Connecting with Volunteers Before, During, and After Events

So, you’re a volunteer coordinator.

 

There’s software to keep you organized and spreadsheets to print out and timeslots to fill. But how do you manage volunteers in a way that makes them feel like more than a number? After all, you couldn’t make things happen without them.

 

Build a relationship with volunteers

 

Learning what makes your volunteers tick is the first step towards leveraging their strengths and abilities. Once you know what they are most excited about or what made them want to volunteer with your organization in the first place, you might be able to really connect with them on a deeper level. Instead of puzzle pieces that need to fit in various roles and schedules, remember that volunteers are people. They have other jobs, family, passions, hobbies–all sorts of interesting things about them.

So start by getting to know them. Maybe it’s taking them out to coffee to hear their story or learn about how they got connected with your organization. Maybe it’s sending out a silly questionnaire including questions such as “What’s your spirit animal and why?” or “Where and how do you spend most of your free time?” You might learn about special talents that could be used or their unique quirks. Make sure to jot these notes down so you can keep them in mind for the future.

Building a relationship with volunteers is beneficial for both you and the volunteer. Not only do you get to know them better, but they get to know and trust you. Trust is an invaluable trait to have if and when some sort of issue comes up during an event.

 

Keep the communication clear and open

 

You’ve probably been on both the giving and receiving side of communication, and you know it’s vital to keep all communication clear and easy to understand. Of course you have countless things on your to-do list, but don’t let communication fall to the bottom of the list. Communication can come in all forms–emails, texts, phone calls, trainings, and even one-on-one meetings in person. Keeping volunteers in the know leads to more personal investment from them, better interactions with them, and a higher likelihood they will continue volunteering in the future. You are their primary point of contact with the organization, and they rely on you to learn what they need to know in order to do their job successfully. Make sure this line of communication is open on both sides by being available for questions or comments from them along the way.

 

Follow-up

 

Keep the momentum going–and follow-up! After an event there’s a lot to sort out, but make sure you reach out to volunteers soon afterwards. Thank them for their time, and ask for their thoughts about how it went and what can be improved next time. Host a debrief and thank you celebration night with ice cream for volunteers or send a personal thank you card in the mail. If you can’t manage that, send a thoughtful email with a survey to capture feedback for future events. Use the information you collected at the beginning and send a birthday card when the time comes or reach out with a friendly email when you find out they got a promotion at work, bought a new house, or rocked it at open mic night. Anything you can do to show volunteers how much you care about them goes a long way.

 

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VolunteerLocal Field Expert: Samantha Gratton

Samantha Gratton

Raleigh, North CarolinaSamantha Gratton

“Volunteering helps you step outside of yourself. Perhaps you’ll join a cause you’re passionate about, or you’ll positively impact your community. Regardless, volunteering broadens your perspective and helps you connect with others in a very real way.”

What do you love about your hometown?

I’m in a city that’s just the right size, has relatively mild weather, and only a day trip away from the beach or mountains! But mostly, it’s the every day life that I love most–whether that’s taking a walk downtown to a festival/event or having a friend over for coffee.

Tell us about your unique perspective when it comes to volunteer coordination.

I’ve done a little bit of everything in my career, which includes coordinating big and small events with numerous volunteers, working at nonprofits and colleges, and simply volunteering myself.

What is your favorite hobby or activity outside of work:

A lot of my time goes toward raising my kiddo, but past that I enjoy traveling, rock climbing, reading, writing, and supporting the people around me.

Who is your favorite musical artist?

Rosie Thomas

Where would your friends find you on a typical Friday night?

Maybe out to eat at a local restaurant, on a walk downtown with my family, or at a friend’s house. Otherwise, I’m most likely at home…eating chocolate, catching up on some of my favorite shows, or writing ridiculously long emails.

 

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VolunteerLocal Field Expert: Rebekah Coenen

Rebekah Coenen

Des Moines, IowaBekah

“Honestly, volunteering seems like such a common sense requirement as a human on the earth taking part in activities that others run. I can’t think of a single reason you shouldn’t. The world runs on passion.”

What do you love about your hometown?

Our neighbor Harry. He bring treats out to our dogs almost every day. And if he hasn’t been able to in a while he leaves them on the ground in our yard.

Tell us about your unique perspective when it comes to volunteer coordination.

I have experience on an Ultimate Frisbee non-profit board and trying to organize leagues and volunteers to help.

What is your favorite hobby or activity outside of work:

I have a lot of favorites.. but my 3 top hobbies are Ultimate Frisbee, crafting, and brewing beer.

Who is your favorite musical artist?

Florence and the Machine.

Where would your friends find you on a typical Friday night?

On my couch, snuggling with my husband and dogs!

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VolunteerLocal Field Expert: Brianne Sanchez

Brianne Sanchez

Des Moines, Iowa

“Civic engagement is at the core of a functioning society. Volunteering is putting yourself in service of something bigger. It’s saying ‘yes’ to community and building up organizations and turning ideas into action.”

What do you love about your hometown?

I love the accessibility of Des Moines. You can be the person to make things happen. You can meet CEOs and college kids. We’re such a fun festival town, and we have great trails and library systems.

Tell us about your unique perspective when it comes to volunteer coordination.

I have worked in the nonprofit sector for more than five years, and currently manage volunteers as a huge part of my day job working at a medical school in community outreach.

What is your favorite hobby or activity outside of work:

Reading and riding bikes with my little family. We just got a Yuba that fits both kids on the back and has an electric assist to give me a boost up the hills!

Who is your favorite musical artist?

Blind Pilot

Where would your friends find you on a typical Friday night?

I live for my book club! Wine, pizza, books and conversation. But 5/6 Friday nights I’m popping popcorn on the stove and watching a movie with my kids. The Sandlot, anyone?!

 

“I like connecting people and entertaining a crowd – I consider myself a ‘pollinator – but I’m also really happy baking banana bread and listening to a podcast at home or going on a hike or bike ride with my family.”

 

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VolunteerLocal Field Expert: Linh Ta

Linh Ta

Des Moines, IowaLinh

“Time is the most valuable thing someone can give.”

What do you love about your hometown?

I came for the food and stayed for the people.

friends find you on a typical Friday night?

Carl’s Place is where it’s at.

What is your favorite hobby or activity outside of work:

Biking!

What types of events do you especially love?

Downtown festivals and parades.

Who is your favorite musical artist?

Shania Twain

Where would your friends find you on a typical Friday night?

Carl’s Place is where it’s at.

 

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VolunteerLocal Field Expert: Julie Kent

Julie Kent

Denver, ColoradoJulieKent

“Volunteering makes the world a better place – and it can provide lots of personal fulfillment, too!”

What do you love about your hometown?

No humidity!

Tell us about your unique perspective when it comes to volunteer coordination.

I’ve been on the board of a couple of non-profits so I’ve done a reasonable amount of volunteer recruitment and management.

What is your favorite hobby or activity outside of work:

Reading.

Who is your favorite musical artist?

Thomas Rhett

Where would your friends find you on a typical Friday night?

Out to dinner and then at home binging on Netflix.

 

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VolunteerLocal Field Expert: Jordan Maze

Jordan Maze

Chicago, IllinoisJordan Maze

“Volunteering allows you to connect with people who have similar interests – perhaps the most natural way to make friends, especially in a city. If you have spare time or money, recognizing your good fortune by offering it in the service of others feels great and is great for your community.”

What do you love about your hometown?

My neighbors’ friendliness, architectural diversity, and so much vegan food.

Tell us about your unique perspective when it comes to volunteer coordination.

I helped start a bike co-op in college, and now my best friend is a volunteer manager, so I can live a bit vicariously through her.

What is your favorite hobby or activity outside of work:

Going on walks with my dog, reading, and biking.

Who is your favorite musical artist?

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists

Where would your friends find you on a typical Friday night?

Probably in my backyard.

 

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VolunteerLocal Field Expert: Anna Elliot

Anna Elliot

Des Moines, IowaAnna Elliot

 “I always come back to this: volunteering provides a shared experience with a common goal. It brings people and communities together.”

What do you love about your hometown?

Des Moines has the friendliness and familiarity of a small town with some big city perks, like good food, shows, and parks.

Tell us about your unique perspective when it comes to volunteer coordination.

I write from the perspective of the volunteer and participant. I have been involved in many different projects of all kinds and have seen first-hand the need and difference volunteers make. I’ve also attended more events that rely on volunteers than I can count and have benefited from the hard work that goes on behind the scenes.

What is your favorite hobby or activity outside of work:

I like staying active! I practice yoga, teach barre, and rock climb.

Who is your favorite musical artist?

If I must choose one, Bon Iver.

Where would your friends find you on a typical Friday night?

On Friday night you might find me at a show downtown or sitting on the porch with some friends.

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