How To Make the Most of Your Volunteers

Putting time and energy into your volunteer program helps ensure the volunteer’s experience will be productive and enjoyable.
Photo Credit: Unsplash

Author: Cassie Gasaway

Volunteers have a heart of gold. They give up their time and energy and don’t expect anything in return. They’re a valuable asset to any archery business, especially during large events, including tournaments, R3 workshops or Field to Fork programs. If you want them to stick around and continue to lend a helping hand, you must find them a suitable role and set them up to succeed.

Use these tips to make the most of your volunteers and their experience.

Explain to your volunteers exactly how they will make a difference. Photo Credit: ASAE

Find the Right Volunteers

Allow people to sign up in your store, through social media or via a website form, or ask them to volunteer in person or by phone or email. Another way to recruit quality candidates is to ask your well-established volunteers to refer others who would be a good fit. Once you have a list of prospects, search it for qualified, knowledgeable people.

When you recruit people, be sure to explain the benefits of volunteering. Although research proves volunteering can reduce stress, anger and anxiety, and instill confidence and a sense of purpose, always share how their assistance will specifically help your business and the archery and bowhunting community.

Will their work help improve a participant’s experience, allow them to meet like-minded people and make a difference in the community? Be as specific as possible so the volunteers can see how they’ll make a difference. For example, if a volunteer’s job is to teach students how to identify game tracks, droppings and other sign, you can share how the volunteer is helping the next generation of hunters gain the skills they need to succeed.


Give Them an Appropriate Job

If you have multiple volunteer opportunities, allow volunteers to select two or three roles they’d prefer. Then assign your volunteers accordingly, if possible. It’s best to give people responsibilities that align with their career or career goals. If you have only one job, select the person who is best suited to the role.

According to Associations Now, volunteers fall into one of four categories: the emerging volunteer, the learning volunteer, the developing volunteer and the experienced volunteer. Strategically use each volunteer in the environment that best fits their abilities and strengths.

Giving volunteers appropriate tasks and jobs helps ensure their experience is as fulfilling as possible. If they find value and purpose in the work, they’ll likely return.


Be a Good Manager

If you want a volunteer to flourish in their role, they must know what they’re supposed to be doing. The event’s success depends on it – and that’s on you.

Before your event, invite them to join you for a brief orientation or training session. Share your expectations. Make the time commitment clear and teach them how to complete their tasks. Be available to answer questions and provide feedback. People appreciate guidance and direction as long as it’s constructive and positively delivered.

Also, be patient with your volunteers. Don’t shove information down their throat. Instead, try to develop their skills and understanding over time. Give them time to learn and grow with your organization.


Check In Throughout the Event

Don’t set your volunteers free at an event and walk away. A good manager is engaged and hands-on. Checking in with your volunteers regularly shows you care about them and the success of the event.

Ask them what they need and if they have any questions. Try to accommodate their requests. For example, if they need more clipboards, a chair to sit on or a hat to shield their eyes from the sun, provide what you can. Make the volunteer feel seen and heard.

Giving them adequate breaks, including time to use the bathroom, eat lunch or walk around, will help them feel rejuvenated, too.

Gene and Mary Ellen Hornstra, pictured here, volunteered at the 2018 World Archery Indoor Championships in Yankton, South Dakota. Gene set up targets and Mary Ellen volunteered in food service. Photo Credit: Sioux City Journal

Show Your Appreciation

When people donate their time, they may not expect anything in return, but doing something is a nice gesture that often goes a long way. To say thanks, consider holding a volunteer appreciation event at the end of the year or giving them a gift. You can also offer to serve as a reference or write a reference letter for them. Schools and employers look for dedicated, hardworking individuals, and volunteering is a great example of someone’s selfless commitment to the greater good. Recognizing and rewarding a volunteer’s efforts helps build a lasting relationship.

Don’t forget to ask folks to anonymously rate their volunteer experience after an event. Ask them what worked, what didn’t, and how you can improve the event and opportunity overall. Getting honest feedback allows you to improve for future events, which will likely help retain current volunteers.

Volunteers serve an important role for most small businesses, which is why you must strive to make the experience as fun and beneficial for them as it is for you.

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