The time spent in communicating to volunteers in regard to special events is critical. It is important that both volunteers and the general public attending the event have a good time.
Pre event communication should be aimed at role clarity, motivation, progress reports, think tanks, ways to do things efficiently and problem solving. If you have run the event before, it may be worth talking to previously involved volunteers to get a head start. Some volunteers may wish to be involved pre event but generally speaking it is important to be showing your volunteers that you have thought of a lot of issues and worked through them so that the volunteer sees a reasonably complete picture of what their role will be.
If you want to run regular events and to have assistance from volunteers, the club needs to spend the time writing position descriptions. If you are well organised in this way, then on the day people will not only be aware of their particular role but with whom to communicate if they have a problem or issue.
Putting together a written plan on your communication strategies is important so that you don’t need to start from scratch next year and you can review your processes clearly.
The choice of communication methods in the current age should make the process easier but consider the information you give and whether is it relevant and succinct for your volunteers. Consider the following to make communication flow well:
- Volunteer manual
- Blogs with updates
- Simple signage with instructions/procedures
- Event launch or pre-event party for volunteers
- Email & social media – groups/pages on Facebook can be created to get messages out there.
- Information packs – if you have sponsors perhaps the volunteer might appreciate some freebies or discount vouchers
If you are going to conduct a major event, you will need to consider contacting the council for permits or local residents regarding possible traffic/noise problems on the day. Relationships with locals and councils are extremely important and this is covered more fully in those sections of our resources.
During the event it is important to consider how you will get information around to and from your volunteers. Below is a list of possible event communication methods commonly used, you may like to consider these possibilities to communicate with your volunteers.
- two way radios
- a public address system
- portable message boards
- screens near the stage area or around the event
- information booths
- printed guides or programs
- online guides and programs that can be downloaded onto mobile phones (this can also reduce paper waste and excess printing costs)
- Use SMS to send event updates and news to mobile phones, provided that event
- Consider using radios with a recording device so that key conversations can be recorded/remembered for analysis.
After the Event
Volunteers often feel that they aren’t recognised of acknowledged. Of course during all phases of an event it is important to be communicating positively with your volunteers and it is critical that you provide some form of acknowledgement after the event. One way we can acknowledge our volunteers is to give them an opportunity to offer some feedback. This is a win/win in that they get some sort of a forum in which they can be heard and you can learn from.
Documenting any feedback from before, during or after event communication is critical. When you start considering next year’s event down the track, your memory won’t serve you well enough to remember all of the issues regarding communication.
If these are documented and considered in an appropriate way, you can be sure that the volunteers will see that you genuinely want to improve the event and that you listen.
So how do you get the feedback?
- Informally – Your own experiences and conversations or others within the organisational structures.
- Surveys – Consider online options
- Forums – why not get the volunteer group together and discuss the pros and cons
- Debriefing directly after the event – this is a wonderful chance to not only get feedback but to say a sincere thank you to those who gave their time to make the event work. You can have the entire group or split it up into sections for more specific feedback.
- Social media – you can conduct a key poll or create a discussion within a group page. Be mindful of privacy here. You don’t want all of the key issues all over Facebook.
- If you want your volunteers to come back, treat them well. Thank them and most of all give them a say, give them ownership of some decisions within their area of assistance.