How to attract volunteers to your event
Please read through these tips on how to get more help for your event with your event in mind - are there any opportunities that you haven't explored? But also, are you doing something that we don't know about? Please tell us in the comments!
Reducing the need for volunteers
Invite community groups and businesses to provide content
Can others run events as part of your festival so you don't have to find so many volunteers? For example, could a local restaurant host and cater a long lunch fills out the festival program (and enriches the festival offering for visitors)?
Invest in infrastructure
Can you purchase infrastructure that is lighter to set up, or software that results in more efficiencies? Create an infrastructure investment forecast budget to help you plan for such investments.
Define clear roles
Clearly-defined volunteer roles will make it easy for interested people to see if they have skills or interest for those specific roles. Rather than a generic plea for help, a concise job description can help a volunteer make the decision to say, ‘I could do that!’. Some people are better at working in the background, some are great with people or with figures; it would be discouraging to be assigned a task that is not a good fit so respect your volunteers by assigning a responsibility that is both enjoyable and challenging.
Make the value proposition clear
Why should people spend their free time at your event helping out? Make clear the benefits they will get out of helping out your event.
Busy people might be turned off volunteering because of having to attend long, regular meetings (though others love such meetings for the social benefits!)
Are there purposes of the meeting that can be fulfilled outside of a meeting?
For example, to let everyone know where tasks are up to, can you use a Facebook group, email, or have a checklist stored in the cloud that everyone can access where tasks are ticked off as they are completed (and everyone keeps notes on how things are ticking over)?
Ask people you know
People like being asked and they are more likely to say yes if they know the person asking them.
Ask your volunteers to bring a friend
…especially anyone that might be a good fit for the job. Ask your volunteers to promote their volunteering on their social media to ask their networks if any friend would like to join them. Give them the info they'll need to spread the word. The easier you make it for them to share, the more likely they'll pass the message along.
Approach those who are benefitting from your event
The local petrol station, accommodations, businesses, community groups who fundraise on the day - these people may not have time to volunteer on the day or for set up or pack up, but they may be able to help with either a cash contribution so the event can hire help, or help during the planning phase in the months leading up to the event.
Reach out on social media to ask for volunteers. Search for and connect with Facebook and LinkedIn groups that overlap with the event’s cause or theme.
Set up an information booth for your organization at your local farmers markets and common areas about town. This helps raise awareness of your need. Can you sign up folks to your ‘may be interested volunteer’ mailing list?
Maximise your volunteer webpage
Instead of simply listing opportunities to help your event on the volunteer page of your website, use your volunteer webpage and event’s Facebook page to engage your volunteer community. Invite volunteers to post their pictures, videos and stories; share your photos and videos from past events; link to your online sign up form; and write blog posts with updated stories and guest posts of how your event is making a difference in the community. Share all this on your social media.
Pitch to a Volunteers Sponsor
Many companies are happy to hear about an opportunity for their staff to volunteer. Approach companies with a proposal for cash or in-kind support as well as the provision of company volunteers in exchange for benefits as your event's official Volunteers Sponsor. These benefits could include team-building for their staff, and having all of the event's volunteers in bright t-shirts that have "ANZ Bank Volunteer" written on their backs (for example).
Post on volunteer websites
GoVolunteer + SeekVolunteer
Register at www.govolunteer.com.au/find-volunteers which posts your need on both www.govolunteer.com.au and www.volunteer.com.au (SeekVolunteer). This is free for qualifying Australian volunteer-involving organisations with valid insurance. Qualifying organisations are generally not-for-profit, but exceptions can be made on a case-by-case basis for those demonstrating genuine 'value-add' roles for volunteers. You can create a page for your organisation, post your event on their community events page, and receive Expressions of Interest to your email.
Here it's free for non-profits to post volunteering opportunities.
The Grey Nomads
Email a short paragraph to email@example.com detailing the work volunteers would be doing, the location of the event, the dates volunteers are required, and contact details, and The Grey Nomads will post it on www.thegreynomads.com.au.
This is a free service available to not-for-profit organisations in NSW with current Public Liability Insurance and Voluntary Workers Insurance. They have numerous resources as well, such as a Volunteer Recruitment Campaign Toolkit. Other states have similar websites.
Connect with groups
University, TAFE and high school students
Especially students in a course of event, tourism or hospitality management or in a field related to your festival such as sports management or arts.
Search out local service clubs such as the Lions, Apex, Rotary, Rotoract or CWA or the town progress association. Ask for their help well in advance, and as personally as possible (i.e. not by email). See if the festival can help their club in return such as by displaying their signage, promoting them on social media, or providing a fee for e.g. running the gate.
Find service clubs near you at www.mycommunitydirectory.com.au or www.clubsofaustralia.com.au. Find Lions clubs, Rotary clubs and RSL clubs via these links.
Not only are you filling multiple positions but people can see the day as something fun to do with their friends. Search for Scout Troops, sports teams, employers, running clubs, women’s clubs, etc.
Talk to other organisations about their volunteers
You’re not in competition in your community, so talk to other organisations about where they found their volunteers, and gather tips to help find your own. Can you help each other out and share your human resources and other resources that reduce the need for labour?
Use local resources
Broadcast via local media
Many radio stations, newspapers and television stations offer free volunteer postings to non-profits.
Connect with your Council or RTO
Your council or regional tourism organisation may have a database of volunteers you can tap into, such as traffic management volunteers. Your Council might also allow you to borrow some staff during working hours, such as manual labour on Friday to help set up and Monday to help pack up.
Use non-local resources
Connect with people who don't live in your town such as ex-residents, or family or friends of residents. These people can do jobs that don't require their presence in the town such as book-keeping, social media management or grant writing.
Keeping your volunteers for next year
Build a volunteer community
Create a social group of your volunteers and create opportunities online and offline for the volunteers to connect. Bringing the group together at a social event can be both informational and fun and will make volunteers feel like they belong to a team. This is powerful motivator for volunteers to participate year after year.
Be sure to show your gratitude early and often: volunteers want acknowledgement and a thank you. It’s amazing how far appreciation and a simple thank you will go. It could be a thank you letter to follow up post-event, or a free lunch on the day. It’s often a simple gesture that makes all the difference. Recognising people’s efforts isn’t hard.
Communicate what they've achieved
Tell your volunteers, community, sponsors, partners, local media and stakeholders what their contribution has helped achieve: the numbers of visitors who came to town, how full accommodations were, the event's economic impact, funds raised by community groups via the event, festival profits invested into community projects, infrastructure bought, and so on. You could also provide your volunteers and partners with social media graphics that they can share that celebrate their contribution to the event and the community (and get them pats on the back from their friends and family).
Don't burn them out
Don't ask volunteers to give more than they have committed to. Be realistic - don't ask for help for two hours that turns into six hours. Perhaps try to find more volunteers to do less work, rather than a few volunteers to do a lot of work each.
Spend money hiring help
For the hard jobs, don't be afraid to hire help. Especially if you hire a local fundraising community group so the benefit stays in town.
Over to you
What are you doing with successful results that we haven't included here?*
*We will steal your good ideas!