Battling Festival Fatigue: 7 Ways To Look Out For Your Music Festival Volunteers

Music festivals manage to capture what many people crave – a shared community experience with like-minded people.


It’s a chance to step away from the monotony of normal daily life and be apart of something bigger than yourself. While festivals look fun and carefree to festival goers, they can involve long, labor-intensive hours for event staff and volunteers. Here are a few ways to avoid festival fatigue and take care of your volunteers:


The free ticket
We’ll just come out and say it – the primary reason many folks choose to volunteer at music festivals is to see great bands for free. The free ticket is a hallmark of the festival volunteer experience and a great way to draw an enthusiastic crew. Depending on the length of your festival, there are plenty of ways to tier festival access by offering passes to more sections of the festival based on number of hours worked. While the ticket is a way to get volunteers in the door, the music festival is so much more than a free pass. The experience is what keeps volunteers coming back.


Sell the volunteer experience, not just the perks
Two unique things about festivals come to mind: the behind the scenes peek and the people you meet. One of the best things about music festivals is getting to meet so many new people with common interests, perhaps from very different backgrounds. Plus, many volunteer opportunities cater to groups – so you may get to share the experience alongside trusted friends. Volunteers usually arrive early to help set up and get to see the camp come to life – from idea to bustling reality. They work alongside event coordinators, band crews, and sometimes the talent themselves. They’ll leave knowing they played a part in making the event happen and with a greater appreciation for event organizers.


But have perks for volunteers, too
Much of the festival experience happens between volunteer shifts. Offering volunteers the essentials – a place to camp, a place to shower, and free meal tickets – will not only help them rest before their next shift, but will also eliminate more cost-prohibitive factors of attending a festival. Don’t forget about the little perks, too! Free water, volunteer tents, and phone charging stations are essential during long shifts. Oh, and event t-shirts don’t hurt either.


Rely on past volunteer testimonials
No one understands the festival rush quite like volunteers themselves. Encourage prior volunteers to share their experiences – good and bad. Consistent feedback will help you know what to change for the next event and help highlight which aspects people look for. You can even invite a few trusted volunteers to write a FAQ for your volunteer information page.


Share photos and videos
There’s a reason for the common adage “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Getting volunteers to see your event and picture themselves there is key. Encourage volunteers to snap and shoot moments of their experience. You may try using a volunteer-specific event hashtag on Instagram and feature volunteer photos on your event account. Or, try a snapchat geo-filter for quick event-specific video sharing. Seeing the event through the eyes of the volunteer gives a unique perspective event photographers may not be able to capture.


Set realistic expectations
Volunteering at a festival isn’t only fun and games. While there are plenty of benefits, volunteers are required to do their fair share of heavy lifting – often literally. They may have to deal with difficult people, or work very early or very late. It’s important for event and volunteer coordinators to clearly explain what is expected for each shift block.

Proactive communication is a must to avoid volunteer burnout. Set a standard of clear communication from the start with a simple volunteer sign-up system. Here you can allow volunteers to note preferences, limitations, and see their respective duties in one place.


Have fun
In the end, a little bit of chaos is inevitable. Festivals are about having fun – even for volunteers. Your festival’s success is tied up in your volunteer’s success and with these tips, it’s sure to be a good experience.



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5 Steps For Choosing The Perfect Race Route

If you’re organizing a race, of course you need a route!

What might not be so obvious, though, are the little things that could end up making or breaking whether or not racers have the best experience possible. We’ve compiled the top-5 “off the beaten path” steps to help ensure your route contributes to your run’s success!


  • Determine your audience – The first step is to figure out what type of runners you’re targeting. Is it a family fun run, a run that you can bring along your dog, or do you want to attract racers trying to set PR’s? Determining this will not only help you narrow in on the most effective marketing campaigns, but also provide useful context when choosing the route.
  • Make a list of the “must haves” – You know your audience. Now, put yourself in their shoes. What type of route would make them excited to sign-up? For example, if it’s a fun run, make sure to incorporate nice scenery or a route that goes through the city/town. If you’re trying to attract more competitive runners, make sure that the route is accessible – you won’t be able to get away with a route that isn’t 100% closed off to runners. Other “must haves” may include:
    • Route that includes lots of trash cans (if dog friendly
    • Route that includes a loop or easy way to break it into a smaller distance, if you’re planning to have a 1 mile, 5K, and 10K.
    • Smooth terrain if attracting kids or parents pushing strollers.
  • Start experimenting with routes – Once you have a clear idea of what you’re looking for, it’s time to start experimenting! There are free tools online (RaceEntry, PlotARoute) that can help you start mapping out possible paths. Don’t forget about public parks that have designated running/walking paths/trails!
  • Take ‘em on a test run – Choose your top few routes and try them out! Nothing beats actually experiencing how the route flows. You may find out that the route uses a road that is going to be too busy, or the hills are a little too challenging for your audience.
  • Choose the best one – Hopefully you have a clear winner, but if not, don’t forget to consider things like distance from where your racers are going to be coming from, parking accommodations and amount of space for spectators.


There you have it! Easy peasy, I hope! Now that you have your route, it’s time to start promoting the race! If you need help recruiting and managing volunteers, we can help! Our platform makes it so seamless that you’ll wonder how you ever got by without it.


We’d love to hear from you! What considerations are most important to you when choosing a route?




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Top 5 Reasons To Consider Corporate Volunteer Groups

There are certain benefits prospective and current employees have come to expect, most notably things like health and dental insurance, paid vacation time, and some type of retirement savings plan. While many companies are racing to give themselves an edge by offering “trendy” perks like beer on tap and ping-pong tables, another benefit is also gaining traction: paid volunteer time.


Research has shown that employees tend to stay with companies longer if they encourage volunteering so it may not come as a surprise that according to a recent survey, 60% of companies offer paid volunteer time, with another 21% planning to do so within the next two years. As a volunteer coordinator, corporate volunteers may not seem to be the best option, as most companies only offer 8-16 hours of paid volunteer time each year. However, we believe
that corporate volunteer groups can definitely be beneficial, and
have outlined the top-5 reasons why below.


  •  They’re reliable! We’ve all experienced the frustration of flaky volunteers. Corporate volunteers are usually extremely reliable not only because they’re being paid, but also because their employers may require proof that they actually volunteered.


  • Great for larger group volunteer opportunities. Companies will often try to organize large volunteer events where many of their employees can volunteer at the same time. Maybe you need some landscape work done, or could use some new paint on the interior of your building? These are excellent candidates for a larger group project with corporate volunteers.


  • They’re available when others typically aren’t. Whereas most traditional volunteers are available nights and weekends, corporate volunteer groups are looking for opportunities during the normal 9-5 workday.


  • They’re skilled. Need trade-specific help? Corporate groups can be a perfect fit! Need help redesigning your website? Why not reach out to the engineering department at a software company?


  • They might just stick around. Corporate volunteerism can be the first step in a much longer journey. Be sure to let your corporate volunteers know about ongoing needs that they may be interested in. Sign them up for your email list and be sure to thank them for their efforts! You might just have found a great group of long term volunteers.


We’d love to hear from you! Have you partnered with companies who offer paid volunteer time? What advice can you offer those who are on the fence?





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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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Incorporating Influencers Into Your Event

Attracting “influencers” is all the buzz in marketing these days. The practice centers around building relationships with the people who can help build relationships for you. (Think:
Kylie Jenner Instagramming a pair of jeans that all her followers then rush to buy.)

Your organization probably doesn’t need to ink a deal with the Kardashians to raise funds for your cause, but cultivating key volunteers with a big reach/audience in your area can be an amazing asset.

If you’re a volunteer manager, building relationships is probably already your jam. There are a few things that you can do to help convert good vibes into social promotion:


Look to your board. These people are likely well-connected in the community, and if they don’t have the active social media presence to position them as “influencers” per se, many are connected to companies with significant followings. Tag the business in a thank you post for their leadership.

Many organizations also form a separate advisory board comprised of younger supporters who might not have the cash or clout, but have a certain level of cache as an up & comer. If an invitation for one of your organization’s events comes from a popular peer, it might have more power.


Try a takeover. If you have a limited staff, it can be hard to decide which social media channels are worth your time. As Instagram gains popularity and functions such as stories, empowering influential volunteers to do a weekly “takeover” can be a way to gain new followers. A selfie serving at one of your events speaks volumes, as people look for a meaningful way to connect. Bonus points if you can enlist a local celebrity / news personality to take up your cause.


Make it easy. Embedding social sharing buttons into your newsletters is a no-brainer. Feel free to point them out more explicitly, with a call to action at the end of the email. “Please use the buttons below to forward this message to five friends you think can help!” “Like us on Facebook to see 25 pictures of last month’s field day.”


Celebrate who showed up. Pictures of real people, engaged in your organization go a long way. Maybe it’s a gallery of gala attendees sent to the local glossy “society pages.” Maybe it’s a simple Facebook post capturing a basic board meeting. People love to see the faces behind an organization – and that creepy recognition technology built into social media makes it easier than ever to put names and networks to those faces. Get permission, snap and share!  



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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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Benefit of Using CRM and Volunteer Management Software Together

Choosing CRM (customer relations management) software is a daunting task. Thanks to the dozens and dozens of options, pay structures, and companies, there’s probably something out there for you – but where do you start?


VolunteerLocal set out to figure out how to find the best one for you and how to integrate your CRM with volunteer management platforms like VolunteerLocal. You can have the best of both worlds!


Sites like Capterra give you side-by-side analyses of CRM software based on price, features, industry, and more. Some of the most popular CRM software, like Salesforce, have extensive volunteer management functionality – but they often lack customer-facing signups, instead
relying on your staff to do data entry and manage the process by themselves.


This is where volunteer management platforms come in. Though it may seem unwieldy to use both a CRM and a volunteer management platform like VolunteerLocal, using them side by side can maximize your volunteer recruitment.


The first benefit of using VolunteerLocal alongside CRM software is to keep your information separate. If something goes wrong with your CRM – be it a security breach or accidental deletion of files – it won’t affect your signup process at all. This means fewer worries for you as your event approaches.


The second benefit is that you can keep it simple. Is your company undergoing major changes? Are you revamping your volunteer recruitment system? If you stick with your volunteer management platform throughout the whole process, your volunteers are comforted that everything looks and feels the same – and their information won’t get lost in the process.


At VolunteerLocal, we would love to talk to you about CRM software for your organization and how to best integrate with VolunteerLocal.



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An Interview with Sharon Pollock from Rebuilding our Community Sonoma County

At VolunteerLocal, we’re lucky to work with organizations making a real difference in industries, countries and cities all over the world.

Today, we’re spotlighting Rebuilding Our Community Sonoma County, a group providing much-needed support in Northern California. We caught up with Volunteer Coordinator Sharon Pollock to hear more about how her organization is helping to coordinate recovery efforts for survivors of Sonoma County fires.


When did ROC Sonoma County begin working with fire survivors? What prompted your founders to start the organization?

In response to the devastating Sonoma County fires of October 2017, Rebuilding Our Community (ROC) Sonoma County grew out of the catalytic efforts of many local agencies that had the experience with communities facing the impacts of disasters to understand the resources needed to promote long-term recovery. These agencies included VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters), FEMA, CA Office of Emergency Services, and many others.

The founders of ROC Sonoma County saw the need to establish and maintain a network within and on behalf of non-profit, governmental, faith-based, business, and other organizations and agencies to provide a coordinated recovery effort for Sonoma County fire survivors. The ROC Resource Center is a hub from which fire survivors can access a direct path to these local human service entities.


What are some of the roles your volunteers play in your organization?
Our volunteers support the ROC Resource Center in these roles:

  • Client Intake and Resource Specialist: These volunteers gather initial information from fire survivor clients, enter client information into the tracking system, assist clients with paperwork, and refer clients to local resources for assistance. They reduce the intake and referral tasks for disaster case managers, which enables those manager to spend more time assisting clients and improving program effectiveness.
  • Data Entry: Data Entry volunteers mainly enter client information into the tracking system. This is a key part of maintaining client records, which assists all organization members that access this information.
  • Reception/helpline: These volunteers greet visitors, answer phones, provide basic resource guidance, research client status, assist clients with paperwork, and schedule appointments. The benefit of having volunteers performing these administrative tasks is that it enables staff members to spend more time assisting clients and improving program effectiveness.


What most inspires you about your volunteers?
Their dedication and passion to assist fire survivors, their enthusiasm in learning complex systems and processes, and their willingness to devote their time for the long term.


Anything else you’d like to add about your organization?
Since the ROC Resource Center opened in July 2018, its staff and volunteers have assisted more than 1,000 community members that were affected by the October 2017 Sonoma County fires. In addition, the Resource Center serves as a central meeting place for ROC committees and partner agencies, hosting more than 30 meetings per month. As the community continues to recover, the ROC Resource Center will continue to serve as the hub that provides a direct path to the assistance our neighbors need to return to the lives they had before the fires.



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Community vs. Student Volunteers

Volunteers come in all stripes. As coordinator, it’s your role to empower them all to help achieve your organization’s goals. Students and community volunteers might have different motivations, schedules, communication styles and levels of experience that impact what they bring to the table. While volunteers from either group should certainly be seen as individuals, here are a few questions to ask:


Training: Come to you, or go to them?
When you’re working with community volunteers who may be connected as individuals, on-site trainings tend to be best. But if you’re working with a big corporate team, or a large group of students, it can be nice to reserve space on their campus for your volunteers’ convenience. Or, build in a little extra time into the beginning of a shift for “just-in-time” training on your site.


Skilled volunteers, or power in numbers?
Oftentimes, groups of students are used for low-skill, heavy lifting kinds of jobs, and seasoned professionals are recruited to fulfill more skilled roles. Especially with marketing tasks, it can be tough to recruit from a professional pool. Don’t overlook the potential in students, who might be eager to gain experience in everything from graphic design to writing press releases. Same goes for retirees. Some might not be up on the latest social media trend, but they could have project-related skills to contribute. If you have 500 T-shirts to fold, you might want to ask who has experience in retail.  


Who gets copied in the email chain?
If you’re working with a group of student volunteers, it could be helpful to copy in a contact from the school – be that an advisor, coach or community engagement professional. Retention of student volunteers is strongest when there’s continuity in the contact, since students move in and out every few years. If you’re late in the game and still recruiting volunteers, ask your best community volunteers to forward your needs to others in their network – perhaps fellow Rotarians or Chamber members.  


Here for the service hours, shirt or something more?
Recognition can definitely help with volunteer retention. An excellent student volunteer might benefit from a letter of recommendation for a scholarship. A community volunteer, rather, might be touched by a personal letter sent to their home.

Working with student and community volunteers isn’t very different. It all comes down to building relationships and playing to a volunteer’s strengths.




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Volunteer Managers Share The Lessons They’ve Learned

Many volunteer managers stumble into the position, and wind up learning on the fly. We asked a small group of volunteer managers for some of the most important lessons they’ve learned in their jobs so far.

Caryline manages 100+ volunteers for the American Cancer Society in communities across Iowa. It took her a long time to learn to trust her volunteers to help her accomplish the organization’s goals – and find some semblance of balance in the process:

“It’s so important to let the volunteer feel valued and to give them the tools to be successful without doing the job for them,” she says. “That’s how they stay connected to your organization’s mission and that’s how you as a staff partner ensure a healthy work-life balance. I worked from home my first few years so it was easy to stay working late into the night and on weekends. By working like this, I was not only hurting myself but also my volunteers. They didn’t feel empowered because I was trying to micromanage them. I was so focused on hitting my goals and being successful in my job that I was stepping on all of their toes. It took me a couple of years of learning from my co-workers and building trust with my volunteers before I realized my errors. I started to let small things not stress me out and I took up yoga.”



Joy works with United Way of Central Iowa, an affiliate of the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, and has found communication preferences to be different with her volunteers in the 55+ demographic:

“Many older volunteers use email and social media, but prefer phone conversations and face-to-face meetings,” She says. “I find a fair number of volunteers will reply to an email with a phone call. Flexibility is key. Using a singular method of communication with this age demographic won’t get the message across to everyone. It is truly being thoughtful of all methods of communication and using it efficiently. It does mean your message may reach one person twice in different forms, but it helps ensure you reach everyone. And while technology is pushing us to more virtual communications, I’m prepared to have a longer phone conversation with these volunteers.”


Chris, who has held roles in community engagement and volunteer management at several large nonprofits and currently works with the Animal Rescue League of Iowa, says his biggest takeaway has been how integrated volunteer goals need to be with the mission and work of the whole professional team:

“The entire staff – those who work with volunteers every day and those who may only work with them a few times a year – need to be a part of engaging them, and if the leadership is not role modeling that behavior, then we are just wasting our time,” he says. “In my time in volunteer management, it is evident that few Presidents/Executive Directors or Boards are truly aware of the potential available from a strong volunteer program. Or if they’re aware, they ask too much but do not show support. Resources like money, staff time, etc. are always nice, but if volunteer engagement is not a priority that ALL staff commit to, volunteer engagement/retention will matter very little. If the volunteer manager is the only one doing it, we are just spinning our wheels.”





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