It can be easy as a race organizer to spend all your time focusing on attracting participants to your event. After all, participants are the ones you put your events on for, and they are your key revenue source. But having enough registrants is just half the equation. Your event is a team effort and can’t be organized by you alone. Finding volunteers to help your event run smoothly is its own obstacle.
Identifying those volunteers can be almost as difficult as drawing in participants. After over 20 years in the industry, we have seen our fair share of organizers that have struggled, but have also seen organizers who’ve been creative with their attempts to boost their volunteer numbers. To help you as you strive to build a winning team, here are some ideas that have proven to be successful:
If your race is well established, you might want to analyze your price point and see if it would be possible to offer volunteers a discount. A free or discounted registration is a great way to boost your registration numbers while also assisting thriftier registrants.
Make It Hard to Say No
If you do what you can to eliminate possible reasons for volunteers to say no, you might be surprised how many won’t. Often that can be as simple as making race day more comfortable. Give your volunteers a free bag drop. Offer a volunteer tent so they can have a place just for them when they need to take a break. Give them free access to a locker so their belongings will be secure while they help. Sometimes it’s the little things that make the biggest difference.
Let’s be honest, great swag can keep you coming back to a race year after year. Giving volunteers access to something that you don’t give to anyone else can be a great way to get people to volunteer.
Create a Loyalty Program
Many events see the same teams of people volunteering year after year. Create an MVP program that recognizes the volunteers you can count on year after year with a patch or reward that indicates how long they’ve been helping out.
We’re all suckers for a free meal. Want to increase the number of volunteers you get each year? Feed the people who’ve said yes. Give them breakfast. Give them lunch. Often you can get these meals donated or greatly discounted by a sponsor, so the impact on your costs is minimal.
Let Them Volunteer for Specific Jobs
Instead of putting all your volunteers into a big pool, allow them to sign up for a specific task so they’ll know exactly what they’ll be doing. This helps create a sense of urgency for people to sign up to get the job they want before it is filled. Another personal touch to boost interest is to create job descriptions ahead of time that detail about the task at hand and the talents and skills needed to complete it.
Leverage Organizations Looking for Philanthropic Opportunities
Fraternities, sororities, large clubs and organizations. All of these groups are often looking for opportunities to serve. By partnering with one you can increase your volunteer count quickly.
Maybe you’ve run the numbers and can’t allow volunteers to register for your event at a discount. But you can allow them to register first. Often this can be enough of an incentive, especially at races with limited participation numbers.
Consider What Your Organization Is Capable Of
All of these tips are merely ideas unless you implement them, and implementation comes down to infrastructure. What will your registration software allow you to do? What tools does it provide you with? How can you use it to help? The right solution enables you to pull off many of these ideas, but it also inspires you to come up with your own. The wrong solution, though, limits you. It keeps you from pulling off events that people want to participate in and are inspired to volunteer for. So before you try one of these strategies to bring in more volunteers, first determine if you’re operating as efficiently as possible. The number of volunteers you have won’t matter if the proper tools to organize and manage your event aren’t there. Look at the infrastructure you have in place; is it setting you and your event up for success?