<iframe src="https://www.googletagmanager.com/ns.html?id=GTM-KVC3WS8" height="0" width="0" style="display:none;visibility:hidden">
5 min read

4 Volunteer Management Tips for Running Association Events

May 17, 2024

An audience gathered for a speaker session at an association event.

According to 360MatchPro, the estimated value of a volunteer hour is $31.80, which represents the cost the organization would incur by hiring paid workers instead. Is your association making the most of this valuable resource?

Your members are likely willing—and excited—to help you manage the organization, provide user-generated content, and run your events. Start recruiting volunteers by posting volunteer opportunities on social media, launching email campaigns to spread awareness, and hosting information sessions and Q&As.

Next, you’ll need to effectively manage your volunteers to keep each aspect of your event running smoothly. In this guide, we’ll cover some of the top tips your association can use to manage and retain event volunteers. Let’s begin!

1. Prepare your volunteers.

Have you ever accepted a job, only to find that your day-to-day workload is much different than you expected? Or, maybe you had an onboarding experience that didn’t train you for all of the responsibilities associated with the role. In these situations, it’s up to the employer to properly vet and train its employees. Your association will need to do the same with its volunteers.

Here are some tips for preparing your event volunteers:

  • Post clear role descriptions. Give your prospective volunteers insight into what they’ll be doing at the event and why it matters. Use descriptive role titles (e.g., “Event Logistics Coordinator”) and list each task volunteers will be responsible for. Include any special requirements or qualifications needed, such as bookkeeping skills. 
  • Screen volunteers early. Once volunteers apply for these roles, start screening them as soon as possible. This step is essential to confirm that volunteers have the skills, knowledge, and availability to fulfill the role. You’ll also be able to steer volunteers toward other roles that need to be filled or that they are better suited for.
  • Provide comprehensive training. When you’ve recruited enough volunteers to serve at the event, it’s time to train them. Provide written instructions or handbooks volunteers can reference when they have questions. Consider creating video tutorials if volunteers will need to use technology like a POS system.

These steps will give members a positive experience from the beginning and ensure they are effective volunteers who can efficiently manage the event processes.

2. Properly schedule volunteers.

Depending on how many registrants will attend your event, the size of your venue, the activities and offerings you’ll have, and other factors, scheduling volunteers can get complicated. Having the right technology will help you make sure that each volunteer knows where they should be—and when.

Look for an association management solution with volunteer management tools or identify dedicated volunteer management software. Check that the software can integrate with your existing AMS so your database will have up-to-date information about your volunteer program. 

When it’s time to create an event volunteering schedule, assess each volunteer’s availability and preferences (e.g., would they prefer to work in the morning or afternoon?). Then, create shift schedules and remember to factor in time for breaks and meals. Share schedules in advance so volunteers have the opportunity to swap shifts or make adjustments. 

3. Establish communication channels.

Because there are so many moving parts in association events, you’ll need to establish communication channels volunteers can use before, during, and after. Depending on whether you’re holding an in-person or online event, these communication channels could be:

  • Messaging apps like Slack or your association’s mobile app
  • Two-way radios
  • Dedicated event management platforms that have messaging features
  • Emails 
  • Social media groups
  • Online collaboration tools, such as Google Workspace

Note the communication channels you use before and during the event—you’ll need to share any follow-up messages with your volunteers through the same platforms. This boosts the likelihood of volunteers seeing and engaging with messages after the event. 

For example, it’s best practice to show your appreciation for volunteers through prompt, personalized thank-you messages. You may also send them surveys asking about their experience, follow up to resolve lingering issues, or ask them to share about the event’s impact on your association. 

4. Assign leadership roles.

It can be helpful for volunteers to have a leader to turn to with questions about their role or conflicts that crop up during the event. Additionally, your event planner and association leaders may not have time to address every concern or question volunteers have. 

When assigning volunteer leadership roles, your association should:

  • Nominate highly engaged members. Fonteva’s guide to member engagement recommends selecting more involved members to fill these leadership positions. These members are the most likely to be very dedicated to your association’s success.
  • Reference the volunteer’s past experience. Ideally, your leaders should be able to manage conflict and have some previous experience with leadership and/or event management. For example, perhaps they are a manager at their job.
  • Seek empathetic, supportive leaders. Select leaders who will cultivate a supportive, positive environment where each volunteer feels valued.
  • Explain the volunteer-to-leader pipeline. You may have other members who would like to hold a leadership role. Share about what these members can do to qualify for one of these roles in the future.

These leaders will keep your volunteers on track even when you can’t be there to oversee each task or answer every question. Share their profile in your membership directory with the volunteers they’re overseeing so they can access their contact information. Distribute leaders’ phone numbers to your volunteers so they can text or call in case of urgent situations or emergencies. Make sure to sincerely thank them for their work once the event wraps.

Recruiting and training event volunteers can take a significant investment of your association’s time and other resources. Protect this investment by creating a comprehensive volunteer retention strategy. In other words, make sure to always show your appreciation for volunteers through heartfelt thank-you messages, gifts, special perks, and more. 

Taking this extra step to make volunteers feel seen and valued will inspire them to continue giving their time to your events in the future.

Guest Contributer

Written by Guest Contributer

This article was written by a VolunteerMatch Guest Contributor.