10 Tips for Finding and Retaining Your Best Volunteer Group

One of the hardest parts about being a volunteer coordinator is recruiting reliable volunteers.


What’s even more difficult? Making sure they stick around year after year. We’ve rounded up our top tips to help you get and keep your volunteers.


Communicate clearly.

Set expectations and communicate logistics in advance.. If your volunteers know what to expect from you and the experience, they’ll be much happier and willing to commit their time.


Post in multiple mediums.

If you want to reach every kind of person you can’t just stick to social media. Try local message boards, post fliers, or get a booth at the farmer’s market.


Include everyone in the fun.

If you spend time as a group, make sure everyone is involved and not just a core group of people. Friendships will be made, but cliques can be hurtful.


Hold meetings.

Not only will your current volunteers bring their friends, but it’s a good time to set your expectations and solidify everyone’s commitment.   


Address problems head on.

Volunteers may be giving their time for free, but you’re still the boss in the situation. If volunteers are butting heads, make sure to have a sit down so everyone can talk it out.


Encourage social events.

Creating social spaces for your volunteers can create a sense of community that’s harder to cultivate during volunteer shifts. Get volunteers out and about with each other as a way to build your team.


Be a part of the community. I know, taking on coordinating volunteers for a huge event is enough work, but if you go to events in your community you will be able to network and build a reputation for your own event.


Have a presence online.

We live in a time where you need to have something online. It can be a Facebook page, or just a one-page site that tells people what the event is, how to volunteer, and who to contact with questions.




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How to Properly Research for Your Event

Have you ever been to a race and wondered if the organizers have even seen the route?


Whether you’re starting a new event or re-envisioning a classic, doing the research to make sure your event is the best it can be is important. As a coordinator, it’s important to do the work on the back end so your event runs smoothly.


We suggest beginning with prioritizing what’s most important for your event. This will depend greatly on the type of event you are hosting. Maybe the food and beverage vendors are at the top of the list for your music festival, but the number one consideration for your charity race is where the finish line will be.


Whatever your considerations, here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your research.

  •  Start early. Anyone who’s planned truly anything knows that popular venues fill up before their calendar is event posted. There’s nothing worse than finding the perfect location only to be told it was booked 6 months ago.


  • Ask around. You may turn to online search engines first, but asking around within your network is a great way to save time and get feedback from people you trust.


  • Don’t be afraid to try things again. Maybe your first attempt at team t-shirts was a disaster, but this year you have a better design idea and know who to go to for printing. We’re firm believers in “there’s always next year.” Keep building your event on the lessons of the previous year.


  • Have a clear goal for your event. Each event you coordinate will have different goals. Getting vendors who fall in line with your eco-friendly mission might be different than the ones who match up with your budget. Figure out your goals and make a plan to meet them.


  • See it in person. This goes for just about everything at your event. If food is the main draw, make sure to try it before you book it. If the location needs to be a particular size or type go see it – just in case. Day-of is always crazy enough on its own, so minimize the amount of surprises.


When beginning or continuing research for your event everything seems like the most important part.  Make sure to prioritize your to-do items and have a clear idea of what you want the event to accomplish. With those two things in your tool belt, you can tackle researching anything for your event.




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Two Little Words



A little thank you goes a long way. As a volunteer coordinator you understand how important those two little words can be to someone donating their time and working hard to make an event special. It’s easy to run out of ideas on ways to let your volunteers know you’re happy to have them and appreciate their hard work. Here are 6 creative ideas to help keep your thank you’s fresh!


Party Times!

Maybe not the most original idea in the world, but it is great for big or little groups. If it’s a small group try something like escape rooms or go-karting. If it’s a big group look for a nice party room with games or outdoor space where you can bring your own. Something that has activities for everyone to interact with each other is a great way to have fun and build your community.



Handmade gifts are a great way to say thank you. They show that you put time into thinking of a nice idea and into making the actual product. Pinterest is a great resource for quick and clever ideas (thanks a latte!).


Word Cloud

This is great for a smaller group of volunteers. There are a few ways to use the word cloud. Our favorite is to have the group of volunteers take time to write down 3 positive words about each other. Then, you take those words and enter them on this website: https://www.wordclouds.com/ . A word cloud is created and you can print one off and frame it for each person.


Mix Tape

Jump forward a few decades and make a custom playlist through Spotify (or another music provider). No need to specialize it for each person as long as you create something that goes across different music tastes. Send it out to your team and let them know you’re thinking of them.


Make a Video

If you’re hosting a big event and there’s a kick-off night, think about making a video that shows how much their time means. Talk to the people going to the event, or members of the community that need their help to make that event successful. It will give you a way to show your appreciation, and help get them pumped up for the coming day(s).


Send an Email

Are you thinking, this doesn’t really seem creative? Sometimes you don’t have the luxury to come up with a genius idea to tell your volunteers how important they are, but that’s okay. An email might be just the thing. Be honest and lay out how the event couldn’t happen without them.


No matter what you decide remember that any thank you, however big or small, makes a difference. If you are sincere it will come through whether you say thank you in a creative or traditional way. And thank you, for all the work you do coordinating your volunteers!  

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How to Create (and Reach) Your Goal

As a volunteer coordinator, it’s important to know the vision of the event you’re helping to coordinate. Visions can be vague, but putting in the time to create a well-defined idea will take you a long way. In order to have a successful event you need to know what outcome you want and how to attain it. We’ve rounded up some simple steps to help you develop a precise plan for your event so you can get your whole team on board.


Step 1: Create a Goal

Develop two or three clear goals. The format we like best is S.M.A.R.T. goals. It stands for: specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time-bound. These goals will be different for each event but the principals can be broadly applied. If you are raising money through a fundraiser have an EXACT amount you are striving to raise, the number should be challenging but reasonable. Set a deadline to have raised the money by. You can set a goal for number of participants, shares on social media, the list is endless as long as it is something you can track. If one of the goals is to have a fun event, then create a survey that you can measure participants’ reactions.


Specific – Measurable – Achievable – Results-focused – Time-bound


Step 2: Create a Plan

Once you’ve identified your goals, you need to set clear steps to achieve them. If you want to raise a specific amount of money, how will you do that? You’ve made sure the goal is reachable, you just need to know how to get there. You could launch a social media campaign to raise awareness of your event or offer prizes for participants to raise money. 


Step 3: Communicate

Communicate your goals (and your plan to reach them) to your volunteers -they’re your best resource on the ground. If your goal is communicated clearly to volunteers, your team will be able to share that information with attendees.


The best way to achieve the vision of your event is to have a clear idea of what you want so you can communicate it with your team and, ultimately, the people participating in your event.  



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Quiz: Which Power Volunteer Are You?

We’ve all been to that one perfect event where we’ve experienced the passion and hard work from volunteers.

Some are brand new to the event and can’t get enough, others have been there for years. At VolunteerLocal we know every volunteer is important and want them to feel that way. We’re not implying that one volunteer is better than another, but there are a few every organizer would gladly give a gold star. They’re at every planning meeting (often with treats) and can’t help themselves from signing up for that extra shift. I’m sure we could all name a handful of people that fit that description, but I bet many of us don’t realize we’re one of them! Take our highly scientific quiz to find out which kind of power volunteer you are.


  • It’s your first time volunteering for your community’s Relay for Life and at the information session you:
    1. Show up early and offer to help set up chairs and hand out packets as the other volunteers come in.
    2. Came in just a few minutes late, you were jogging over to help train for the race and left a little late.
    3. Made sure to bring your tablet to take notes!
    4. You signed up to run and didn’t realize this was a volunteer information session.


  • There is a baseball tournament in your town and every year you are the one that:
    1. Signs up to help with check-in and stays until the last game to make sure everyone finds their fields.
    2. Comes to the field in your team’s uniform since you won’t have time to go change before it’s your turn to play.
    3. Brings a white board to put up where each field is at the sports complex.
    4. Doesn’t like playing, but goes to watch your friends play.


  • Your plan for dinner tonight is:
    1. You’ll probably just grab something on the go.
    2. You did your meal planning last night so you have your meals planned and in the fridge.
    3. You just started one of those meal services and tonight you are making a quinoa burger.  
    4. Just throw something together when you get hungry.  


  • Your friend is telling you about a music festival, and turns out your favorite band is playing. First thing you do when you get a chance is:
    1. Check your calendar! You have a lot going on during the summer and aren’t sure you will be able to go.
    2. You already have tickets – so you’re all set.
    3. Message a group of friends to see if they want to get tickets together.
    4. Buy tickets for the day the band is playing.


  •  Which Harry Potter house are you in?
    1. Hufflepuff
    2. Gryffindor
    3. Ravenclaw
    4. Slytherin


  • You and your friend planned to have coffee after work, but they canceled on you last minute, how do you feel?
    1. Glad, you had overbooked and needed to cancel too.
    2. Fine, now you have an extra hour to get a few things done.
    3. A little peeved, but happy to spend time organizing for the upcoming week.
    4. No big deal, stuff comes up.


  • Your go to social media application is:
    1. Twitter
    2. Instagram
    3. Pinterest
    4. Facebook


Mostly 1’s

The Overtimer: Did someone ask for help? You’re there in a second even if you’ve been working all day. You sign up for set-up but end up staying through tear-down.When everyone hits their mid-afternoon slump, you get coffee for everyone!


Mostly 2’s

The Doer: You would sign up for the check-in shift but you already promised friends that you would participate in the event with them. Instead, you hit up the festivities first and join the volunteer forces for the second part of the day. If anyone has questions on what’s happening you’re the right person to answer since you experienced it all first-hand!  


Mostly 3’s

The Planner: You’ve been volunteering at the same events for a few years and the dates have been marked in your bullet journal since you made your year overview spread. Your goal is to make the event better every year. You’re always asking questions and teaching newbies the best and fastest ways to get things done. You’re the first one to see a bump in the road and ready with a solution!   


Mostly 4’s

The Newbie: You’re a volunteer waiting to happen! How did all these people get signed up to volunteer at these fun events? Reach out to your local chamber of commerce, catch up with an Overtimer friend and reach out to your community. There are volunteer opportunities all around you!




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Giving Thanks on Giving Tuesday

That time of year is upon us – family gatherings, gift exchanges, and over-eating.


For many of us, it also means coat drives, food drives, and donations to our favorite organizations. Six years ago, a campaign was started that kicks off the season of giving, aptly named Giving Tuesday. Occurring on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving in the U.S., it’s a chance to give back to your own community. 


The holidays are a time to reflect on those things we take for granted during the year and remind ourselves of what is truly important. It can be busy for everyone, and trying to juggle the regular holiday mayhem while piling on volunteer work may sound a little daunting. But as we become overwhelmed with holiday shopping and family feasts, prioritizing giving back becomes even more important for your community – and for yourself. 


As the weather gets colder, it’s a reminder that not everyone have access to the necessities we often overlook as comforts, such as a warm coat, a hot meal, or gifts for the holiday. Volunteering your time to work at a soup kitchen, or organize a gift drive for a local youth shelter makes a huge difference for community members in need.


Whatever type of community that you belong to, there are also likely festivals, nonprofit organizations, or charity races happening that raise money for a cause or offer an opportunity to bring everyone together. As members of a community, it is our responsibility to make sure those efforts are supported.


We each have a unique perspective of the world, and sharing your own passions through event organizing or volunteering helps others broaden their understanding of different communities. They might even find they have a passion for it, too.  


Feeling overwhelmed by the thought of organizing a gift drive or food pantry? VolunteerLocal is available for events of all sizes and budgets – including no budget. And however you give back, use this Giving Tuesday as a day to reaffirm your commitment to the power of volunteering. 


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