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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5 Ways to Help with No-Show Volunteers

We all know recruiting and developing volunteer teams is necessary and effective to run events of any size. Yet depending on a workforce with no official obligation to show up on time (or at all) means last minute flakes are often inevitable. What can you do to handle these no-shows?

1. Pad Your Numbers

As simple as it sounds; account for last-minute dropouts while you’re still in the planning stage of the event. If you know you need 10 volunteers to cover a specific area, work to recruit 12-15 people. To be more accurate, take a look at data from previous years to calculate an average attrition rate tailored to your event culture and demographics. (Hint: VolunteerLocal gives you great tracking data!) Planning to overestimate your volunteer recruitment helps cover no-shows on the day of the event.

2. Create Floater Positions

While you’re preparing your volunteer plan, create a floater position. The job description for floaters is simply to fill in the gaps for absent volunteers or areas that have a higher degree of need than anticipated. This again requires a higher level of recruitment, but it also makes for a smoother experience during the event.

3. Keep Paid Staff Off the List

Your paid staff members are invaluable not only to the event but also to your volunteers. As you promote your event and recruit volunteers, resist the inclination to count your staff people in your volunteer numbers. When they are not locked into a certain area, they are free to provide leadership to volunteers and cover gaps created by a lack of volunteers or by crises that may arise.

4. Track Your Volunteers

Find the tools that make your job easier! VolunteerLocal helps you in each stage of planning, recruiting, and event management. Collecting your data in one place allows you and your team to see potential areas of concern, locate teams that are running low on volunteers, communicate with volunteers before and after the event, and keep track of who has checked in and who not arrived. Knowing your need is half the battle in keeping your event running smoothly, and VolunteerLocal makes it simple.

5. Practice Gratitude

The easiest way to fix the problem of no-show volunteers is to make sure volunteers show up in the first place. Most volunteers are willing to serve but also are looking for perks. How are you thanking your volunteers? Look for ways to give them behind-the-scenes access, exclusive merchandise, or special experiences that demonstrate your appreciation and provide an incentive for them to show up. Keep treating your volunteers well, and watch your no-show rate drop from year to year!

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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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Best Preparation Practices for the Big Day

Clipboard? Check. Volunteer contact form? Check. Sanity? Kind of.

 

There are a million and one things a volunteer coordinator needs to remember the day of an event. Setting a plan, preparing for potential obstacles and keeping everything on course is just the beginning. To help our volunteer coordinators out, we’ve whipped up a few of our best practices for prepping for the big day.

 

Communication is Key

Emails, texts, Facebook groups and even old-fashioned phone trees are all great ways to communicate early and often with volunteers. Clearly stating arrival and dismissal times, expectations for behavior and dress, and other pertinent details are crucial to making sure volunteers show up informed and ready.

 

Be Realistic

Volunteer coordinators should always believe in their volunteers, but they’re not superheroes. Can three people really set up your entire event before the rest of the volunteers arrive? Probably not. Consider exactly how many people you’ll need for each shift and then add a few more to be safe. Volunteers are ready and willing to help you, so let them!

 

Know Where to Go

When you’re in the middle of managing a group of helpers, chances are you won’t have much time to direct volunteers to the bathrooms. Making a detailed map of everything a volunteer might need to find (bathrooms, water station, breakroom, etc.) will provide a quick reference point. And if they still ask you where the bathroom is, take a deep breath and kindly point to the map.

 

Self Love is the Best Love

Coordinating volunteers can be incredibly rewarding – all these people giving their time to help your organization?! – but it can also feel like herding giant, human cats. So, our biggest suggestion to help you prepare is to take care of number one. Meditate, listen to music, eat all the chocolate in your house. Do whatever you need to do to show up at your event calm, collected and ready to coordinate.

 

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