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Jan 20, 2016 4:53:55 PM by InitLive

5 Ways to Manage No-Show Volunteers

Volunteer Management
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We’ve all spent time and energy minimizing the number of no-show volunteers on event days. We send carefully crafted e-mail reminders, we give our volunteers choice when selecting shifts and roles and we might even give each volunteer a personal call to make sure they know when and where to be day-of. Yet it still happens, people don’t show up on event day and you, the Event Manager, have to pick up the pieces. Here are some strategies to help you adapt!


No-shows happen, so you know you’re going to need extra bodies. As many as 30% of volunteers don’t show up on event day, so we suggest building a 15% buffer of floaters into your schedule. As we know, there’s always extra work to do, so even if you have less no-shows, the floaters will be put to good use. Think crowd control, monitoring vendors or clean-up crew as good last minute duties. 


Give your volunteers a way out. The only thing worse than a volunteer not showing up, is a volunteer not showing up and not telling you about it. You can use a couple of different strategies for this:

  1. A timely e-mail reminding them to reply if they won’t be coming (no guilt trip here),

  2. Give different forms of contact information, some volunteers prefer to text or call,

  3. Use a tool with a one-touch


Whether you use a technology tool or paper copies, you need to be tracking who’s on site. If you’re using paper copies, have everyone report to a central location to be checked-in, that way you can quickly scan the list to see who didn’t make it. If someone doesn’t show-up, be sure to reference your schedule so that you can re-allocate resources if necessary.

For multi-day events, scanning a single list doesn’t work because you may not be expecting your full roster of volunteers on a particular day. It’s better to use a technology tool that can tell you who’s missing from your current schedule and what they were supposed to be doing. Multi-day events often have larger numbers of volunteers, so technology can help you adapt quickly. 


If you have a large event, you’re relying on your supervisors to be your eyes on the ground. They’ll be the ones who can tell you if they need more volunteers or whether they are doing well with the numbers they have.

You may find that you’re missing 20% of your volunteers but that areas you thought would be in trouble are doing just fine. It’s important to communicate constantly so that you don’t allocate precious Floater resources to areas that aren’t in need.

In addition, you may have fully staffed areas that are busier than expected. You’ll want to send your extra bodies to those areas before you will a vacant position that’s less needed.

Walkie-talkies or text-based messaging are both great ways to keep in touch.


The bottom line is, paper print outs and massive excel spreadsheets don’t allow for flexibility and adaptability on event days. You want a tool that can move as quickly as you do! Technology can help you make changes instantly and update schedules across all platforms seamlessly. Instead of trying to figure out who’s available to fill an extra spot, let a tech tool filter a list for you. Instead of checking 2 or 3 documents to determine what your no-show volunteer was supposed to be doing, get a prepared list that’s always up to date right on your phone. Technology like InitLive will help you manage those no-show volunteers and produce smoother events!

Looking for more volunteer resources? Download this volunteer registration form template to make sure that you're asking all the right questions in order to accumulate the most important information from your volunteers.