About 18 million runners register for road races every year, covering every distance from fun runs of a mile or two to the marathon distance and beyond. Many of these events are organized for charitable purposes, to raise money for a specific cause or continue a nonprofit's ongoing work. A successful race, for runners, walkers, cyclists, or triathletes, requires planning and work months before the actual event and the hectic race-day pace means overseeing everything from water stations to the goodie bag and race packet distribution to first-aid arrangements and post-race cleanup. Recruiting a loyal and devoted group of volunteers is the first phase of a successful event. The goal beyond this competition is their return year after year to make the race a recurring success.
Volunteer vision: six steps to find, train and keep them coming back
Know where you're going: the organizational chart
Volunteer management needs to be simple and clear: your chart provides the chief of volunteers, committee captains, and the individuals reporting to each captain. Every volunteer has a role and knows who to report to throughout the process because the chart includes contact information for every volunteer.
The perfect source for people? The racing community (and the people who love them)
Ask the racing community for volunteer help; not everyone will be able to race for reasons including injury or family in town, but they can volunteer. Racers often have older children or friends with children who need community service hours to meet school requirements. Source volunteers from high school or adult sports clubs and online meetups or social groups.
When your racers and volunteers are the same people
Give racers who also volunteer a discount on the entry fee or some extra treats in their goodie bag. Schedule their hours for pre-race activities that won't interfere with race-day warm-up or post-race celebrations.
Train early and often
Pair your newest volunteers with experienced captains. Introduce volunteers to the course and include rules-of-the-road instruction, such as basic traffic laws, placement of directional cones, warning signs for runners in medical distress, the rules about using cellphones, and where to stand safely during the race. Schedule regular meetings and provide frequent updates for all volunteers, to keep everyone informed of any changes.
Show volunteers the rock star treatment
When the experience is worthwhile, your volunteers provide free advertising through positive feedback. But retention for next year's race or next month's fundraising event matters. Feeding volunteers showing up for an early-morning event is part of their "pay." Provide a good breakfast, complete with coffee, and snacks at their stations, and they'll not only come back, but they'll also bring new volunteers. Special shirts with VOLUNTEER in big letters is more than identifying them for runners' safety; it's a point of pride and commemorates the event. You give finishers medals to the runners; why not to your volunteers as well? And give them a goodie bag too, with a note of thanks tucked into each one.
Beyond the finish line: turn your race volunteers into a team
After the race is run, stay in contact with your volunteers. Update them on the money raised, the community helped and the goals accomplished, and remind them that all this was not possible without their help. InitLive's software makes running your race easy from initial idea to packing up the last box. Our platform provides the tools to manage your volunteers and your event, seamlessly integrating your timeline and teams together, tracking signups, workflow, contact information, race-day schedule changes, and post-race appreciation emails. Contact us for information and a free demonstration and give your volunteer effort a podium finish.