities, including some tie-dying and different hippie-themed crafts.

Happy (Groovy) Volunteering, Altoona!

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We’re Hiring!

VolunteerLocal - logo


VolunteerLocal is looking for a part-time Community Builder to take on immediate customer service, community management and social media responsibilities. Applicants must be highly motivated, well organized, and eager to assist our clients as they learn and implement the system. This position involves one-to-one interactions with customers via phone and email. Additionally, our Happy Community Builder will be charged with managing and engaging our brand spankin’ new VolunteerLocal forum (online), posting tutorial videos to YouTube, writing customer spotlight and feature-centric blog posts, and responding to our followers through social media.

Qualified candidates must possess excellent interpersonal communication skills, writing ability, and professionalism when dealing with event coordinators. Willingness to travel for conferences and other opportunities is a plus. This role has the potential to become a full-time position in May 2016.

Hours: Monday-Friday, 9am-1pm (flexible)

Location: This position will be based out of Des Moines, Iowa for 3-5 months. After that, it can be done remotely.


● Implement and enhance key processes related to customer support, training and documentation at VolunteerLocal.

● Answer client questions via phone, email, through social media and in the forum.

● Schedule, facilitate and lead group training sessions with our paying clients utilizing the software tools provided by VolunteerLocal (Speek, Join.Me, etc.).

● Proactively address customer needs by scripting and filming tutorial and “Getting Started” videos, to be published on YouTube, in the forum and on our website.

● Write and publish customer-centric blogposts on

● Review and enhance the VolunteerLocal FAQs, in addition to other documentation and training materials. Discover innovative ways to touch clients with digital support materials.

● Perform training of customer support processes for internal audiences/new hires.

● Assist with a variety of activities relating to the daily operations of customer support and community building to begin to understand how the business as a whole operates and to help identify the current and future needs of the business.

● Act as a liaison between customer support and other departments (development, marketing and sales) within the company to facilitate an open dialogue around business needs and expectations.

● Help to maintain and administer operations systems and the processes and procedures around systems as used by the customer support department (community forum, phone calls, tutorial videos, emails, FAQs, etc.)

● Identify trends in customer support requests to help our development team focus on performance drivers and enhancements to the system.


● Strong relationship building and communication skills

● Ability to thrive in a dynamic, fast-paced, rapidly growing start-up

● 2+ years’ experience in Customer Support, SaaS experience strongly preferred

● Excellent written, verbal, presentation and time management skills

● Experience with customer support and/or forum related software and tools.

● Bachelor’s Degree preferred

● Positive, team-centric-attitude

To apply, please submit a resume and cover letter to by Friday, September 4th.

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Red, White & BOOM!

The 4th of July: a day to celebrate our country’s great independence, the Constitution and the Magnaamericanflag2 Carta, beef jerky and (did we mention?) totally awesome fireworks. This year, with the 2016 presidential hopefuls surfacing on your televisions, radio stations and in your favorite coffee shops, our prediction is that tomorrow’s 4th of July celebration will be peppered with some good ‘ol fashioned politics.

So before you dive into a lively debate with your brother-in-law about the Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement, burn off some steam by celebrating like a true American: volunteer at the Red, White & BOOM! Half Marathon and RedWhiteandBoomLogoRelay. Produced by Twin Cities In Motion, this event takes place on the morning of July 4th in Minneapolis, MN – and it’s an excellent way to kick off a weekend of patriotic festivities.

Twin Cities In Motion (TCM) is a non-profit corporation that organizes and directs the annual Medtronic TwinCities Marathon, Medtronic TC 10 Mile, TC 10K, TC 5K & Medtronic TC Family Events, Valentine’s Day TC 5K, 100% Irish for a Day TC 5K and TC 10 Mile, Medtronic TC 1 Mile, Red, White and Boom! TC Half Marathon, TC Urban Dash, Fifteen’s 5K and all related events, as well as the TC Kids Marathon Program, as a community service for the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. We know – that sounds like a lot of running. Luckily, volunteers like you keep this organization in smooth operation, mile-after-mile.

From all of us here at VolunteerLocal – Happy 4th of July and (as always) Happy Volunteering!

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80/35 Music Festival

Grab those party pants, Des Moines.

For many in Iowa’s capital city, the 80/35 Music Festival is a summertime staple. Aptly named for it’s unique (and rather convenient) location along the intersection of Interstates 80 and 35, 8035mfthis festival has earned a stellar reputation for luring high-profile headliners into the heartland. This year’s 80/35 Music Festival will take place the weekend of July 10th-11th.

Sign up to volunteer!

Looking to score a free ticket? Sign-up as a volunteer. There are plenty of positions available: from Beer Tents to the Kids Zone, Green Team Recycle Crew to First Aid Tents – you’re sure to find your volunteer calling at this year’s 80/35 spectacular.

Included in 80/35’s roster of past performers are The Flaming Lips, Bright Eyes, the Wu-Tang Clan and the Avett Brothers.

2015 Headliners: Weezer, WILCO, St. Lucia and Talib Kweli

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imATHLETE & VolunteerLocal


VolunteerLocal is now the official volunteer registration technology partner to imATHLETE, an industry leader in race registration, e-commerce and social networking.


This partnership provides a special list price discount to imATHLETE customers who sign-up on VolunteerLocal. This discount can be applied to any paid plan (Discover or Grow) at the single-event or annual level. “Over the years, VolunteerLocal has continually proven to be a powerful force in volunteer management software,” said imATHLETE CEO Jeff Matlow. “We are beyond excited to integrate with them and ensure imATHLETE continues to provide a one-stop resource for all athletic events.”

VolunteerLocal’s easy-to-use, flexible volunteer scheduling platform was built to serve sporting events of all sizes and types. Our scheduling, coordination and communication resources, combined with our user friendly design, has led our platform to be the resource of choice for such organizations as Twin Cities in Motion, USA Triathlon and the Vancouver International Marathon, among others.

“We are beyond excited about enhancing our relationship with imATHLETE,” said Brian Hemesath, CEO of VolunteerLocal. “imATHLETE is a clear leader in the athletic space and a company that shares our goal of leveraging technology to solve everyday problems of event organizers.”

For more information about this partnership or to request a demonstration, please contact VolunteerLocal directly:

(800) 909-7370

Tweet us @VolunteerLocal

imATHLETE is a different kind of registration company. Blending registration, training and e-commerce technology with the social networking inherent in participatory sports, they are a leading force in the sporting world. With its industry-changing technology, imATHLETE is one of the fastest growing companies in the market. They are transforming the relationship between event organizers and their participants.

imATHLETE’s clients and partners include the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon, ASICS Los Angeles Marathon, Austin Marathon, Bike New York, GORE-TEX Philadelphia Marathon, Dallas Marathon, Twin Cities in Motion, American Trail Running Association, and thousands of others.

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