An endurance event is an investment of time, talent and financial resources, and represents the combined effort of excited athletes, willing sponsors and generous donors — but it all starts with your volunteers. Your endurance event won't endure past the first year without their help. Going from inaugural to successful annual event requires the return of loyal volunteers with enthusiasm and dedication to your cause. Prioritizing volunteers' value ensures that core of repeat volunteers calls you next year to sign up before you call them.
Volunteer victory: six ways to find and retain endurance event staff
Start with a structure
Use a software program to configure an organizational chart. Create titles, leadership roles and reporting relationships, so there's no confusion over who answers to whom. The chart contains email and contact information, so the race volunteer coordinator is never out of touch with volunteers.
Go where your endurance athletes and potential volunteers are found
Social media makes fast work of spreading the word when it comes to recruitment; look for Facebook groups catering to endurance athletes and invite those not participating in the event to volunteer, or ask participants to bring in friends and family as volunteers. Attend sports events and set up a sign up table for volunteers. Check with your local school board and recruit from the high schools; many seniors now have a volunteer component as part of their graduation requirement (and community service looks good on their college applications).
Keep the volunteer process simple
Create an online sign up platform volunteers easily use to pick specific shifts, duties and locations. This gives control to volunteers and provides them with an active role in the event before it begins. Providing your volunteers with the power to choose shifts for themselves will reduce the number of last minute shift swaps.
Train early and often enough
Volunteers lead busy lives and have short bursts of time to dedicate to the cause, so start training early and in groups; volunteers get to know each other and understand the role they play in the event's big picture. Get to know your volunteers' strengths, so last-minute shifting assignments on event day is easier when some people suddenly fail to show up.
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Race day routine: know your way around so your volunteers follow
The race director's smooth and sure moves on event day show confidence in well-practiced details. Volunteers won't stumble in confusion under assured authority. Post a schedule and timeline of events for volunteers' reference, including a list of shifts, assignments and duties.
Make the effort worthwhile
Volunteers expect no cash payout for their time, but treat them well and they'll return. Extend the goody bag gifts for the athletes to your volunteers as well: many of the same items the race participants appreciate (T-shirts, sunblock, lip treatments, merchant coupons, snacks, water bottles, waterproof phone/key pouches) the volunteers appreciate. Have a post-event volunteers-only party, to thank each of them personally.
Stay engaged when it's over
The effort doesn't end when the traffic cones are picked up and the tents packed away. Contact your volunteers after the event with emails or thank-you cards. Invite them to participate in next year's event. Plan a pre-race kick-off party a few months ahead, to bring volunteers together and announce new and exciting additions to the event.
InitLive's software provides everything a race director needs to outperform the toughest endurance event. From sign ups and scheduling volunteers by day, shift and assignment to maintaining contact information, real-time communication capacity and tracking and reporting staff data, the platform reacts when you need it, on any mobile or computer device. InitLive is your full-time administrative assistant, always ready to go the distance. Contact us today for more information and a free demonstration.