How to Organize Volunteers
Many organizations depend on large numbers of volunteers. They may be part of the daily operation of the organization, or may be gathered specifically for one event. Either way, it takes planning and finesse to effectively coordinate their efforts and make the most of your volunteer's generous efforts.
Divide the work into sets of specific tasks.
- For example, if your team is setting up an outdoor concert, the tasks might include setting up the tent, arranging chairs, testing the sound equipment, and ushering guests.
Give clear instructions about the task, highlighting any unusual or difficult points, and making your expectations apparent.You may also want to include troubleshooting tips.
- For example, you might specify that chairs need to be set up in columns of ten, with a meter-wide walkway, and that it needs to be done by 4:00 pm.
- It helps to explain the importance of the task in the context of the event.
Assign teams to work on the tasks.You can have people sign up, or ask ahead of time about relevant skills.
Give name tags so that people can identify each other.
Allow for scheduled, short breaks, and make sure that people have access to water, snacks, and a bathroom during these times.
Have a way to contact you, such as a phone number or a walkie-talkie.
Praise and encourage your volunteer teams while they are working on their tasks.If a group is struggling, gently offer constructive advice, or send a volunteer in from another team to help.
Acknowledge and reward your volunteers' efforts when the event is done.You may even want to have a "shout-out" to them during the event. If your volunteers are part of an ongoing effort, send out encouraging emails or postcards on a regular basis. After all, they are donating their time and effort to your cause!
- If a volunteer is deliberately causing friction in the groups, or is otherwise problematic, assign him or her a single-person task.
- The more you plan ahead of time, the easier it is to manage a large group-- people in large groups have a difficult time planning and reaching a consensus quickly.
- Remember that these people are volunteers. Do not force or demand that volunteers do something; ask. Also, keep requirements such as training time, total time commitment, and volunteer-supplied materials reasonable. Do not over-burden volunteers if you want them to return and continue to help.
Video: Seminar: Organizing volunteers in a digital age
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