One of the most common questions we receive is how to recruit volunteers for an upcoming event. A lot of big events travel, meaning that they take place in a different city each year, and it's up to a local host committee to enlist an army of dedicated volunteers to help make the event a success. But where to start?
This is our first recommendation to our event organizers and many have reported great success using the service. Every regional Craigslist has a "Volunteers" section that will allow you to post for free.
There are a lot of websites now that allow you to post volunteer opportunities, but idealist.org is our favorite and receives a lot of traffic from those looking to help. As of today, there are 13,337 volunteer opportunities on the site.
It really works! There are Tweeple who have ongoing Twitter searches for terms such as, "Volunteer [your city]." They'll see your tweet as soon as you post it even if they aren't one of your followers. Just be sure to include the terms, "volunteer," your city, and a website where they can get more information.
This service already has a database of people of people right in your city who may have indicated that they are looking for volunteer opportunities. It does cost a little money to create a group, but you can seek out sponsors to cover the small cost.
Ask for Help
Convention and Tourism Bureaus
Your event is probably not the first one to come through your city. If your local convention and tourism bureau is not already involved, be sure to ask them for help. They generally are experienced in finding volunteers locally for large events.
Previous Local Host Committees for Your Event
Don't just ask the committee from the previous year -- go back a few years to get as many ideas as you can.
Other Organizers in Your City
Find out who led the volunteer recruitment effort for other big events in your city and find out what they did and how successful their efforts were.
Don't be afraid to ask that your current volunteers to ask their friends and family to see if anyone else is interested. You'd be surprised at how many people are willing to give their time to their community even if they are not interested in the event itself.
Local Volunteer Organizations
Every community has groups who enjoy doing community service together. Approach your local Lions Clubs, Rotary Clubs, sororities, fraternities, and any others that you can find. Ask to attend one of their meetings, present how the event will benefit the community, and how many people the event will be bringing to your city.
Contact your city's special events office or the manager's office and ask for assistance since the event will be benefiting the community. At the very least, they may be willing to send an email to everyone within the city asking for volunteers for your event.
Contact your local newspaper and TV news programs and ask for help. Again, present how the event will benefit the community and hopefully your event will get an article or a TV interview.
As an example, if you are putting on a music festival, approach the music department of a local college or university. If it's an arts festival, the arts department, etc.
How Much Time Should You Give Yourselves
You're a busy person and you probably don't have 40 hours a week to work on volunteer recruitment. Also, if you are working on a national event, people may be coming to your city to volunteers so you'll want to give them enough time to arrange travel and lodging. You should give yourself at least six months for recruitment and for scheduling the volunteers if possible. Providing constant reminders will help to keep your volunteers involved and will lower the possibility of no-shows when the event takes place.