Posted by Lorri, 2012-01-23 15:32 GMT
I was going to respond to this one from an events manager point of view rather than as a juggler but I really should have written my response when I first clicked the timer as I've forgotten what I was going to say. I've posted anyway but apologies if this isn't as constructive or coherent as it could have been!
Reducing the need for volunteers
I understand that organisers are usually limited in their choice of venues but wanted to highlight some options there for reducing the number of volunteers required at the larger juggling conventions.
If you get a choice of venues (or even when you first start looking at one) take in to account the number of entrance/exit points for the building *and proposed campsite*. You want the smallest possible number of entrance/exit points to limit the number of badge control volunteers that you'll need. One building rather than multiple buildings is obviously a help. A campsite that's (at least partially) ringed by walls or permanent fencing means fewer places for an entrance/exit - planned or unplanned. If the entire campsite is ringed by temporary fencing then people will often try to make another, more convenient, entrance point which will need volunteers to check badges as you may not be able to shut it down once it's in use. Check if the venue staff have ideas for how to reduce the amount of entrance/exit points - they should know their venue better than you.
Check your contracts thoroughly and don't forget that contracts are negotiable.
Unsociable hours badge control will need to be done by non-volunteers (this includes show times) but it may be worth checking how much it would cost for professionals to do daytime too. You may find it costs too much but you might also find that it's more cost effective to pay for it rather than spend time finding, checking and chasing volunteers. Even if it's only some of the badge checking points and not all of them.
There's some good stuff on www.thebritishjugglingconvention.co.uk on volunteers - http://thebritishjugglingconvention.co.uk/wiki/index.php?title=Volunteer - which is well worth reading. There's also a page on housekeeping. One of the easiest (but least liked) volunteer jobs is clearing/cleaning; this page has suggestions on how to get jugglers to do it themselves, without having to explicitly volunteer - http://thebritishjugglingconvention.co.uk/wiki/index.php?title=Housekeeping.
Combine two points on those pages and if you're getting the compere for the show/renegade on the first night to thank all the volunteers then get them to also thank everyone who emptied a bin or gave the toilet sinks a quick wipe too. It'll encourage others to do the same.
Despite being a control freak (all events people are) I've learnt to embrace delegating. Empower your team to find their own volunteers, whether in advance, at the event or by finding their own volunteer co-ordinator to arrange it. Do you have someone in charge of the registration desk? Let them find their own volunteers to run the desk with them. Do you have someone in charge of shows? Let them find their own stewards. Do you have someone in charge of the campsite? The indoor space? You know what I'm going to say.
I don't mean make them find their own volunteers, that would be beyond unfair, but let them put their own small team together if they want to (and help them if they don't). You'd be amazed how well some people respond to having more responsibility and you're asking them to lead a small team - even if their 'team' consists of one volunteer co-ordinator. And if you're the person in charge of volunteers at the event? Get yourself a team of volunteer co-ordinators - registration desk, badge control, stewards, first aiders (if not provided by the venue), campsite cleanliness, indoor site cleanliness, signage etc for those orgs that can't/don't want to do it themselves. Obviously this needs to be done in conjunction with the org team so that you're helping them if they can't or don't want to find their own volunteers rather than duplicating work. These co-ordinators can then find people in advance or get/co-ordinate people who volunteer at the event itself.
I'm probably unusual here but I don't need anything for volunteering, a "Thanks" is actually more than enough. General consensus though is that you need to show your volunteers that you appreciate them in some way. Whether that's by a personal thank you, badges, general thank yous from show comperes, special volunteer areas or whatever, some people will love it and others won't think it's right or will think it too much. I'm going to leave suggestions for signs of appreciation to others ;)
Don't abandon them!
Some people will leave their post when their time is up, even if there's no replacement; others will do a double shift instead but it won't make them particularly happy. Check whether replacements turn up on time. This is where having a small team of volunteer co-ordinators helps dramatically. Checking on every volunter post every time the volunteers switch over is impossible for one person.
Don't make badge control (or registration or any volunteer post) go from midday to 2pm or they can't get lunch. Give your volunteers a way to contact someone - whether that's by radio or by internal phone, or via a mobile phone number it doesn't matter but don't make them feel like they have to sort issues on their own. Leave instructions at the volunteer post in case they're not passed on in person. Make your volunteers feel supported and they'll feel part of the extended team.
Something that's not been used to date (that I know of) is utilising smart phone technology or social media. If an unexpected job needs doing a call for help via twitter/FB/the event website might work. Although only if you advertise the hashtag/FB page/website as a place to look during the convention for info or volunteer requests.
Or how about reminding people when they've signed up for volunteer sessions. Texts and tweets can be automated so can be set up to remind people at the right time, which might reduce no-shows. Although someone will obviously need to set it up.
Has anyone looked in to free event apps? Again they need to be set up in advance but last minute changes can be updated easily. www.twoppy.com is one example.
Not litter picking
On the spot volunteer jobs that aren't litter picking? How about doing something nice for your volunteers. Get your new volunteer to take cups of water/tea/coffee out to those doing badge control or manning the registration desk.
Or get them to walk to the workshops/traders/anywhere on site and check how well they're signposted. Give them sign-making equipment (paper, pens, blue tack, sellotape if the venue allows) and ask them to replace any lost or missing signs.
Ask them to walk the perimeter of the campsite or full site and to report back. Everything ok? Any unplanned gaps in the perimeter that need to be dealt with? Patches of site that have turned in to a quagmire? These people don't necessarily need to fix things (although if they're happy to then naturally encourage them) but they can be your eyes and ears around the site.
Likewise they could scout out the toilets and showers for cleanliness or lack of toilet roll/cleaning equipment. Again, they don't need to fix the problems if they really don't want to but they can report back.
Trust me, the org team can't be everywhere and they shouldn't try.
There are more 'scouting' jobs last minute volunteers can do - check with the bar staff, the traders, the reg desk, anyone or anyplace where you have things going on. Even just hearing an "everything's fine" back will make you feel better, them feel looked after and your volunteers feel useful.
To finish I'm going to go back to that sentence I just wrote - "Trust me, the org team can't be everywhere and they shouldn't try." I cannot stress this point enough and this is where random volunteers can really help you. You want to know what's going on and you want to fix everything that goes wrong; of course you do, this is your event and you want it to be the best it can be. Likewise you probably think that it'll be quicker and easier for you to fix it yourself than explain or trust it to someone else. But you running off to check on people or fix something little means you may not be available for a bigger problem. Send your random volunteers off to check things and fix any small problems so that you're there for the big problems. Yes, if the event runs smoothly this means you end up not doing anything but this just means you've done a great job! Plan your volunteers in advance (especially tasks for random volunteers) and it'll be a happier convention for them and you.
Went slightly off topic there at the end, sorry :o)