Budgeting Basics

The world of volunteer coordinators is often fluid. When working with a free work force, you quickly find how to deftly roll with the punches and adapt to whatever circumstances arise. The same strengths that help you excel at your position often make it difficult to tackle tasks that appear rigid and fixed, tasks like creating a budget. Learning how to enter into the mingling of boundaries and flexibility is essential for both your organization and your event to thrive. So let’s take a look at some basic principles to help you get started.


Understand the Numbers

No matter your financial literacy, take time to fully understand the numbers for your event. The number one goal of your fundraising event is just this: to raise funds. If you produce the most innovative, entertaining, meaningful event, but it costs more money than it raises, you’ve still failed at your primary goal.


Take meetings with your financial team to understand the annual budget, the amount of resources earmarked for your event, and the variety of ways your event is planning to bring in income. As you list the forms of income (ticket sales, pledges per mile of a race, concessions, sponsors, etc.), be realistic in your estimations.


If this is your first event, reach out to organizations that have run similar events to see where their income levels began. If this is an established event for your organization, look through the budgets from years past to see the annual amount of growth per year to appropriately project this year’s numbers. Fundraising requires a high level of optimism and aspiration, but building your budget is a place to stay grounded in the information available to you.


List Expenses

If you’re a relational person, this may seem like another step that seems like a drag, but stay with me. Work through each aspect of your event and list all definite and probable expenses. Unexpected costs always pop up, but what can you anticipate? Authors Stan Hutton and Frances Phillips list the following categories as a good starting point for you and your team:

  • Location (space rental, site use permits, security guards, portable toilets, tents, cleanup costs)
  • Advertising and marketing (save-the-date postcards, photography, posters, invitations, event programs, publicist costs, postage, event website with a ticket purchase feature)
  • Production (lighting and sound equipment, technical labor, stage managers, auctioneers)
  • Travel and per diem (for guest speakers, performers, or special guests)
  • Insurance (for example, liability insurance in case someone gets hurt because of your organization’s negligence, or shipping insurance to protect donated goods)
  • Food and beverages (including permits for the sale or serving of alcohol, if necessary)
  • Decor (flowers, rented tables and chairs, linens, fireworks, banners)
  • Miscellaneous (prizes, awards, talent treatment, name tags, signs, t-shirts)
  • Office expenses (letter writing, mailing list and website management, detail coordination)
  • All other staff expenses


Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize

Now that you have the basic budget of cash coming in and going out, it’s likely time to make cuts. You’ve done the hard work of getting everything down on paper, and now it’s time to choose what is most important and most necessary. Brainstorm with team members to utilize multiple perspectives. In the end, help your team understand your decisions by discussing those priorities and the realities of the financial limitations.


Get Creative

Just hearing the word “budget” can conjure up feelings of conflict and restriction, but you don’t have to feel stuck. The budget provides parameters, but you can get as inventive as you’d like within them. Necessity begets creativity! Think of alternative solutions and partnerships that can help you achieve your goal. To maximize your marketing budget, perhaps existing sponsors are willing to use their social media channels to promote your event. To save on food and beverage expenses, look into your volunteer base to see if there are existing connections that may offer catering discounts. A solution is likely still present, even if it looks different than your first choice.


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Winning Over the Reluctant Volunteer

While we’d all love to believe that any volunteer coming our way is in it for the good of the cause, every volunteer coordinator knows that’s just not always the case.

Whether it’s a sullen teenager, a court-ordered volunteer, or just a serious introvert, you know you need a way to win them over. We’ve collected some of our favorite ways to chip away at those reluctant volunteers.

Appeal to Their Interests

Even though your volunteer might have joined your crew out of duty (rather than passion), chances are you can probably find something for them to like about your organization. If your volunteer is a parent, maybe they’d love to find out that the work they’re doing is going to benefit kids. Maybe the crabby teen volunteering for your 5k is into music and would love to help you set up the speakers at the check-in booth. Who knows? Honestly, not us. Are teens still into music? It’s worth a try.

Give ‘em a Break

Every volunteer needs a break sometimes and a volunteer who doesn’t want to be there definitely does. Set clear times when your team can sneak a snack on the side or a quiet moment. Just the knowledge that a chance to rest is in the near future is a huge help in keeping unenthusiastic volunteers on the move.


If a volunteer shows up to your event a little less than gung-ho, try giving them an option of what to do. While sitting in the break area with a bag of chips might not work, you might end up with a people-person who would love to do check-in, or a perfectionist who can make sure every single poster is straight. You might even get someone who’s obsessed with picking up trash and wants to be on garbage duty all day (we can dream).


And if all of that doesn’t work?

There are always snacks.

You can win anyone over with free snacks.



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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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Steps & Tips for Creating a Facebook Group for Volunteers

Facebook can be a phenomenal method for keeping volunteers connected. A simple Facebook provides a place for members to post photos, share tips, ask questions and meet other volunteers. So, wondering how you’d even get one of these started? We’ve got all the information you need below.


On the homepage of your Facebook account, select ‘Groups’ among the options on the left-hand side of the page under the “Explore” heading. On the top right corner, click the green button which says “+Create Group.” A window will pop-up for you to enter group information:


Name of Your Group
No need to get fancy or creative here, especially if the Facebook group is a recruiting tool, you’ll want it to be easily searchable. Which isn’t to say that niche groups of volunteers can’t have their own internal group for discussion with a more personalized name (ie IronMan Wolf-team Volunteers).


Add Some People
Start off by adding your volunteer team leaders & managers to the group and they can add their volunteer team. Definitely make sure to add only individuals who have made a commitment to the group, especially those who have an administrative role in managing. This will be determined largely by your privacy settings.


Select Privacy
A good way to decide which setting would be best: how much time do you have to manage the volunteer page? A sense of inactivity on a page can deter people from visiting.

  • Public—anyone can search for and join this group. Because this kind of group is so open, this kind of setting is recommended especially for large events which require a large volunteer base. This opens up content to be shared and also serves as a recruiting tool for the next event.
  • Closed—can be searched, but requires permission to join. More for internal use, and dissemination of information.
  • Secret—invite only. What is there to be said for secrets? They don’t make friends, but can keep them.


To change group information you can add more detail, description and the like by returning to the main “Groups” page. You will see the group you just created under “Groups You Manage”. There will be a wheel next to the group name where a sub-menu will let you change notification settings, group settings, favorites and last but not least, let you leave the group.
To add more people once the initial work has been done is simple. Visit the main page for the group and type in the names or e-mail addresses of those you wish to add in the designated window to the right of the group interface.


And there you have it. A step-by-step guide to creating your first Facebook group. So get out there, and start creating a community amongst your volunteers!

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Getting Sponsorship when You’re Scared to Ask for Money

Before we get started, let me be honest: I’m not great at asking for money. Talking about money makes me uncomfortable. Asking for money makes me uncomfortable. But at the end of the day, we in the nonprofit and event management business can’t avoid it. Procuring and developing sponsorship relationships is essential to success.


So let’s consider this a scaredy cat’s guide to asking for sponsors. We can do this! In many ways, the same principles that make an effective volunteer manager also make a prolific fundraiser. Take a look at four simple ways so secure sponsors.


Know Yourself.

There’s a theme throughout many of our posts at VolunteerLocal, but it’s that important! Know the vision behind your event. Know how your event fits into the overall mission of your organization. Know how your event provides value and benefits for the local community and for the sponsor. Nailing down great answers to these topics is incredibly helpful for recruiting volunteers, and it’s no different when thinking about sponsors. Knowing the details gives you confidence and helps potential sponsors put their trust in you.


Find Sponsors that Fit.

In the same way that there are people best suited to volunteer for your event, there are certain sponsors that are a good fit! Consider your vision and the mission of your event. Then research companies and organizations that already align with you. These potential sponsors are most prone to listen to you, and you likely have the most to offer them in return.


Look at local businesses and organizations. Examine your list of previous volunteers and identify any business owners or groups of people working for the same company. Assembling a list of warm prospects keeps building your confidence and eases some anxiety.


Do Your Research.

Develop your presentation with each organization in mind. Just like when you’re talking to different sources of volunteers, this is not a one-size-fits-all situation. Get to know your audience well, and demonstrate this knowledge by tailoring your pitch to show why investing in your event is the right choice. This takes a lot of attention to detail and extra time, but it makes all the difference!


Be Generous.

Many companies and organizations are willing to use their resources to invest in good causes, but they are still looking for the best return on their investment. Get creative in how you can give them high value exposure before, during, and after your event. Include sponsors in promotional material, add logos to event swag, offer high level investors to sponsor an entire section of your venue, find spots in your event schedule to integrate sponsor representatives into the festivities, send out post-event summaries to show them how much exposure your event generated on their behalf. In the same way volunteers are grateful for perks, your relationship with sponsors continues to grow as you find creative, meaningful ways to bring them into the event and repay their generosity.


If you’re like me and you find asking for money intimidating, don’t let it cripple your progress. Just focus on these essentials of fundraising. You can do it!




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Why Volunteer Name Tags Totally Rock

Investing in nametags is a great way for volunteer managers to build relationships and stay organized. As Dale Carnegie of How to Win Friends and Influence People fame once said,

“A person’s name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language.”

But creating volunteer nametags might rank near dead last of to-do list tasks that a busy coordinator wants to take on. Nametags can be drama: lanyards or sticker tags? Do the tags go into the printer face-down or up? Who has time to alphabetize, anyway?

I’ve got a blank space baby…And I’ll write your name.

First, decide what kind of nametags work best for your event. If you want volunteers at a large event to look like they have authority, lanyard nametags could be the way to go. Lanyards can be pricey, but with an effective check-in and check-out system, you may be able to re-use them. Some volunteers love to collect snazzy branded event lanyards as a souvenir, if that’s in the budget. Classic sticky label nametags are a convenient choice. Use a mail-merge feature to pre-print batches of names and logos or other information on the tags. If you’re running a home building construction site, though, sticky won’t be the way to go. Consider designing a nametag area into the volunteer T-shirt so volunteers can DIY with permanent markers, no sweat. Engraved pin or magnetic nametags are a meaningful recognition gift for super-volunteers who put in lots of hours each year.

Say my name, say my name.

You’ve invested energy designing and organizing your nametags, so make sure to put them to use and actually call volunteers by their names when you offer them direction or praise them for a job well done. If you notice Sue is amazing at event setup but Rick should never be allowed to hold a roll of tape again, it’s a lot easier to make sly notes for future assignments than to have to ask around to find out the name of the guy who put up all of the crooked signs.

Hi! My name is (what?)…My name is (who?)…

Nametags aren’t just for your convenience as a volunteer manager, though. It’s helpful for a group of volunteers who are working a long shift together to have a backup after initial introductions go in one ear and out the other. If your volunteers are facing attendees or working with participants, nametags help you get better feedback on who was helpful or who might be lacking in customer service skills.

Don’t get rickrolled by unidentifiable volunteers. Build time into your planning schedule to create and organize nametags – and rock on. [And, ahem, VolunteerLocal offers a nametag feature as part of the Conquer Plan to help you save time on this pesky but practical task.]


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Most Effective Volunteer Recruitment Strategies

When you’re looking for volunteers for your event, the task may seem a bit daunting in the beginning. Don’t worry. Everyone starts somewhere.

As a wise man (Drake) famously said, “Started from the bottom now we’re here.”

This Washington Post article found that whether you’re finding people passionate about your mission, sharing your organization’s story or just meeting people in person, you have a real chance at drawing volunteers in. The article highlights recruitment efforts of different organizations and they’re all things you can easily do for your organization. We’ve compiled our top tips below to not only find volunteers, but find the perfect match.

Tell a story:

  • Use social media to your advantage. If there are any interesting anecdotes, people or causes associated with your organization, share them to get people excited about joining.
  • Give details about your organization on your website. Share your history, mission and stories about your staff to give prospective volunteers a personal connection.
  • A picture is worth a 1,000 words, so save your breath and share event photos! Plus, you can tag volunteers for their friends to see and potentially join as well.

Get your feet dirty:

  • Meet face-to-face. There’s a reason grassroots efforts have stuck around for so long and that’s because of the connection. Get into your community.
  • Attend volunteer fairs. Students are often seeking community service hours or experience, so get them amped up about participating in your organization. Make that conversation happen.
  • Talk to your network. Don’t be shy about asking friends or neighbors to volunteer – just asking may be the nudge they need.

Think for the future:

  • Create meaningful titles for volunteer positions – people might just be looking for opportunities to add to their resume.
  • Make a good experience for volunteers to make them lifelong returners. Express gratitude and appreciation for the work that they put in.
  • Don’t be afraid to reach out again after hearing a “no.” Keep “no” volunteers in mind for a future position or date that may work better for them.

Make it fun:

  • People are more inclined to say yes if they’re with people they know. Encourage people to volunteer with friends or family.
  • Make a community. After volunteer events, go out for food and drinks. Having a fun time will encourage people to continue returning.
  • Everyone likes swag. Give volunteers t-shirts or other souvenirs to commemorate their time and it provides an opportunity for further promotion.

Know your audience

  • Crafting a targeted campaign will ensure you’re reaching your ideal volunteers, while also appealing to those who are interested in what you’re offering.
  • Provide detailed volunteer descriptions. People not only want to know the details of what they may be participating in, but this will also ensure you get the ideal candidate.
  • Go to where the volunteer prospects are. If you’re hosting a marathon, offer to speak at a gym or with your local high school’s track team.


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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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How to Recruit Volunteers for Corporate Sponsored Races

Road races have quickly become a multi-billion dollar industry. While many nonprofits organize smaller races to simply fundraise for their causes, some races have become so huge that they must include corporate sponsorships either as a peripheral or integral part of their budget.


A huge budget doesn’t mean volunteers aren’t necessary, though. These races still need folks to operate water stations, welcome and register participants, and perform other small tasks throughout the morning. It’s important to note that there are potential legal issues surrounding recruiting volunteers as a for-profit organization. In order to avoid misleading or coercing volunteers into doing something they should be paid for, you can do a few things to make it worth your volunteers’ time:


Offer other organizations whose missions are analogous to yours a chance to be a charity sponsor. In exchange for providing a few volunteers the day of the race, another organization can have a booth and advertise at your event. This type of sponsorship takes time to arrange, but can lead to fruitful partnerships that last years!


Offer out-of-this-world swag. With your corporate sponsorship, you might have connections to truly great deals: coupons for spa days, exercise gear, gift bags, and more. You can also set up a volunteers-only raffle – if your volunteers know that the pool is limited, they’re likely to get more excited about their chances!


Offer event tickets – not only for your volunteers, but for their loved ones, as well. Corporate-sponsored races can often be quite expensive to enter, so the ability to get in for free is a huge plus. For example, one person in a married couple who wants to run the race could take the free ticket while their spouse volunteers. This way, the spouse gets to be there for support and the couple didn’t have to pay anything to be there.


Recruiting volunteers in a for-profit race can be sticky! But remember, the sport of road racing is absolutely taking off – there are plenty of folks who are interested in simply being there for the action. Emphasize a morning of togetherness, athleticism, and the awesome swag you’re going to offer them, and you’ll be inundated with potential volunteers.


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5 Tricks and Tools to Survive a Volunteer Fair

Volunteer Fairs are a common practice for employers and groups looking to connect their people with causes. But how can you stand out among a veritable smorgasbord of service opportunities? Keep these tools in mind when prepping for success at a volunteer fair.


A way to capture volunteer information: You can go old-school with a pen and paper general interest form. Or, if your organization has a tablet, consider encouraging them to sign up on-the- spot for specific event shifts using your VolunteerLocal page. (Just make sure you can access guest internet, or bring a mobile hotspot along.)

Treats & Takeaways
Lure the volunteer fair lurkers to the table with candy or swag. Think about ways to make them work for it, though. Come up with a few trivia questions about volunteer impact to inspire them to learn more. Brochures and handouts, or specific event postcards and fliers are helpful takeaways, too.

Smile and stand, if you can
Volunteer fairs can be exhausting for coordinators who want to keep up their pep for the entire event. Resist the temptation to work on e-mail or multitask during the event and try to make eye-contact as people walk by. If you can’t stand, think about a pop-up banner or tabletop display that gives your organization’s logo some added height.

Pickup lines aren’t just for the bar. It’s great to have a ready question or one-liner you can use to hook people in. They don’t have to be cheesy! “Did you ever have a mentor as a kid?” “Do you have an interest in fighting hunger?” “You look like you have some construction experience!” Sometimes you’ll get a laugh or a head-shake, but sometimes you’ll strike a chord and encourage an attendee to share a personal story about an affinity with your cause.

Enlist a familiar face
If you have an all-star volunteer from a corporation or organization where you will be hosting a table, see if she or he is available to work the table with you. Social capital goes a long way in recruiting volunteers. People will be surprised to see a colleague on the other side of the table, and you have someone who can give testimonials to how being engaged in your organization is meaningful to them.


Don’t forget to ask the volunteer fair coordinator the basics, if it’s not clear. You’ll need to know whether to BYO table, whether you have internet access, and a map of the space is helpful so you can plan ahead and pop up your display with ease.




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