Nonprofit events are often chiefly staffed by volunteers. These vital supporters help you balance all the moving parts and execute the event as planned. And by interacting with donors and guests, they become representatives of your brand. Their every action affects the way your nonprofit is perceived by event attendees.
It’s easy to see how your volunteers contribute to your event’s success. But oftentimes, nonprofits don’t sufficiently support their volunteers, with negative outcomes for everyone. To ensure both your guests and your team have a positive experience, you need to properly train volunteers and empower them to work effectively.
To start, schedule a training session a week or two before your event. During the meeting, get your volunteers up to speed by covering these points.
1. Ensure They Know How to Speak About You
Your volunteers are representatives of your brand, so you want to make sure they know how to speak about your nonprofit with authority. Your first step is to offer basic education about your organization, its mission, and its history. No matter their skill level, all volunteers will require a refresher before speaking to guests. Take the time to give them a rundown of important facts, such as:
- Your mission statement
- Why you exist
- The purpose of this event as it relates to your mission
- How donations from this event will be used
It’s also a good idea to document these answers and email them, so volunteers can look them over before the actual event. In your message, consider breaking these answers down into a one or two-sentence “tagline,” and then a separate “description” with further details. When a guest asks about your organization, volunteers will thus be prepared with a concise answer, as well as an in-depth explanation for longer conversations. In both cases, you’re able to control how they speak about your brand.
2. Run Through Event Goals and Schedule
Remind volunteers they’re not just helping hands; they’re a part of your team. Make them feel like an integral part of your organization by explaining the overall purpose of your event. How will it impact your mission? Are you looking to acquire new donors? Engage with major donors? Foster community? Why?
Not only does this information help volunteers support your goals, but it also makes them feel included in your mission. When they feel like valued members of your team, they are more likely to adopt your goals as their own.
You should also give a run-through of the entire event schedule. Make sure to email it to your volunteers so they can reference it at any time. Inform them what time they should arrive, where to check in, and when everything will wrap up. Notify them about any dress code.
3. Prep Them for Questions
Chances are your volunteers will be asked a fair number of logistical questions at the event. During training, prepare them to respond to any questions or scenarios that may arise. Cover possible inquiries about parking, restrooms, check-in, food allergies, seating, the venue, and other matters.
Also train volunteers on how to handle any difficult or unexpected situations that might occur. For example, what happens when a pre-registered guest’s name does not appear on the guest list? If you’re hosting a wine-tasting event, how should volunteers respond when a guest brings a child? Everyone benefits when your staff and volunteers feel ready and capable.
Most importantly, make sure your volunteers know whom to contact for any other questions, concerns, or emergencies. They should be able to easily get in touch with a staff member.
4. Break Down Roles and Responsibilities
Try to assign volunteers to different tasks based on their distinct skill sets and interests. After covering general event information, divide your volunteers by role and offer specific trainings for each one. Everyone should know what to do before, during, and after your event.
For example, if you have a volunteer in charge of accommodating a speaker or special guest, you need to give specific instructions on how to manage them. If you station a volunteer at the door, train them on how to greet attendees, process pre-registrants versus those at the door, and use your payment processor. Taking care of these details will minimize confusion and boost your staff’s confidence.
5. Follow Up
Thanking donors is one of the most important parts of fundraising. It directly impacts the donor experience, and can it can sway whether your donor will give again. The same principle applies to your volunteers. Strengthen their commitment to your organization by expressing genuine thanks through a letter, special appreciation event, or in person. This will help build long-lasting relationships and increase their likelihood of volunteering again.
To demonstrate that you value their opinions, send them a follow-up survey to find out what they enjoyed, whether they felt prepared to do their jobs, and how you can improve their experience in the future.
These team members play a big role in the execution of your nonprofit event. The more comfortable and confident your volunteers feel, the more effective their performance will be. It’s your job to train volunteers and ensure that they, too, have a positive experience. At the end of the day, it will help you retain valuable volunteer talent.