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How to create a dedicated team of volunteers

A Super Bowl Case Study (by Rosterfy and Andy Newman)

Understanding why people volunteer isn’t a secret.  But creating a volunteer experience which can be operationalized to thousands, yet personally inspires each and every volunteer to give their all, along with their time, is a game changer.

So why do people choose to volunteer?  For the most part core reasons tend to include; an opportunity to meet like-minded people, to be part of a once in a life-time experience e.g. a Super Bowl, to give back to their community, to learn and develop themselves, and a personal passion for the cause or for the event. 

Yet more often than not the biggest challenge for any workforce or volunteer manager is not attracting volunteer applicants, but how to take a group of individual (applicants) and create a dynamic, self-motivated team of volunteers. 

Whether you’re managing 10, 10,000, or 100,000 have a Vision for your program.  Thereafter create an operational plan(s) that checks two very important boxes. 

  1. You are able to execute and deliver upon the necessary objectives. For Super Bowl LI in its simplest form it meant fulfilling approximately 40,000 volunteer shifts and providing a memorable hosting experience to the 1.5million guests and visitors that came to Houston for the Big Game.  
  2. Be customer (volunteer) centric in your approach. Create an experience for each and every volunteer which recognises the importance of their role, and in this instance for the Super Bowl can make the difference between a good and a great event.    

Understand, to achieve both there will be a healthy natural tension between the two.  For example when managing thousands of volunteers you will likely need to define and communicate a clear set of volunteer requirements.  While this may prevent some from volunteering, having a firm foundation and a stated commitment from each volunteer will provide a necessary springboard from which to build.  Financially, you will have a defined budget to manage as part of your objectives.  While we always wish for a larger budget, from our experience, volunteers do not seek to be rewarded with costly items or events, but take a huge sense of value in both being recognised for their time and efforts and knowing they made a difference. 

Here are three example ways we were able to put the volunteer first for Super Bowl LI:

  • Define the end-2-end volunteer journey, understanding that it needs to be easily communicated and executed both by you (and your team) and the volunteer.

    Utilising a leading volunteer management platform provides critical functionality that empowers volunteers to in a sense manage themselves and automates a number of key steps.  In doing so volunteers can ensure their motivations for volunteering are being met e.g. providing the opportunity to volunteer with those they know, matching their skills and attributes to volunteer roles, or simply ensuring that their volunteer shifts are aligned to their preferred availability.  
  • Make it social. We are naturally drawn to like-minded people.  Explore how you can connect and bring volunteers together outside of the event / shift-time.  As part of Super Bowl LI we created a recruitment experience which not only brought volunteer applicants together for the first time, but ‘wowed’ and educated them as to what was to come.  If you can begin to create a team environment before ‘game time’ you are on to a good thing.   Similarly think how you might be able to create moments and experiences which create memories.  Super Bowl volunteers to this day continue to interact and keep in touch via Facebook or continue to volunteer for the city.
  • Recognition not rewards. A central objective for all workforce managers is to create an experience that brings the person back to volunteer over and over again or to fulfil all of their shifts.  We all like to be surprised and delighted, and by thinking creatively we were able to ensure that 90% of our 10,000 Super Bowl LI volunteers completed all their shifts.  By procuring unique, volunteer only recognition items and distributing at the beginning of scheduled shifts it actively inspired a sense of anticipation and attendance. Consider also how you can shine a light and recognise your volunteers, from newsletters, to emails, to visual recognition, and media articles.

For some their motivation is to add their volunteer experience to their resume.  Again by utilising the right volunteer platform you’ll be able to recognise volunteers through sharing a personalised letter, certificate, or simply accounting for and thanking the volunteer for all their time given.         

The Houston Super Bowl program was coordinated by leading event workforce manager, Andy Newman. Often your program is a strong reflection of those in control and on this occasion, Andy set the benchmark for event workforce management for the Super Bowl. It was no surprise it was the largest (10,000 volunteers) and most well organised workforce program in Super Bowl history. Our team at Rosterfy were proud to play our part in bringing it to life.

To learn more about how Rosterfy can help optimise your volunteer management program, drop me a line at bennett@rosterfy.com.