Volunteer Coordinate Like a BOSS: Best Practices for Task Management

On Mondays you debrief the weekend’s event and facilitate a brainstorm meeting for how to do the next one even better. On Tuesdays you have three different phone calls lined up with the executive director, the city councilman, and the marketing director before hosting a new volunteer training in the evening. On Wednesdays, you wear pink.

 

Okay, so you’ve got a million things to do as a volunteer coordinator. You barely have the time to read this blog post but needed a quick reprieve from the many hats you wear and the ever-growing to-do list. There are only so many hours in the day, so how can you make the most of them?

 

How do those other volunteer coordinators do it?

 

Leverage your tools

There are so many great tools out there – but you need to find what works best for you. Do you love color coding your calendar and hanging it in front of you? Or do you love the ease of having it all on your phone? Do you use Evernote or Asana to keep track of your ongoing lists of ideas and to-dos or do you keep a stack of post-it notes right next to your computer for when the moment of inspiration hits? What might work for someone else isn’t always best for you, so think through what works most effectively for you and incorporate those tools into your daily routine.

 

When it comes to volunteer management software, we got you. For starters, we love volunteer coordinators so much that we have a free version with a TON of features. Or, as you need a more robust system, we have a few different plans for you to choose from. Either way, make sure you take advantage of the training and tutorial videos we have so you can make the most of it. The more you learn about VolunteerLocal’s software, the more you might be able to cut down on all of the things you are otherwise doing by hand (like, easily putting together a list of everyone’s t-shirt size, exporting volunteer hours fulfilled by each individual needing a signature for hours worked, or filling multiple volunteer slots with a team of people).

 

Delegate it

You know all of those volunteers you manage? Well, believe it or not, some of them might be able volunteer by way of managing a small team of other volunteers. You simply can’t do it all. So even if you have the most knowledge or understanding of your event, you can’t be everywhere at once. When you find and connect with dedicated and willing volunteers, promote them to a leadership role. They may find the work more meaningful, and you will have less to stress about.

 

While you may be short-staffed (because face it, who isn’t?), it’s important to let your co-workers know what’s going on and how they might be able to help. Maybe they’re in a slow period or have the capacity to take on a little more this week/month. Clear communication of what you need and how someone can help instead of just constantly exclaiming “I’m so busy!” will make all the difference in getting some assistance.

 

Whoever you delegate tasks to, remember that means you have to step aside to let them do it once the training is over. Instead of micromanaging their every move to make sure it’s done the exact same way you would do it, try to empower your volunteers leaders and co-workers to make the decisions that will work best. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised when they come up with ideas and solutions that exceed what you’ve come up with in the past.

 

Remember what’s important

Sometimes you’ll go through a season that just stretches you a bit – personally or professionally. You may have to push through to get to the other side, but try to remember why you do what you do. Whether it’s because you work for an organization that helps people or promotes cultural experiences or positively impacts your community, what you do makes a difference. It might not seem like it when you’re sorting through spreadsheets or licking dozens of envelopes on those thank you cards, but it does. Perhaps you are the one with the best organization skills on the team or maybe you connect with volunteers in a way that really inspires them. At some point you chose to get into this role with this organization, so remind yourself why.

 

Once you remember why you do what you do, it’s often easier to see how best to prioritize the tasks in front of you. Sometimes you’ll have to make sacrifices and hard decisions in order to prioritize what matters most. Keep those important things on the top of the list and the “if it works out, then great!” things near the bottom (or on another list altogether) so you don’t get too distracted or overwhelmed.

 

While you’re remembering things, remember that you aren’t a machine, so don’t expect yourself to act like one. You’ll probably get tired or overwhelmed every once in awhile – that’s okay. You’ve got this! Give yourself a break when you need it and try to plan for a little self-care as you can. Maybe that means sticking to your lunch break or scheduling a massage or long-overdue haircut for the week after your event. It might seem like you’re adding another task to your list, but these are the kind of things that allow you to work better and more effectively in the long-run.

 

 

 

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Choosing Your Location, Location, Location

 The location changes everything when it comes to event planning.

Talk to any realtor (or any normal person quoting a realtor) and you’re bound to hear the phrase, “Location, location, location.” Why? Because it makes a difference – especially in event planning. The location sets a tone, affects outreach and visibility, and determines overall accessibility and appeal.

When the sky’s the limit, you ask, “Where should this event take place?” You dream a minute and are suddenly transported to a nice sandy beach before you remember your event’s in Chicago in the middle of January.

It’s  important to dream big and start a creative brainstorm, but also to stay grounded in some of the limitations and intentions behind your event. When it comes to location scouting, these are our top considerations:

 

Availability

There’s no sense getting your heart set on a place if it isn’t available how or when you need it. Is the maximum capacity there smaller than your projected attendance? Are there enough rooms that suit your needs? Is it perfect but you’d need to change your date?

 

Cost

More likely than not, you’re working on a budget, maybe even a tight one. What is the cost of all of the possible locations under consideration? Will the cost put too big of a dent in your budget? Is there room in the budget to cut down on costs in another area so more funds can be available for the location? Or, will the location provide food, security or some other segment of your budget that you had allocated elsewhere?

 

Outreach

Is this an area with high visibility? Or a location that is highly desired? Does it carry a “wow factor” that may draw more people? If not, think of how can you address that or add to its appeal. Consider whether this location will expand your reach so that more people are aware and interested in your event. Perhaps most importantly, decide whether this location will align with the goals of your organization.

 

Sponsorship

You may have others who have skin in the game here and therefore a few thoughts on where the event should be held. Be open to suggestions, but also be willing to make an ask. Sometimes business can obtain a sponsorship designation by way of providing the location and features for the event. Not only does that help you in finding a venue, but it broadens their reach in the community as well.

 

Distance

Consider the drive time (as well as public transportation and/or walkability) it takes to get to the event for your target audience. Will a faraway destination provide appeal or deter people from coming? What other local businesses and amenities are nearby? This goes for both the people attending the event and the people volunteering at it.

 

Impact

What kind of impact will a certain location provide? Will it help the community and boost the local economy or cause traffic in an already busy area? Be cognisant of whether the aesthetics of the location will cause a distraction to attendees or be a source of inspiration. Think about the positive and negative impact the event location will have on attendees, volunteers, staff, and the local community.

 

While we all have certain ideals and deal breakers, you may have to compromise on some things. Know where you can and should be flexible with your expectations. Prioritize these different elements as best you can to find a location that will be the best fit for your event.

 

*No control over the location? Sometimes you have say in where your event takes place and sometimes you don’t. But even if the streets for your run are already approved or the conference rooms are already booked–you do still have a lot of control over the location of where your welcome desk is, where the volunteers check in, and what the flow of your event consists of. Be sure to make a new map to reflect the changes so everyone knows where to go. Maybe you’re stuck in the same location as you’ve always been, but there’s a way to be more efficient or effective with the setup of the route, the food, or the volunteer stations.

 

 

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What Volunteers Want You to Know (but Are Afraid to Say)

You’ve got a room full of volunteers staring back at you after a training meeting. Your event is three weeks away, and this is the second group of volunteers you’ve held a big training for. After the first meeting, no one had any questions, but mysteriously a few volunteers bowed out the week after the training. You finish off the meeting by asking, “Any questions or concerns?”

 

A few shrugs and blinks later you dismiss them saying, “Can’t wait to see you again soon!”

 

When the event comes around, a few more don’t show. You feel like you gave them so much info and opportunity for questions, so what is it that they aren’t telling you?

 

Every volunteer is different and has their own reasons for volunteering or not volunteering, but here are some of the common things that might be going on with your volunteers:

 

  • They are giving up time with friends or family to be here. They are making a sacrifice with their time, and they need you to acknowledge it. Sometimes a last-minute emergency comes up and they need your understanding or they need time to focus on the people closest to them, but don’t feel like that excuse is good enough. Find out if there is a way they can volunteer during off-hours or in a different way to meet their needs and make that option known.

 

  • They came to make friends or network. Try to get to know your volunteers to find out all of their motivators. Sure, they might love the cause but maybe part of their goal was to add some social interaction in their lives. If they aren’t getting those personal goals fulfilled, they may bail in favor of another volunteer opportunity that does give them that chance.

 

  • They are unclear on their assigned tasks or feel mismanaged. There are some tasks that you’ve done a hundred times and think anyone can jump in on. Maybe that’s the case, but if a volunteer feels like they were dropped into a role without much communication or training, they may decide to not come back in the future. If you aren’t going to be around to help train and answer their questions, make sure to pair them with an experienced volunteer.

 

  • They don’t see how they can make a difference. Perhaps their role seems insignificant, but you know that it supports the overall goals of the event. Make sure you explain how their participation has an impact. Even if it’s as simple as handing out t-shirts, let them know that they are the face of the organization in that way, and without them you wouldn’t have the ability to do it all.

 

  • They feel overwhelmed by the workload. Always keep an eye on your volunteers for possible burnout! Some of these volunteers are straight up rock stars, and you trust them with everything…but they don’t have the capacity to take on everything. Remember that they are volunteers and probably also have work responsibilities or homework or simply need to take a break. They are passionate about the organization and have kept coming back to volunteer, but every volunteer has a breaking point so make sure you don’t let it get there.

 

  • The volunteer sign-up process was too tedious. It seems simple (and with VolunteerLocal it’s a simple fix!) but when people have a hard time getting involved to begin with, they may give up before they even start. Remember to make getting involved easily accessible and keep the lines for communication open.

 

  • They don’t feel like they know enough about the organization or cause. Maybe you gave them a bunch of info about the event or their duties, but you didn’t give them enough reason to be personally invested in the mission. Make sure that when you explain their role you don’t overlook sharing the mission of the organization.

 

 

Keeping the above list in mind will help you keep an eye out for your volunteers’ needs, concerns, and goals. In the end, you’ll have people who volunteer for a season and then that season comes to an end. Regardless, be understanding of what’s happening in the lives of your volunteers and grateful for the time they do volunteer with you. By serving as a supportive and attentive volunteer coordinator, you’ll not only keep a strong volunteer base but also maintain a positive image of your organization in the community.

 

 

 

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How to Accept and Leverage Volunteer Feedback

If you’ve been a volunteer coordinator longer than…oh, a week or so, you know that the more people there are volunteering, the more opinions you get.

 

From “I don’t like this” to “Why the heck did we do that?” you hear it all. Sometimes all those comments and complaints make you want to slam the door and say, “No more!”

 

The thing is, you need feedback–the right kind of feedback–to propel you forward. So instead of covering your ears and screaming, make a plan to seek out feedback to help you improve. Create opportunities for volunteers, board members, co-workers, vendors, and whoever else you interact with to provide constructive criticism. Once you sort through the noise, you may find that there are some really valuable thoughts and ideas that will make your leadership skills and your next event even better.

 

Plan for feedback

Despite your lists and best intentions, something may go awry or need some evaluating in the future. Plan for that to happen, and plan to hear from your volunteers about it. Remember when people give you their thoughts, chances are they are trying to be helpful. So create a survey about the event, the volunteer experience, or whatever area makes sense to asses and let people know ahead of time that you’ll be asking for their feedback afterwards. That way they know you plan to hear them out, and you can be sure to capture all of the responses in one place. Create questions that rate different aspects of the event as well as open-ended questions about what went well, what went wrong, how the volunteers feel they can help improve things in the future, and how you can best support them. This will likely prove to be a really valuable resource when you begin preparing for next time.

 

Time and place

Sometimes the biggest issue you have with the comments and complaints is the timing. A loud complaint in the middle of the event? Not ideal. Volunteers may speak their minds without considering that you have a million and two other things to worry about at that particular moment. Instead of completely dismissing them or getting frustrated, let volunteers know you want to hear their feedback but at a different time and place. Maybe that’s with the survey or maybe that’s in a follow-up meeting a week later. If you are in the middle of the event, remind them that unless it’s something that needs to be addressed immediately, you aren’t able to discuss it yet but to bring it up again later as you do respect their thoughts and opinions.

 

Choose wisely

When you open up the lines of communication and seek feedback, you will likely hear a lot of thoughts and opinions, even some that contradict each other. First of all, that’s great! Remember that receiving lots of feedback means people care and are passionate enough to provide you with their thoughts. But obviously, this can be overwhelming to sort through and choose which advice to follow. While sending out a survey to a broad group of people is an excellent way to invite feedback, make sure to continue seeking out honest opinions from the people you respect the most. Talk directly with key leaders in the organization and longtime committed volunteers who may have a better perspective on things. Bounce ideas around with your co-workers and find a mentor to continue to point you in the best direction for your career. Depending on the source, you can then determine if the comment or complaint you received is worth your time and energy. You want to hear from people at every level, but choose the right people to have the biggest impact on your decisions and overall outlook on how things went.

 

 

While it might seem like the easier answer, the last thing you want to do is shut down all forms of feedback. Hearing comments, and even complaints, is one way you can continue to support your volunteers. But even more importantly, it can lead to constructive criticism that can help you strengthen yourself and your event. In the end, everyone’s better for it.  

 

 

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Finding New Volunteers

Since you now know all about the importance of new volunteer recruits, how do you find these magical unicorns (also known as new and passionate volunteers)?

Some of this depends on your organization and location, but many of the same strategies apply no matter where you are when it comes to finding new volunteers. The two biggest things to remember for volunteer recruitment are simple: ask and access.

 

Ask

The simplest way to recruit a volunteer is to ask them to join you. It sounds almost too easy, but it can often get overlooked.

 

Invite people you know to join your cause or event, and you may be shocked to find that they’ve already been curious or interested in helping. Maybe they didn’t know you needed or wanted more volunteers, or didn’t realize the options to volunteer were varied. Asking someone directly is not only flattering, but also calls for a response. When a prospective volunteer has to stop and consider how they might be able to volunteer with an organization, they can visualize the possibility much easier.

 

After you’ve made the ask of people you know, invite your board, staff, and current volunteers to do the same. Those who are already involved in the event can speak to the importance of it, the value volunteers provide, and the fun they have while doing it! They can share about the role they have, and identify friends and colleagues who may be able to fill a different position on your team. As the volunteer coordinator, you don’t have to make a personal plea to every prospective volunteer, but you can certainly ask others to do some recruiting on your behalf. In some ways, their connections and conversations may be even more effective in recruiting new volunteers. It still starts from an ask on your part–ask those around you to join in volunteer recruitment efforts.

 

Access

With any prospective or current volunteers, you need to provide them easy access to sign-up to volunteer.

 

So often, when people are looking to volunteer or get involved, the first place they look is your website. Make it easy and clear to see when and where they can volunteer and how to get started. Depending on your onboarding process, maybe that means starting with a contact form or email address or maybe you integrate VolunteerLocal with your website so volunteers can pick their job and shift right away! Regardless, you want to build on the forward momentum of their interest and make it as quick and painless as possible for people to start volunteering.

 

Outside of your website and organization, be accessible where volunteers already are. Contact local companies and colleges to see if they have a database to post volunteer opportunities. If you have corporate or media sponsors, make sure your volunteer opportunities are posted and promoted through those avenues as well. If you have a ticketed event that volunteers can attend for free, provide a link to the volunteer sign-up page alongside ticket sales information. Seek out feedback from current volunteers or brainstorm with your team on ways you can be more easily accessible to volunteers.

 

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The Importance of New Volunteer Recruits

As a volunteer coordinator, you’ve got your squad. There’s a reliable bunch that you know are behind you and willing to help. They pull the best strings, bake the best cookies, or write the biggest checks. Whatever it is, they’ve got your back, and you love them for it.

 

Obviously, keep on engaging with those golden volunteers. Retention is an amazing strength and you want to keep communication and relationships strong. That said, keep recruiting! Don’t be that coordinator so focused on what’s in front of you that you forget what’s ahead. New volunteers may take work to recruit, but they will keep your volunteer base going strong.

 

To persuade you even further, we’ve rounded up our top four reasons to recruit new volunteers:

 

New energy and ideas!
Maybe you’ve got a system and it’s good, but you never know what kind of new and exciting ideas new volunteers may bring. They are coming in with fresh eyes, so they may be able to identify your weak spots and how to tackle them. Or maybe they’ll find ways to build on your strengths as a team. The last thing you want is a group that’s stagnant and unengaged. The energy and excitement from new volunteers can reinvigorate your current team, meaning everyone benefits.

 

Expand your organization’s reach.
When you get new volunteers, you impact them with the mission of your organization. You get their time and energy, which means they will be sharing their passion and involvement in their social circles. Maybe that means more people volunteering down the line, but first it means raising an awareness about your organization and the important work that you do.

 

Raise up leaders.
When you introduce new volunteers, this creates a natural opportunity to create leadership roles for some of your current volunteers. Whether that’s providing a new role for someone on your core team or inviting a volunteer to step up to a more significant role, this promotes everyone. These leadership roles instill a greater sense of purpose and importance among the people involved, which can often mean a better possibility of retention and personal ownership when it comes to volunteering. Maybe it boosts their resume or maybe it helps them grow their own skill sets, but they benefit with the new role, and you benefit by delegating some of the training or organization to your volunteer leaders.

 

Protect the team.
Let’s face it, there’s always a chance that some of your volunteers will bow out. They might move away, have new time-consuming responsibilities, get sick, or simply get burned out and need some time away. When you continue to invest time in recruiting new volunteers, you won’t be so stressed when someone has to step away. It’s important to be aware of where your current volunteers are and how to support them. Sometimes supporting your team means saying goodbye while they spend their time elsewhere. Having a growing volunteer base makes it easier on you and them when that happens.

 

So, now that you know why you should keep recruiting, wondering how? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Check out our post on Creative Volunteer Recruitment Methods and 5 Ways to Recruit Race Volunteers.

 

 

 

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Prepping for the Worst – Anything Can Happen

Whether you are planning an entire event yourself or you’re the volunteer coordinator within a group of planners, at the end of the day, something still might go wrong. It may be out of your control – an unexpected change in the weather or human error – but you’d best be prepared for anything.

 

There are many common pitfalls volunteer coordinators try to avoid when planning an event. Problems can come up due to gaps in communication or unmet expectations. Making assumptions is never good (come on, we’ve all heard the saying about when you “ass-u-me”) and then there’s whatever is falling from the sky, literally.

 

Here are the top ways to prepare for the worst as a volunteer coordinator:

 

Communicate effectively

Maybe you send emails or texts or meet with your volunteers regularly. Whatever form your communication may come in, there’s always a chance it could get misunderstood. The biggest thing to remember when it comes to communication is that there are two sides to it and you need to both share and listen. Ask volunteers if there’s something they need from you or if there is a message that is unclear. Connect with volunteers so they know the line of communication is open. When some sort of dispute comes up, listen to the feedback of people to get a read on the situation. Sometimes people just need to be heard. So, listen, share, and reset as much as possible.  

 

Have a back-up plan in mind

Especially when it comes to outdoor events, everyone wants a day of perfect weather. Sometimes that happens and sometimes it just doesn’t. No one can control the weather, but you can rent a tent. The point is, know what your back-up plan is in case something doesn’t go quite as planned. Perhaps that means calling a rental company for a quote or even making a reservation beforehand. Make a list of people to call “just in case” that is easily accessible on the day of the event.

 

Redefine success

Think about that epic everything-went-perfectly event and what that looks like. It’s great to aim high! But then, also create your bottom line of what success looks like. For instance, I will host an event on this day and engage with volunteers. Or, We will raise awareness as an organization, even if that means 10 new people attend.  If all else fails, know what your key mission is for the event and count the success as it happens. Some years are building years–they may not meet the high standards you hope for, but they allow you to build up to that for the next time around. Of course, it is important to debrief and assess for areas needing improvement, but make sure to also acknowledge and celebrate the wins that do happen.

 

 

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Building a Core Group of Volunteers

When the world needs a hero–that hero needs a team.

No matter how powerful, smart, or rich a superhero is, they always need a little help. Whether it’s from someone they depend on (hello, Alfred), a team of other superheroes (Thor may be mighty, but he’s even better with Stark and Captain America) or someone who swoops in to save the day at the last second (Eleven, what would Hawkins do without you?), these superheroes can’t succeed alone. Before we get too nerdy, the point is–you need a strong team who has your back. In the case of a
(super) volunteer coordinator, we’re talking about
your core group of volunteers.

 

Build your dream team

Maybe you’ve got a few people who’ve been there through it all with you, or maybe you feel a hole where a team of committed volunteers should be. Start by assessing the volunteers you have now. Ask yourself and your volunteers how you can better support them and lead them toward more significant roles in the organization. Invite volunteers to tackle problems you are facing and trust them with the tasks you give them. Identify the strengths and weaknesses of your team to better leverage your strengths and seek solutions for your weaknesses. Then, start recruiting new volunteers. Some of these new volunteers may start with simple tasks, but others may be ready for a meaningful role right away.

 

Include some of your current volunteers in this process of building the dream team. If you want to have a strong core volunteer team, you have to start working as a team now instead of continuing to go at it alone.

 

Show them the love

Start by saying the magic words: “thank you!” It sounds so simple, but somehow still gets overlooked. Say thanks with sincerity and get specific about what you are thanking them for. Say thank you verbally, in a handwritten note, or even publically if the opportunity presents itself. Maybe throw an appreciation party for core volunteers. Everyone has different motivations for volunteering, be it to support something they are passionate about or simply to get a free t-shirt. Try to understand what motivates your volunteers, especially your core team, and encourage them in a way that matches their personal goals. For instance, if they are looking for career growth opportunities or ways to network, make sure to connect them with the right people.

 

While you obviously want to roll out the red carpet for your core team, you are also the volunteer coordinator over all of the volunteers. Be tactful about how and when you say thanks to your core volunteers and continue to include all volunteers when you thank people for a job well done. Make gratitude and appreciation a part of your culture and ask your core volunteers to pass that appreciation down to the people who report to them as well.

 

What’s in it for them?

Why should you “promote” volunteers to the core team? And why should they even want to join this dream team? When people are committed to a cause, they like knowing their effort will make an impact. So if they are spending their time volunteering, they probably want to get the highest ROI for both you and them. When they take on more responsibility, that often means more ownership. It means doing higher level tasks and having a voice in the decisions and direction of the event or organization. Ultimately, volunteers may get more fulfillment out of the experience. And in return, you get a stronger volunteer base with a higher likelihood of retention.

 

Now that you’ve got your team, all that’s left is putting on your cape.

 

 

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4th of July Event Planning

It’s time for those lazy days of summer and for many people, the highlight of the summer is that awesome holiday right in the middle. Yeah, baby, we’re talking about the 4th of July! When the weather is hot, the watermelon is ripe, and the outdoor music is at its loudest. Perhaps this is a relaxed time between events for you or maybe you are in the thick of it. If you’re about to hold a festival or race on this fine holiday (or even on another holiday later on in the year), here are a few of our favorite go-to tips to make sure it’s lit.

Embrace the day

  • Whether you’ve got an event on the 4th of July or another national holiday, embrace the holiday! People (likely) have the day off from work, and they’ve chosen to spend it with you. So get a little silly and go all out with decorations or holiday-themed elements (be it food, music, marketing, whatever). People are there to volunteer or participate on a holiday, so you might as well make it feel a little extra celebratory.

Be aware of your surroundings

  • On a holiday, you most likely won’t be hosting the only event happening in town. While this can add to the overall sense of fun and excitement, you need to be extra vigilant in the planning process to understand how other simultaneous events and activities will impact yours. Will parking be more of a challenge? Will you still be able to get the security coverage you need? Do the permits conflict or does your race intersect paths with the parade route? Will there be fireworks going off in the middle of your planned moment of silence? Whatever it is, know about it and plan accordingly. Maybe even communicate with volunteers what else is going on in town so they are aware as well. Be sure to not only know what’s happening at the same time as your event but also throughout the entire holiday as well as in the days leading up to it.

Appeal to volunteers

  • Your race, festival, or event matters, but let’s face it, some people would rather sleep in than show up early for race day or miss out on spending time with friends and family. So, encourage potential volunteers to consider it a part of the day’s celebration. Instead of taking volunteers away from friend and family activities, make it easy for them to bring their friends and family along with, and all volunteer together as a group. Create options for shorter shifts so that people are able to give a little time to volunteer but still feel like they have plenty of time to spend the day as they please. Provide incentives, be it holiday-themed swag or tickets to the remainder of the event. Instead of an “either/or” decision for volunteers, make volunteering with you so good they’d be crazy to pass it up. Ultimately you want the act of volunteering at your event to go hand-in-hand with their plans on this holiday for years to come.

In all of this, remember to have a little fun yourself. Relish in the occasion, especially because people will likely be in a better mood overall. Even though you’re working on your holiday, it can still be an enjoyable time and a really meaningful event in the community. Live it up!

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7 Ways to Get The Most Out of Your Online Communication

Every day we all get dozens (hundreds?) of emails, and it’s a constant game of trying to keep up with the most important ones.

 

Just like you, volunteers are flooded with emails. But obviously, your emails are the most important to them…right?

That moment when you realize half of the people you emailed didn’t even bother reading through what you spent an hour carefully crafting is definitely a blow to the ego. Not only that, but it’s a real communication issue if volunteers aren’t getting the information they need.

We get it. That’s why we’ve got seven helpful ways to make your online communication more effective. Next time you are trying to connect with volunteers, keep the following tips in mind:

 

Send a text. Emails are great, but texts have a significantly higher open rate. It forces you to think through what the most vital piece of information is and send that short snippet off to your masses. With VolunteerLocal’s feature for volunteers to opt-in to text messages, you can communicate what volunteers need to know in a quick, no-fuss way.

Communicate with the right people. Seems pretty elementary, right? Send your emails or texts (or carrier pigeons) to the people who most need to read it. Sometimes it may seem easier to send one big email to everyone on your list and hope they find the part that pertains to them. Wrong! That brain dump in one massive email just means that even more people are confused. Then they might start to ignore those big emails you send, thinking it no longer pertains to them. We’ve got all the export tools you need — so grab the list of volunteers working on a specific task and email them only what they need to know.

Have fun with it. You heard me, spice it up a little! Be playful and fun by dropping in some (appropriate) jokes or images to keep volunteers engaged and interested. Everybody loves a little GIF action to sum it up. Make this email something volunteers enjoy receiving and reading by giving some personality to it. When adding in some fun, remember to make sure the tone matches the organization you are sending it from as well as matching the message itself.

Keep it brief. Short and sweet, those are the messages most read. If it can’t be read in a minute or two, maybe this shouldn’t be communicated in an email.

 

Highlight key points. Sometimes there’s no way around it, there’s a lot of content that needs to go out at once. Instead of overwhelming people with one big chunk of text, make sure to highlight a few areas that are most important. You can make a list (like this one!) or put a few key bits in bold so it really stands out. Of course, highlighting the entire email makes it all unreadable, so make those key points count.

 Make a video. Depending on your budget and time, video can be a great way to communicate with people. It doesn’t have to be fancy – just make sure the message is clear. To do so, plan ahead what you’ll say and check that your audio is clear. If this is a message you’ll be sending out continuously (for instance, basic ground rules for volunteers or background information on the organization or event), it may be worth investing in making a more professional video that can be used again and again.

Meet face-to-face. Sure, this isn’t always a viable option (hello, there are only 24 hours in a day), but when it is–go for it. As the volunteer coordinator, volunteers are looking up to you for advice, encouragement, and instruction. Having a personal presence can give them the extra confidence they need to do the job right. So, perhaps this means using emails and texts to let them know when the next informational session is or to send follow-up notes after your in-person meeting with them.

 

Whatever it is that you are communicating, we want to help you make it as effective as it can be. So, feel free to shoot us an email if you’ve got questions on how the VolunteerLocal features can make your life (and your emails) a bit easier.

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