From Volunteers to Super-Volunteers at Events

(Recorded June 22, 2016)

Turning your volunteers into a strong motivated team has never been easier. Identify your volunteer program’s strengths, weaknesses and alarming pitfalls in five easy steps from: Volunteer Training, Job Descriptions and Risk Controls to Volunteer Management Technology and Evaluation.

Volunteers can be your greatest event assets – the better you prepare, the better return you can receive on your volunteer investment. Learn how at this powerful educational webinar co-hosted by Florence May of TRS.

Read the transcript 

Jordan Schwartz

I will turn it over to you.

Florence May

Thank you, Jordan, and I know you’re going to be asking questions along the way in reading off everybody’s questions and keeping me on track. I’m Florence May. As Jordan said, I’m the president of TRS. I started TRS back in 2000, and we built the Volunteer Management Software to support a number of large events around the country. We’ve supported Super Bowls. We’ve supported Final Fours.
You might be familiar with the Kentucky Derby Festival and the 500 Festival, but we also support very large organizations in addition. You might know Future Farmers of America or be familiar with companies like Reading Partners that bring students into schools to tutor. Our background is very broad. As I mentioned, we’ve been in the Volunteer Management business since the early 2000s. What I largely am going to talk about are the lessons learned and the best practices that we’ve picked up over the years working with some of the very best in the business.
With that, I am going to launch a little bit into the volunteer portion of this. We frequently as clients come onboard, and you’re going to find … I’m going to talk very little about software today. I’m going to talk about organization and process. A lot of times, people will say, “I’m always surprised you didn’t talk more about technology”, but the reality is that so many of the clients that come to us, the technology is just going to be a tool to get them to organizing in a more efficient and effective way, but if the core processes and the core pieces aren’t there, it will just simply help them fail faster, so we want to make certain that processes are right and that there’s good professional practice out there.
The number one goal of the volunteer manager is really to find the right volunteers, is really to get the right people in place so that they can get their job done in the most effective way. I want to start today by talking about who the volunteers are and what the market looks like right now. As we’re talking through our volunteers … Oops. Sorry. I hit that too fast.
There are four generations of volunteers that are in the market right now. The silent generation, so those people who are in their 70s to 90s, the baby boomers who are in their 50s to 70s, the generation X that are mid-30s to 50s, the millennials that many of whom are still teenagers, but some of them are in their 30’s, so about a 20 years spread with each of those. As we’re looking at the number of volunteers that are in the market, we’re really looking at … Many times, I do a full presentation just on the generational piece. I’m not pulling that up just because we just have the one hour to talk through the big pieces here.
As we’re talking through the percentage of those volunteers that are in the market for a long time, the baby boomers, those people who are now in their 50s to 70s, really drove what was happening in the volunteer world because they make up about 23% of the total population here in the United States. However, the group that is the millennials, the millennials who are now between 14 and 37, and they make up nearly 25% of the population, so as the baby boomers are getting older, the millennials are taking their place. You might say, “What happened to the people in between, the people who are in their mid-30s to their 50s?” Yeah.

Jordan Schwartz

If I can ask when you’re talking about these percentages, are you talking about the percentages of the overall population or are you saying of people who volunteer at events? This is just making up that group?

Florence May

That’s a great question, Jordan. It is the overall percentage of the population, so the likely percentage of volunteers.

Jordan Schwartz

Okay.

Florence May

As we look at that middle generation, gen X, it’s only 15% of the population. As you look at the baby boomers, 23%, you’ll get the millennials, 24%, and as you look at the population that’s coming right after the millennials, 25.9%, that really impacts who is going to be available and where we need to put our emphasis in terms of the types of programs we’re putting into place. What’s the same thing about all of these generations? The Pew Research really shows that there’s great similarity in terms of what they value irrespective of what age they are. They want to feel valued. They want to be in a supportive environment.
They want to be part of a team. They want to know that there’s a good organization behind them in terms of what they’re going to accomplish. A lot of the things that we’re going to talk about today, there is consistency. At the very beginning, we really start with training and expectations. I’m going to just pop up some questions, and hopefully everybody can see these clearly.
I’m not going to go through all of them, and you’re going to have access to all of these questions and the complete … It’s actually in much larger presentation. You can have access to it after we’re finished, but we …

Jordan Schwartz

Just as a note, it was a handout that you forwarded me before this, and I did upload that into this webinar. I haven’t tried the handout-featured webinars before, but it should be available if folks want to take a look at that as you talk.

Florence May

Excellent. Thank you. I’m just going to hit some key items that we see are often missing, because as I’ve said earlier, what we find is a lot of the volunteer managers and a lot of organizations, they know they should [inaudible 00:07:06] these things, but often, they’re not. This is really an opportunity to look at, “Are you doing it, and are you doing it at a standard that is really going to be effective in terms of engaging your volunteers?” One of the very first items is setting up a training experience, and this is whether this is an event or whether you’ve got ongoing experience.

 

So many times, we see volunteers are brought in and thrown right into whatever the particular position is. They’re really not given background in terms of the organization. They’re not given background in terms of the position that they’re filling or these shifts that they’re filling that day. A lot of times, they’re just brought in and going to be tossed right into it. We find that particularly with the millennials, and this is also true of gen X and those that are younger, but particularly with the millennials, they are looking for a connection to your organization.
If you don’t take the time to really introduce them to organization and help them understand why they’re there and what the bigger picture of the organization is, you find that there may not be as great a connection made and you may find problems with longevity in terms of really encouraging volunteers to come back. As you are looking through … I’m just going to skip down here. You’ll see reviewing position responsibilities with volunteers prior to the operation. One of the things we see on a lot of volunteer evaluations is frustration that the volunteers were not really made part of the team, that a lot of times, they’re put out there on their own and maybe just really quick overview and not really made to feel like they’re part of the operation that’s going on.
The millennials in particular, what we see is they want to understand what the role is. They want to feel like professionals, and so if they’re not trained and they don’t feel like they’re able to present well, again, you’re not going to see them come back. Often, when I’m sitting with groups with people in front of me, I see them nodding their heads at this point. They know they should do these things. They know these are the things that should happen, but a lot of times, we’re in a hurry, and we don’t make time for these particular things to happen, and then we wonder why the volunteers don’t come back after that first activity or that first event is over. These are some really critical things to look at.

Jordan Schwartz

If I can jump in, I think that there’s sometimes a feeling that how much you paid for something describes its value, so if I’m paying a lot for something, it’s very valuable to me. If I’m getting something for free, maybe it’s worthless. I think that seems like it could trip you up in preparing for volunteers and really giving the time to creating the handbooks and orienting them and giving them the value because they’re volunteers, and so it seems like there might be a trap of allowing yourself to take them for granted. Does that make sense?

Florence May

That’s an interesting point because a lot of times, our volunteer managers are, they may be the lowest man on the totem pole or one of the junior staff. Jordan, I think often, that is the perception. Yet, if you go out to the websites of major not-for-profits or organizations that are dependent on tutors and coaches and things like that, they’ll always talk about in their mission statements and their visions how critical the volunteers are to their operations. Without the volunteers, you can’t accomplish what you hope to accomplish, and without training the volunteers, you’re not going to deliver at the quality level that you need to. There’s really considerations to make.
Your organization is investing in a volunteer manager. They may be paying for parking and food for the volunteers. They may be supplying shirts. There is an investment that is being made in having volunteers. Making sure that you’re getting the best return on that investment really becomes critical here at the very beginning as you’re doing the training.

Jordan Schwartz

I hope I’m not going to get ahead of you a little bit, but it seems also that volunteers … Nobody does anything for free, so even a volunteer who isn’t being paid monetarily, there’s some reason they’re doing it. I think that for some, it may be free access to the event, and that’s so they can save money that way, but I imagine that in many cases, it’s a desire to become a part of the organization or the event and to identify with it and to feel important and connected to it, and so I think a lot of the things that you had on that last slide speak to that as well, and making sure that you are paying them if not monetarily, in terms of that value that they’re seeking.

Florence May

Exactly. You talk about volunteers wanting to feel connected. If you look at the baby boomers in particular and the silent generation, those who are older, older than their mid-50s, they are generally motivated by wanting to belong, wanting to be part of the organization. As you look at people who are younger, what the research really shows us is they’re motivated by wanting to make a change. If they don’t feel a connection to the mission of the organization and a connection to the activities that are happening, what are we doing to make an impact, then they tend to not return.
Their desire is less the belonging and more the making a change, making an impact, making the world a better place. Those are things to think about as you’re looking at the volunteers who are I’m sitting in front of you, and also who you want to attract because the reality is the baby boomers and the silent generation obviously age out. As you move more towards gen X and the millennials and those who are younger, it is an even bigger calling in the ways that you engage them. You must engage them at a deeper level than was previously expected. Does that make sense?

Jordan Schwartz

It does to me.

Florence May

Okay. The next thing that we see pretty continuously or pretty consistently … Excuse me. I guess continuously is another issue, is really defining shifts, is really saying, “Who are we?”, “What are the jobs that we want volunteers to do?”, “What are the positions that we need them to fill?”, “Where are those positions going to be at?”, “What are the dates?”, “What are the times?”, and then most critically here at the end, “How many volunteers are actually required for each of those?” One of the major challenges we see in terms of encouraging repeat volunteerism is when we get evaluations back, we will see volunteers who will say, “We have far too few people to do what we were being asked to do”, “We felt overwhelmed”, “It was extremely hot”, “We weren’t able to rotate people out”, things to that effect, or “We simply weren’t able to accomplish the task because we had so few people”, or the opposite end.
Actually, the opposite end believe it or not is the one that creates the most anger with volunteers, is when there are too many volunteers, and so you’ve got so many people that you’ve got people who are just sitting around and bored. There are very few volunteers who want to come and waste their time and not be fully engaged. As you’re really looking at your volunteer descriptions, one of the things you really want to do is make sure that you’ve well-defined the position and that there’s been discussion between the staff in terms of what they’re going to be doing. This is where the volunteer managers often end up on the short end of the stick if you will allow me to say, that they’re told “I need 15 volunteers. What will they be doing? We’ll let them know when they get there”.
No. The right answer is really to say, “I need that defined because I need to tell the volunteers in advance what to expect”. This goes back to as we’re talking about gen X and millennials is that they have an expectation that their time is going to be well used. It’s not just enough to show up and say, “I supported this organization”. It’s about wanting to make sure that my skills and my time are well used, and then I’m selecting a position that is going to be a good fit for what I wish to do, so really making sure that you’re providing those position descriptions in advance to the volunteers, and so they’ve got a good sense.
“Am I going to be standing? Am I going to be carrying things? Is this something that requires me to use the computer?”, et cetera, et cetera, that people really have a good sense of if it’s a good fit. “Am I going to be engaging with the community and who am I going to be talking with, or am I really in a position where I’m not going to have any engagement?” It’s really stuff that’s behind the scenes.
Different people enjoy different things, and the better you’re able to engage their skills and make them feel like “This has really been valuable, and I fully engage my capabilities”, the more value they feel.

Jordan Schwartz

I would imagine that there’s some switching around too that as an event proceeds, you’re going to need maybe a lot of people to help with seating, and then once the main event is over, then you shift up to other role, the volunteers to other roles. Is it okay to just say, “Here’s a list of tasks that we’re going to need done”, and you’ll do some of them, or do you really try to tell each person in advance and specifically what they will do?

Florence May

You really try and group in shifts and really try to say, “Okay. All of these people are going to be the greeting team”, and they’re going to be out, and “Here’s what the greeting team is going to do”, and as you said, there may be periods of time … If you’re at a festival or a sporting event, you may have people coming and going, and so the need is ongoing. If it is something that starts at a specific time and ends at a specific time where you’ve got a shorter window, the greeting period may be relatively short. It may not be a whole period, and then, you’re going to want that shift to move on to do other things.
Maybe they’re doing some things that won’t be needed for a few hours, but they’re doing the set up for the people departing, or they’re going to be moving things around for something else. You want to make sure that if you schedule them for four hours, that it’s really a four-hour shift, that it’s not 30 minutes and they’re sitting around for three and a half hours. If you only need them for 30 minutes, say you only need them for 30 minutes. Specify that because it’s that disappointment factor of people showing up, and it’s not what was presented. It’s not what their expectations were. That can be a big challenge.

Jordan Schwartz

Right.

Florence May

I have a number of items here. I’m just going to skip to the bottom portion in terms of, “Does this position require a skill? Do you have to have a driver’s license? Do you have to have a beverage server certificate? Do you need computer experience? Is it something where you’re going to be working with children and/or money, and do you need a security or background check to make sure that there’s no issues with the previous felonies or on a registry for being a pedophile or something to that effect?”
You want to make sure that upfront, those things are being identified. What we find is a lot of organizations we’re working with now will simply run security checks or background checks on all of their volunteers, and some of them are now requiring that the volunteers pay for the background check. That tends to eliminate any challenge, and many background check companies now allow you to carry your background check over to other events and other not-for-profits, so it’s not just a one-time offering. Another important thing that’s really related to youth is really identifying, “Do you have a minimum age, and is there minimum experience that you have to have?” If you’re allowing youth volunteers because obviously, many high schools, many college students who are not yet of age, they have volunteer requirements, and often, those groups have trouble finding not-for-profit organizations that will allow them to come.
Often, those organizations will require that there’s an adult that is going to oversee the youth because there are so many concerns about liability. Just make sure you’ve thought that out and make sure that you’ve really identified age requirements and again, that those are communicated in advance. Jordan, at this next slide, actually goes to something that you were I think leaning towards is “What is the volunteer manager’s job?”, and then “What is the people who are in charge in operation and the people who are in charge of events?” With many organizations, and I will tell you, this is a common, common problem, we have volunteer managers again who are often in their early 20s, who will come to us and will say, “Yes. I’ve been given this whole volunteer responsibility, and my frustration is that once we’re in the activity or once we’re in the event, there is a real challenge at the operations or the events staff”. They just act like the volunteers are completely my responsibility and that I have to do everything, and it’s just not humanly possible.
What we’ve done has really gone through and created some descriptions in terms of pre-event or pre-activity like the on-site requirements, and really giving the volunteer managers some guidance in terms of here’s the things that they need to be discussing with the operations and events staff, because you’re thinking the events are operations staff should be the more mature, the older, but often, they’re just mimicking what they saw before them and really haven’t gone through and identified those things that need to be laid out. The pre-event, the volunteer manager needs to create the job descriptions, needs to create the schedules, needs to recruit, needs to oversee the database, but the events staff really needs to put … They need to participate in identifying what’s needed for the positions. They are responsible for the operations and events, so they really are the ones who have the best understanding of what the needs are, how many people, all of those types of things. It really needs to be two-way communication.

I’ll skip down here a little bit. Like I said, I’m not going to go through all of these, but really, in terms of the volunteer manager, they’re in charge of quality control on the walk through. They need to talk to the volunteers. They need to ask how they’re doing. They need to double check and make sure that the things that are happening on site with the operations and events staff are indeed what was promoted, what the expectations that were being laid out.
On the other hand, what we see major problem is often, that the operations or the events staff treat the volunteers as if … Jordan, I think it goes back to your point. That’s free labor. It’s just free labor and what could it really be worth? Right?

Jordan Schwartz

Right. Exactly.

Florence May

The operations and events staff, it needs to be very clear to them that their job is to go in and encourage and thank the volunteers. They need to talk to them, and if there are any issues on staff, they really need to be responsible for going back and talking to the volunteer manager or the team leader who’s on site and really talking through any problems or any issues so that there’s a coaching element to improving. Hopefully everybody can see from the diagram. I know everybody can read this perfectly fine, but to really go through and make sure that there’s a counterbalance. Too many times, everything tends to fall for the volunteer manager, and the operations and the events staff don’t really see their role in coaching, recognize, coordinating, and communicating, and all of those things.
I bring these things up because we view part of our job at TRS as consultants, as coaches to the volunteer managers because again, often, they’re very energetic and often, very talented people, but a lot of times, they’re not getting the coaching and the back-up they need from their staff. Hopefully, these are some things that help to provide some guidelines. I’ll wrap up just with the post-event piece in the definitions. This is really talking about what you’re doing in terms of wrap up, so obviously getting a evaluation survey out to your team leaders and your volunteers. We find that there’s two different approaches to this. One is online, so do like a SurveyMonkey or something to that effect.
A lot of people like that because you can do it anonymously, and if there’s something really bad happening, and I’ll give some examples because like I said, we’ve done this for 16 years and I think we’ve seen just about everything. One event that we worked with that shall go unnamed, their evaluation came back and it was the first year they had done evaluations. Three volunteers said, “You need to be aware that one of the group leaders is stealing money from concessions”. Another time, evaluation came back, and it was evident that they had a team leader who was universally despised by the volunteers, and they gave all sorts of examples, things that the team leader was doing that was unethical. Team leader was actually taking tickets and giving them to family members and letting the family members in. There are a whole series of different things.

It was interesting because when each of these volunteer managers got the surveys back, they said, “I never would have thought that anything like this was happening. We had no idea”. Also, on a softer end, when you’re getting the evaluations back, this is also the opportunity for volunteers to say what they really like, what’s going well, and also, to do softer elements in terms of “How can we improve? How can we make this a better activity or a better event?” Obviously, if your volunteers are coming in every single day, you’re not going to evaluate them that frequently, but when you get done with a major activity or get done with a major event, that’s the time to really do the wrap up before you go into the next round and the repeat portion of that. The other portion that’s important, and sometimes, we forget to do this is the wrap up session, to sit down with the team leaders, the events, and the operations people, and really sit down and over here on the other side, start talking about the pros and cons and recommendations, and making sure that there is communication going both ways.
Too many times, particularly if there was difficulty during the activity or people go their different ways, and they’re irritated and they’re frustrated that somebody didn’t do what they were supposed to do. If you can sit down and really have that wrap up session, then you’re really able to sit down and evaluate, “Did we have the right people in the right place? Were we doing the right things?”, and if not, “How do we need to improve this so it’s better next time?” Again, these are … It might be fun at some point, Jordan to just do a poll with everybody who’s participating just to say “How many of you know you’re supposed to do this?”, which is generally everybody, and then “How many organizations are actually doing it?”, and you generally find it, it falls off pretty dramatically and me actually doing that category.

Jordan Schwartz

I believe it. I believe it. If you ask me to make a list of things that I know I’m supposed to do, and then another list of things that I do, there would be differences between those lists.

Florence May

Exactly. Me too. It’s easy to be the one up here with 20/20 vision, isn’t it? The other thing, and again, I’m not going to go through this. I’m just going to identify this as a tool that is available in many of our articles and here on the presentation.
Many of our articles go into even greater depth about these types of items in terms of really building the volunteer management timeline and laying out “What is my plan for the next year? When am I going to do what?” Really good organizations obviously have these in place, but often, what we find is these slides are actually as much for the management team as they are for the volunteer manager to really sit down and say again, “What does the volunteer manager do? What should they be doing?”, and “Let’s have a yearlong look or a six-month or nine-month look at what’s going to happen”. We work with a lot of events where this schedule is actually about three years when you do Super Bowls.
Right now, we’re working on both the Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Convention. Their schedules go out at least three years in terms of the build-up to this. Most events are going to be more like six to nine months, a build-up, and other activities are ongoing, and so it may even be a repetitive cycle throughout the year. I just encourage that everyone have a calendar laid out and that you’re reviewing this with your management team so that the management team knows what you’re doing and gain some appreciation because again, I would go back to the fact it’s surprising to me … It shouldn’t be surprising, but it is pretty much a continuous issue of how many people in executive director roles and presidents roles, they really don’t know what it takes to pull off the complete volunteer management role, so just some opportunities there.
As we launch into risk controls which really are the follow up to the developing your positions, once you’ve developed the positions, you really want to sit and say, “Okay. What type of risks exist with each of these positions? Did we clearly identify not just with the position was, but also if there are requirements or risks? Did your volunteer training really identify risks that are related to the facility?” For example, we just finished up with the hundredth running of the Indianapolis 500.

There is always a risk. Anytime you go to a race track, tires can fly off and hit people. Portions of cars can fly out into the audience or into the crowds. You’ve got those types of issues. Some of those are just simply beyond control.
They’re a reality of the event. Making sure that your volunteer is aware of that and making sure that the waiver specified the volunteer’s responsibilities to take responsible steps, that making sure that you’re specifying and particularly during training, what you expect the volunteers to wear. I always think back to women coming … I suppose it could be men also wearing high heels or wearing open-toed shoes. I’ll just give an example during one of the Formula 1 races. A volunteer insisted on wearing open-toed shoes, and she ended up ripping off a toenail when she was moving boxes and ended up having to have surgery.

Jordan Schwartz

Yes.

Florence May

It was quite nasty.

Jordan Schwartz

Yeah. It’s terrible.

Florence May

Yes. I can give even worse examples, but I won’t.

Jordan Schwartz

No need.

Florence May

I won’t.

Jordan Schwartz

Let me ask you. As I look at a lot of these waivers in particular and things like that, are there other resources online for someone who maybe has a smaller event, doesn’t have the legal staff or the other existing collateral where to get templates for this? How do you go about doing that?

Florence May

Great question. First of all, often, your online registration company will provide templates for you. We provide them. Here’s what we require however, that once you take those templates because every single organization is different. They’re different in terms of their geography.
They’re different in terms of their infrastructure. They’re different in terms of the dangers or the risks that exist. The number one thing you should do and hardly anybody does this, is you need to send your volunteer waiver to your insurance company, and you need to have them review it and make certain that you have done the things that meet your state law, that meet your local law. I’ll just give examples of things like people who are serving alcohol, people who are collecting money, people who are working with children. I’m sorry. I start to sound like kind of a broken record, don’t I, repeating those items, but did I mention that lots of people have those scenarios but don’t address them?

Jordan Schwartz

I’m sure. I’m sure.

Florence May

I can give you lots and lots of stories. I won’t, but about where things have gone terribly wrong with all four of those, so really sitting down and talking with your insurance agency and doing that a year before the event or nine months before the event. Don’t try and do it weeks before the event. Really have that on your schedule of things that need to be done and that you need to address. The other is I would have an attorney look at it from the legal perspective.
We often, because we run online registrations, we have online waivers. I will tell you that there are a few states that will not accept online waivers, and that there is the requirement that you actually provide a hard copy waiver. There are also attorneys who will tell you because of the visibility of specific events … We’ve worked with some clients that are at very high risk for lawsuits because of their names, because they are such very large organizations, and so obviously in those cases, they’re going to want to have those reviewed by their attorneys. What about very small and mid-sized organizations?
First of all, what will likely happen is that if somebody sues you, in addition to that, they will sue all of your sponsors, and because they’re going to go after who has the largest pot of money. You need to make sure that your waiver appropriately covers your sponsors and those people who are supporting your organization. Many times, that does not happen. Like I said, I won’t go through all of these, but I want to make sure that everybody is aware of these checklists. As Jordan said in a complete list, that you can pull down and go through and just check them off and say, “Yup, we’ve got this”, check.
“No, we don’t have this” or a big question mark beside it. It gives you a checklist to work through during the year to make certain that you’re doing the right things. Many of these may be things that don’t fall into your particular job requirements. However, these are good things to share with other members of the staff if you’ve got event, operations, your executive director just to say, “Hey. Have we done this? Have we met these requirements?”

This is the hideous world of communications. I’m just going to hit on this real quickly. One of the major challenges of communicating with volunteers is we’ve got so many different stages. You may have a lot of volunteers who are baby boomers who maybe they have cellphones, but they don’t use text messaging, they barely check their emails, all the way to the millennials who expect that it’s going to be on social media or it’s going to be in text form, and then, everything in between with emails and all of those elements. The questions here are really focused on “How do you communicate in specific situations?”
As they’re registering, what does the confirmation look like? As you’re doing reminders, what does your reminder process look like? If there is a change or crisis, and really emphasize this particular piece, if there is a change or there is a crisis, you should have the capability to reach the majority of your volunteers through a communication mechanism quickly. I’ll just give this example in downtown Indianapolis. During the National League of Cities, we had an explosion underground that took out a parking garage. This is a true story.
It turned out, there was problems in terms of gases that had built up in the sewage system, et cetera, et cetera. All the volunteers showed up on site because there was no communication to them. That’s because in those particular days, we didn’t have those options. Now, there should never be that situation. If there is such a bad situation in terms of a weather or there’s a dangerous situation in terms of tornado coming through, or you’ve got to change where your volunteer, maybe that parking garage got taken out of the mix, it flooded or whatever happened, and you want to send volunteers to a different location, you should have the capability to email and/or text them and have that capability because then, when people show up on site, they’re frustrated if you didn’t take the time to communicate with them and it turned into a big [inaudible 00:41:37] site.

Jordan Schwartz

Yeah.

Florence May

We’ve seen that with organizations that they’re like, “Yeah. We were in the middle of crisis and we didn’t have a good communication plan for our volunteers”.

Jordan Schwartz

Yeah.

Florence May

Make sure you build one. If something goes wrong during the event, how are you going to manage that?

Jordan Schwartz

I know that many of our customers at Pathable, my company built an event app that includes both push notifications for people who’ve installed the app and SMS text notifications that don’t require the users who’ve installed the app, and so we allow our event hosts to send out push notifications to specific subsets of the audience, so if something like that happened, they could use it to push a SMS text notification out just to the volunteers or to some other subset. I know that that’s part of what they come looking to us for.

Florence May

Yes.

Jordan Schwartz

I don’t know if specifically exploding parking garages has come up for us, but it’s good to know that that’s one option.

Florence May

I always give the examples, but … There’s a lot of people who will tell us, “Oh, but I’m in a warm weather client”, and I always say, “We work with many of the Super Bowls. Miami had a tsunami during their Super Bowl. North Texas had an ice storm. Indianapolis, when they hosted the Super Bowl had 80-degree weather in the first week of February”. You never know. You never know what’s going to happen.

Jordan Schwartz

Yeah. Yeah.

Florence May

Again, I know that you can read and you can go back through these if there’s specific areas that you’re particularly interested. I would encourage you to read through these and see if they’re a good fit. One of the areas I’m not covering extensively today, but I do want to mention is really the very last one, if you block the volunteers who are disruptive, dangerous or don’t complete their commitments. It is important that you are tracking who shows up and who doesn’t, and it is important that if you have volunteers who are counterproductive to your mission, that you take steps to move them off of your volunteer team because if you don’t, then you will lose other volunteers. I do a whole session on just that. I’m talking just about volunteers who are counterproductive, because every organization has at least one that they would very much like to get rid off. It’s often awkward in terms of how you’re going to handle that in a professional way, but that you are going to maintain the quality of your volunteer force and that you’re not going to lose other volunteers because of somebody who is disruptive.

Jordan Schwartz

Okay. I imagine, it must be even more difficult in some ways to fire a volunteer than paid staff because they are a volunteer and there’s no recourse to “I’m sorry. We don’t have the budget for you” or just “Yeah, we really just don’t want you here”. That can be a difficult message to deliver.

Florence May

Yeah. Yes. You know what, Jordan? Your comment is really a good one because we have to remember that while volunteers are not paid, we owe them the same courtesy that we do volunteers. If they are not doing well, we should coach them and encourage them to move to different standards, and really firmly establish what our standards are.
This goes back to training. This really goes back to training in terms of if we have people who … I’ll make it as simple as when we’re greeting people, we greet people with a smile and a very courteous welcome, making the establishment of “This is our expectation”. If you’ve got somebody who’s incredibly negative, who is not putting on that smiling face, you then have established what the expectation was. It’s simple. It’s a simple expectation, or being dressed professional, wear clean pants, do not wear holy jeans, things like that because you’re establishing an expectation for what your volunteer … Organization.
They represent you. They represent your organization and your group, so things to think about. As I said, I don’t talk very much about technology. I will just note that in our articles, there is a whole discussion about how you analyze your volunteer management needs and there are articles in terms of doing analysis in terms of what you need. Obviously, Jordan, as you and I know, the technological support world is going through dramatic changes, registration, communications, administration, integrations, in terms of on-site capabilities.
Jordan and I work together and that our softwares are integrated with each other. TRS is integrated with background check systems. We are integrated with other communications platforms. We are integrated with Salesforce for other CRM needs, and so everybody is a little bit different in terms of their expectations, where they’re at in terms of budget, and where they’re at in terms of need. It could be an organization with a very large budget, but they’ve got very simplistic needs.
They have 25 volunteers. They can do it on an Excel spreadsheet. It’s just not that complex. It can also be a very small organization depending on large number of volunteers and extreme complexity and looking for, “How do we get the most from our money in terms of we have all these needs, but we’ve got very limited budget and how to balance that?” I’m not going through that other than to say that there’s an outline in terms of features, in terms of the type of solution, and in terms of ratings.
The article gets into tremendous depth in terms of the options. Then, I’m going to skip through a few items here. I always go long in terms of talking, Jordan. I always have trouble staying on target. I know we said we’d spend the last ten minutes doing Q&A, but I wanted to wrap up with this.
I mentioned this earlier in terms of the importance of doing evaluations and making sure that not just you send out the capability for your volunteer to give you anonymous feedback. Maybe it’s something that they’re afraid of reprisals if they’d say it openly, or some people are just, they don’t want to say anything negative ever just because that’s their personality, but if they’re given the opportunity for an anonymous feedback, then they’ll really give you some more specifics. We find that is very good. There’s also a case for doing evaluations on site in paper because sometimes, you get different types of feedback. You’ll get people who are “Oh. This just happened, and if we could improve this process”.

 

They just looked at it. They just watched it. It’s fresh in their mind. I just encourage that you look at different evaluation tools and again, that you’re doing wrap up sessions with your team leaders and your committee chairs or whatever the operations term is for your particular activities so that you can really have some notes at the end of the activity or the event that when you go to repeat, you’ve got those notes and can make evolution. I say that we work for example with lots of marathons, lots of festivals, lots of events that happen once a year, and by the time you get to the next year, you don’t remember, “Did I really need eight people in that position? Did I really need two people in that position?” The time to talk about it is right afterwards.

Jordan Schwartz

Then, I would say, write down your notes. It’s amazing the things that I’ll have a conversation with somebody. We’ll do a postmortem on an event and talk about all the things we should change, and everyone is in agreement, and it’s all very clear, and even a week later, the fog of time sets in.

Florence May

Exactly. Exactly. That’s where we wrap up. What I want to stress is again, we’ve got the presentation and the articles are all available in the TRS library at ‘Theregistrationsystem.com’ down the library section.

Jordan Schwartz

Right, and we can make sure that when we send out, that there’s a follow up mail that’ll go out to everyone who attended today with link to the recording and handouts, and we’ll make sure that we include a link to that library as well. There’s one question that came up that someone was particularly interested in the how to handle volunteers that are non-productive volunteers. Do you have articles or are there other resources that we can point to on that topic specifically?

Florence May

Yes. Actually, three of the articles in the TRS library have sections that specifically talk about difficult volunteers, and we really break difficult volunteers into several different levels. Those that are doing something illegal or dangerous, those people obviously need to be removed immediately.

Jordan Schwartz

Quickly. Sure.

Florence May

You’re not worried about feelings, not worried about anything. You need to remove them from the situation and they need to be taken to your executive team, and it needs to be addressed immediately and appropriately based on whatever the situation is. Then, you’ve got more mid-level issues where maybe you’ve got somebody who is, they’re counterproductive. They are a negative influence. They are somebody who …
It could range from being a bully to people who are simply doing things that are inappropriate. It doesn’t quite go into the illegal or dangerous category. It’s just inappropriate. I’ll give an example. Actually, this is from when I was an event manager.
We were running an event for Formula 1, and I had a volunteer who was very well-meaning. Very well-meaning gentleman. He would get on site and he would feel the need to take charge, and he for example had the Ferrari club, told them that they had to move all of their cars which they weren’t supposed to move their cars.

Jordan Schwartz

Right.

Florence May

In another situation, we had actually moved him to another area where we felt like he might be able to do a more appropriate job, and he was actually taking people into the credentialing area and helping them get credentials when they were people that weren’t supposed to get credentials. I think he was genuinely trying to be helpful.

Jordan Schwartz

Yeah.

Florence May

He was inappropriate, he was wrong, and he was creating extra work for everybody. We sat down. We had made the initial attempt of moving to him simply to a position where he felt he would be less disruptive, and when that didn’t work, we finally said, “We’re sorry. We no longer need your assistance. We’ve had these two situations, and we’re sorry, but we just really don’t have time for … You need to stick …”

Jordan Schwartz

It’s a hard message.

Florence May

Yeah. You need …

Jordan Schwartz

Yeah.

Florence May

You need to stick to the job you’ve been given. You were told what the expectations were”. Again, this goes back to training because if you haven’t told people, and they go often do other things, then really, you’re partially at fault. You’ve not set the expectations appropriately.

Jordan Schwartz

Right.

Florence May

Then, the third level are those people who simply need coaching. Maybe they didn’t get appropriate training. Maybe you asked them to switch over to something last minute. It happens, and they’re just doing it wrong. Take the time to coach them because they might be great coming back the second year.
I’ve actually have that happen like we had one person that we were like, “Oh my gosh”. She was very lethargic. She wasn’t doing anything. She wasn’t doing this very basic job. We did a little coaching. She perked up, and then the second year, she came back and she was great, and she was with the group for eight years.
It doesn’t always work that way, but really looking at that stream. If the person who’s asked the question, if you have a specific situation that you would like to discuss with me, feel free to contact me. I think Jordan has my email information.

Jordan Schwartz

Yeah. We will certainly include it in the follow up mail and we’ll pass that along. We got about just two minutes left. There’s one more question I want to see if we can get a short answer to. Christie was interested in whether you have suggestions for recruitment of younger volunteers.

Florence May

Yes. Okay. That’s a great question. Actually, this is another one where you might want to go out and look at the articles. My recommendation is, and I’m not sure, Christie if it’s an event or ongoing volunteer needs, but one of my recommendations is that you start with something relatively small in scope, that you focus on “We’ve got this one kind of high-impact activity that we want to do”, and maybe the activity was designed specifically for recruiting younger people.
There’s several ideas running through my mind in terms of different things that people have done, but you really build an event that is geared just [in one 00:57:00] and it’s for a short duration of time, and usually, it’s a high-impact activity, something that’s quite visible. I’ll give this example, The Hunger Network here in my hometown. They were really trying to recruit people to participate. What they did was they did a program where they had everybody ride their bikes into the center of town, deliver food, and then as part of the food delivery, they did … I’ve gone blank on what they’re called. It was like a music thing and people danced and they brought …

Jordan Schwartz

The flash mob? Is that …

Florence May

Yes, flash mob. I just went totally blank. Sorry. They incorporate … They had the people who were volunteering and bringing in the food. They had them ride in this circular …
It helped bring attention to The Hunger Network. It was on TV, and then they were signing up the millennials, and it was very much targeted to millennials. Then, they were able to pick volunteer and positions from that. Often, with the millennials, you’ll see them do shorter duration, more impact-driven activities. Those are more work to put together, but once they become engaged in your organization and learn more about your organization, then often, they will take bigger roles and move into additional items.
There are more ideas in our articles, but that’s generally the concept is rather than expecting somebody to come in and come every Monday, you’re probably not going to engage the millennials that way. You could engage the baby boomers that way. Very hard to engage the millennials that way. Again, you’ve got to reach the millennials where they’re at. You have got to reach out on social media, and I don’t mean Facebook. I mean on Twitter.
I’ll be the first person to tell you, I can’t stand Twitter. I’m just not a 140 character type of girl, but we do it because you have to. You have to meet people where they are. You’ve got to be out looking at the various social media options and getting your other millennials to spread the word because if you’ve got a few millennials that are already in your volunteer team, I’d go to them and say, “How do we get more people your age engaged?”, and “Would you help us with a social media campaign? Would you help us with an impact event? Would you help us reach out to your network? Do you believe enough in this organization that you would help us engage people?”

Jordan Schwartz

Right.

Florence May

A little bit different mechanisms, but really at the end of the day, it all comes back to word of mouth just like it did with the silent generation and baby boomers and generation X. It’s just a different type of word of mouth. It spreads differently.

Jordan Schwartz

All right. We are over time. We have some more questions. I will share them with you, Florence and maybe we can get them answered in the email afterwards. I appreciate everyone making time today, and Florence, thank you for sharing. This has been really helpful. I certainly learned a lot.

Florence May

Thanks for inviting me, Jordan. I appreciate it.

Jordan Schwartz

You’re welcome. All right. Have a great day, everybody.