Why Would Anyone Volunteer?

323Don’t believe anyone who says that they can guarantee you volunteers for a project.

Getting volunteers is possibly one of the most difficult tasks that event managers have on our lists. How can we get people to give their time (and sometimes money in travel etc) for no charge to us? The reality is that this is an imaginary saving, oft most suggested by people who haven’t had the pleasure of managing a volunteer workforce.
There is always a cost to getting people involved whether it’s wages, training, travel expenses, coaching or simply time. You can of course have great expectations of people in whatever capacity but they will always need to be managed, supported and trained in order for everyone to get the best possible experience and the best value out of what they are giving (on both sides of the relationship).  In fact, to not train and support people and if you don’t trust your volunteers and give them responsibility, may be to the detriment of that relationship making the volunteer feel that their work isn’t valuable anyway so why should they bother.
We have just recently finished the first round of training for iOrchestra volunteers and staff and this is doubly challenging in that we are training everyone up in the ways of the orchestra as well as introducing them to the project in all it’s forms – MusicLab, RE-RITE and the live concert. Given that the first day of any of this is pretty much immediate, we are all working on plans and discussions rather than reality and experience. What I find most interesting is that every person attending today had a different reason to be involved and different elements of the project appealed to them and from this,I have a yet deeper appreciation of why and how people volunteer.
And this is why I say don’t believe a any guarantee for providing volunteers. Every volunteer is different, each has different motivation and different needs; An individual return on their investment of time and effort. If we think of this whole process as generating a suitable return on investment (in both directions), would our projects present a good investment opportunity? This is not to say that we should develop and manage our projects around the wish and whim of each person who could be a volunteer but rather that we create the opportunity that is perceived as valuable by those who are best suited to being involved with the project.
This process is a bit of a dark art and of course has to adapt to the project and the people involved but be assured that we are all in the same position of trying to attract people to work with us and trying to create a return on their investment. Perhaps if we were to volunteer for something, we would be more able to see it from the volunteer perspective and comprehend (for ourselves at least) what makes a viable investment proposition?
Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky Events

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